Even though I’m just barely breaking the surface of motherhood in my 2 ½ years as a parent, I can attest to the conflicting feelings that come with being responsible for a mini-version of your DNA walking the planet.
“I did always have this fear that I would wake up at fifty and want someone that I could watch grow up and it be too late,” I told my sister the other day as I awkwardly tried to explain why at some point in my life even before I met my husband that I made the decision that I wanted to be a mother. The truth is I was just trying to avoid the cheesy responses that most parents give, but I soon discovered were always given because they’re true: I wanted my life to be about something more than taking trips, sleeping in with my husband on the weekends, and glasses of wine while watching Scandal.
That’s not to say the child-free are living a life void of passion and purpose. I fully support those who are fully aware and confident in their choice to be child-free because I’m pretty sure actually wanting the job in the first place is a good parenting trait. I just knew why I made the decision to take on motherhood for me. But although you hear about mommy guilt, mommy brain and postpartum depression, what no one talks about are the bouts of resentment you’ll regularly have for your kid.
The Daily Mail posted a piece about a Reddit thread in which parents made their parenting resentment public. I can appreciate the recent trend of parents who are slowly breaking down the taboos that parenting should always be referred to as the most righteous path on the planet. ScaryMommy and Dad & Buried (also called the “Anti-Parent Parenting Blog”) are just a few of the blogs I enjoy that regularly feature honest conversations about imperfect parenting and making moms and dads feel more comfortable about saying, “My kid gets on nerves at least 6 times a day,” one meme at a time. Spaces like these are giving the middle finger to the rules that could be found in the same category, “You can never say babies are ugly,” and “You shouldn’t ever say talk about how much motherhood can suck. Babies are a blessing!”
But this particular Reddit thread turned serious as parents revealed situations in which their children had falsely accused them of child abuse and even one situation where a father learned that the children he had raised were in fact not biologically his. Some parents even remarked that they didn’t enjoy who they saw their kids becoming as one mother expressed that her 7-year-old daughter was increasingly “selfish and self-absorbed”. Unfortunately one of the sobering lessons I’m learning as a parent is that we aren’t perfect, and imperfect people can’t create perfect people. Our children will grow up to be their own people who have their own experiences that shape who they become, but for the most part our parenting is reflected in our kids, and if you think your child is growing up to be a grade-A a**hole, the proof probably lies in your parenting.
I get it. Some nights I want my daughter to tuck and roll while getting dropped off at her grandparent’s house so I lose no time getting to Margaritaville aka my happy place. But the minute she’s gone I’m scrolling through my phone gallery feeling my eyes well up as I look at our goofy pictures and think to myself, “I made that awesome little person.” Parenting is conflicting and contradictory and I don’t know if those feelings are something you ever get used to.
What people don’t understand is that even though you’re not holding your hands over your head riding the hell out of the rollercoaster that is parenthood doesn’t mean you’d change a thing about it, nor does it mean that because that person grew inside of you does it mean you’re in love with the type of person they are every day. I like the hair that grows out my head most days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated with it when it takes four hours to detangle.
Resentment is a normal part of the parenting process. No one ever says, “I totally would trade that time I road tripped up and down the West Coast with that Boris Kodjoe look alike for presently scraping poop from up under my manicure.” And I can attest to the times when my toddler decides to have an extra helping of inner jerk in the morning, and cry for hours because I won’t let her wear the dog’s collar. It’s OK to not want to be a parent sometime. It’s OK to not like your kid sometime and miss being single and child-free, and those feelings don’t instantly make you Halle Berry’s character in “Losing Isaiah”.
The saddest confessions were those who revealed they had never wanted to be parents but found themselves with children anyway, or those who remained ambivalent about parenthood only to discover how hard of a blow a child took their finances, social life and sometimes sanity resulting in a daily struggle to bond with their kids. The one thing I can say I was clear about in that convo with my sister that day? “Parenting is a decision you shouldn’t make lightly.” It’s not like test driving a car or a trial run of some home subscription service. You are shaping someone’s life who is looking to you to lead the way, and it’s not their fault if two weeks later you decide you really wanted the leather seats. You can divorce a sucky spouse, you can return those ugly behind jelly slides that looked so cute in Marshall’s dim lighting, but there’s no return policy on your kid, buyer’s remorse or not. A little bit of resentment is a part of the process for any parent, but the decision to not want to be a parent is probably best made before you procreate.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.