I read an article in the New York Times recently (linked below), essentially, all about breaks ups. Friendship break ups to be specific – as a result of the great divide parenting can create. It gives a whole new meaning to “it’s me not you”.
It got me thinking about how much angst has come into my life since parenting. And I’m actually not even referring to the kids themselves. I’m referring to my parental colleagues.
Parenting is workplace politics at its absolute worst.
As if there is not enough stress during pregnancy (eat this, don’t eat that; exercise this much but not that much; be sure to keep up with every ounce of growth – like those fingernails which grew 0.001 mm in the last 3 days and the list goes on).
And then there’s the birth… the pressure (or the boasting?) of the choices – water pool, whale music, birthing coach, candles, breathing technique, drugs, no drugs, home, hospital… field?
And then there’s the biggest debate point of all – the elective c-section versus the “natural” experience with the potential bonus feature of feelings of complete & utter failure if an emergency c-section goes ahead last-minute.
However, once you pass through the first traumatic 9 months of parenting – & that’s before the kid is even physically in your hands – then there’s the rest of their life (& yours) to engage in further debate.
From the beginning, there is potential for conflict, judgment (& don’t forget of course, the glorious “not that I’m judging” comment – gotta love that call) & pressure. Pressure, pressure & a few well-placed justifications to round out & cope with the pressure: bottle or breast; attachment or cry-it-out; tv & no tv; cow’s milk or goats milk; nanny or daycare…the list goes on & now that I’m out of the baby-baby phase I can see even more room for debate coming in for those poor women about to enter the fray with their first baby.
And don’t even get me started on the role of social media or celebrity-dom – that I’ll save for another blog.
Essentially this NYT article brought my own shuddering anxieties & insecurities to light …. my fear when I admit my kids do watch tv; do consume sugar & non-organic goods; do sleep in their own beds; do get yelled at more than I like to admit….
And here’s the kicker – our kids do have parents so slack at moments, that Mylo was able to pull a table over to the fridge, place a chair on top in order to scale said fridge, & reach the highest possible cupboard, to steal both the bottle of chocolate sauce & the pro-biotic gummies… both of which were then consumed, hidden under beds, before being discovered. That is top-notch, on-your-guard parenting.
Should I be admitting this?
Yes I think so. At least they hadn’t managed to open the gin also stored up there. Surely we get kudos for that right?
Does admitting these truths about my parenting put me up for potential friend “break ups”? Or do I try to avoid potential conflict & judgement, simply by not admitting to some what I admit to others? Or do I just pretend to everyone I come into contact with that I’ve got it totally sorted…. when in fact I have days I’m hanging on by my fingernails?
The hardest past in this, is that there are judgements that you can remove yourself from – like the man in the café who generously informed me that there are dvd’s these days to teach you how to discipline your kids. That was a memorable moment for me….
And then there are judgements from those you know & “love”… your friends. Friends who once held your hair as you lent over the rim of the toilet, who sat through your father’s lectures about not stealing street signs, who hand-made you birthday cards & were with you upon purchasing your first pair of Levi’s…
Yet it is precisely some of those friends who become your mortal enemies towering above you (or so it feels), child on hip, eyes boring in, whilst you stutter & stammer that yes, I gave little jimmy some cookies which were not organic, gluten-free, dairy-free… nor were they raw. In fact they were completely processed & full of every additive & preservative these huge companies had the genius to create.
And yes by the way, my child is vaccinated.
Ouch. And there it is – you’re out….”Sorry this just isn’t going to work out… it’s not you it’s me”.
You are no longer worthy as fundamentally, you are “in a different place”. Thus you are deemed unsuitable, “not quite on the same page”, as they cannot align with your parenting. Or more likely, you cannot align with theirs. And as a result, it’s just easier to have some space….
I admit, even with all this talk, I actually have not experienced a full “break up” (yet) …. I have though, most definitely received the loaded statements, the“well meaning” advice, “the look” followed by an awkward silence… & as a result, decided space would not go astray.
More importantly though, I know for a fact I have frequently spouted “not that I’m judging” when it’s clear as day I am; that I like to share my successes (probably because I have so few) & lessons learnt as loudly as possible & that I have moments when quite vocally, I cannot fathom why on earth “such & such” is doing “such & such” a method.
Despite this, most friendships thus far remain in-tact so hopefully I manage some humility amongst such painful behaviours.
When all is said & done, I have slowly come to realise that – over all, for those of us who are honest enough in this parenting gig – mostly we are all just surviving. Whatever choices we make, whatever paths we follow, we do so making the best decision we can in that particular moment with the information & resources we have available to us.
And amongst those resources, I include inner strength – some days we have great inner power & others, the tank is empty.
Thus for all of you out there hanging on by your fingernails, remember that moment, the next time “not that I’m judging” is about to slip out… think instead of generosity of spirit & friendship, in this crazy journey we are all trying to survive….
And think too, of that moment you too checked the fine print & realised kids come with a completely rubbish return policy.
I will certainly try to do the same.