To Whom It May Concern:
I am sorry.
I am sorry for those looks I gave you while your child was crying in the check out line. That look that said I feel sorry for you. The look that said why have you not calmed your child down yet, idiot? The look that said I could do better.
I am sorry for judging the state of your home. I admit that when I came over to your home, regardless of the fact there were three terrorists you refer to as your children running all over the place, I knew that I would be able to keep the toilet bowl clean. I knew that my dishes would be done and my laundry put away.
I am sorry for judging your marriage. Of course, pre parenthood, I knew that my own marriage was untouchable. My husband and I communicate like talk ninjas who understand every.single.thing we say to each other. We never offend or hurt, and I knew that children wouldn’t change that. I knew that once we had a child, we would simply take more time to express our thoughts and feelings. And, naturally, we would have prepared well before having any children so there wouldn’t be any “surprise” issues that popped up. We would be oh so prepared. I knew, in a nutshell, that having children would only enhance our union. So I am sorry. I am sorry for thinking you’re bad people when we’re at dinner parties and terse words are shared over who will change the diaper or go grab the fussing tiny human. I am sorry I raised my nasty judgmental eyebrows when you’ve shown up late to some gathering, red cheeked and obviously less than thrilled with each other. I am sorry for silently thinking never us when you share pain and frustration over feeling unsupported or misunderstood in this new season of life by your spouse.
I am sorry for ever even thinking I would do something different with your children than you were doing. For those times when your kid wasn’t listening or talking back or picking on another kid or didn’t know the alphabet or wasn’t sitting up by 5 months or wouldn’t eat vegetables and I was there, all superior and smart and wise and better than you, and threw all the rocks. Cast all the judgment. Knew all the things. I am sorry.
I am sorry for looking you up and down and stopping on the chipped nail polish, pimple, disheveled beard, same leggings/jeans/skirt/top/ponytail/sundress as the day before and making you feel dirty. Little did I know that wearing hard pants, as opposed to the yoga variety, and brushing your teeth once a day would prove to be both the hardest tasks to get and the least important. I assumed that my boobs wouldn’t leak and my stomach would get flat and I would feel like a million glowing bucks the second my perfect baby came out.
For hearing that breastfeeding isn’t going well, and thinking that you weren’t trying hard enough or really, really committed to it.
For giving you such a hard time for being late. Or rescheduling.
For watching your baby cry and hearing you say you didn’t know what to do and thinking smugly to myself that you’re just not scheduling him or her or feeding him or her enough or making him or her nap enough.
For listening to you talk about diaper rash and lifting my nose because, well, we’re going to use cloth diapers because we love our child, obviously, more than you. We don’t care about laundry; we care about our baby’s comfort and well being.
For thinking you’re dramatic, it’s not that hard.
For rolling my eyes when you ask people to wash their hands before touching your baby.
For offering you advice when you didn’t ask for it.
For wishing I could come to your house, have your baby for a day and prove to you it’s you, not your baby.
For ever thinking I knew anything. About anything. Ever.
The reality is, fellow solider, that parenting is nothing like I thought it would be. My child is not the way I assumed he would be. I am not the parent I pictured myself being. My marriage looks different than I had planned. I am different. My life is now different.
My kid cries way more than I thought he would. I want to literally crawl in a hole and die when we are in Target and he starts screaming like someone is slowly pulling his arm out of its socket. Thank you, kind Target employee, for pointing out that he is, in fact, not taking his nuk and wondering if maybe he is hungry. Those observations are of great help and make me feel empowered and not stupid. What else can you tell me?
My house…I mean, don’t ask what those spots on the sheets are because I can guarantee that they are either pee or milk. And I can’t guarantee which of the three of us made those spots.
I have never loved my husband more than I do now and I have never been more embarrassed at the things I have said to him or how I have treated him at times (mostly at 3am). We talked about so, so much before the baby was born. I was so, so confident that we would not fight. We would not argue about the baby. I would not be hormonal and overly sensitive and cry and at the drop of a hat. Well, turns out, I was wrong.
I have, generally, no clue what I am doing. What worked yesterday did not work this morning. I am pretty sure my son is schizophrenic. I thought, because of all my experience and extensive knowledge, that I would just know what to do. All the time. That I could fix the crying, I could make the baby sleep, I would never not know what he was crying about. Again, how wrong I was. I have spent more time looking at him saying things like, “Shepherd. Dude. Buddy. What? I don’t know what to do. Come on, man. Help Mommy. I love you. Be okay. Nothing is wrong. Please. Stop. Crying.” than I ever thought I would.
I consider it a win if I get my teeth brushed two days in a row. Right now we’re at about every other day. Listen, childless reader, when it’s ten pm and your sweet cherub is sleeping, alone, in his sleeping device, there are more important things to attend to than oral hygiene. Mostly sleep. Maybe a shower. Maybe pumping or dishes or talking to your husband or sending an email. But, mostly sleep. I have now, at the four week mark, just started wearing hard pants on the regular and let me tell you, if I am wearing jeans: look out! It’s a big day.
My sweet baby will not breastfeed. Will. Not. Yes. Yes, to whatever question is in your mind. Yes, we have tried it: breast shields, SNS, skin to skin, bottle-nipple-bottle dance, nuk-nipple-nuk dance, half feeding from bottle then nipple, football/side lay/on top of latch/upside down – you name it position, lactation consultants, different bottles. All of it. The kid won’t do it. And I now feel like an idiot for ever thinking it would be natural or easy or instinctual. It’s not for us. And for every mom I’ve ever judged, man, I had no clue.
And here’s the crappy part about all this: however judgmental I was, I still think I was pretty tame on the judgy scale. I would never approach someone I didn’t know and offer unsolicited advice. I would never put something on facebook like, “OMG. Saw a mom at Target today and her kid was XXXXX. WTF?!?!?! #badmomdotcom #donthavekids”. Never. Short of someone punching a child, I’m not going to say something. Why?
Because I don’t know.
I don’t know her story. I don’t know her kid. I don’t know what her day or hour has been like. I don’t know what kind of women she has in her life helping her. I don’t know if she’s in it alone or not. I just don’t know. And unless she asks, my mouth will be shut.
Because when I pull out a bottle to feed my screaming child, I feel those looks. And I want to say, super causally and loud to Shepherd something like, “Thank God Mommy pumped before we left!” so those people know that it’s breast milk. I want to say to those giving those looks that I’m not as bad as they think I am.
But you know what? No. I shouldn’t. Those people shouldn’t be giving those looks anyway. I shouldn’t be giving looks or offering advice without being asked. Because we don’t know. I don’t know.
What we do need to do is back the heck off. I need to back the heck off and I need other people to back the heck off. Target employee, step back. Self proclaimed crunchie Mama, back off. I’m trying. We’re all trying. We’re not getting anywhere by shaming each other or acting superior or elitist or like we know everything or like we have it all together.
I need actual empathy. I need comrades and support and a knowing look from a fellow war survivor, not judgment.
And, if you have kids: you do too. Even if you get your teeth brushed on the daily and breastfeeding worked great, something else didn’t. It’s not all perfect, and there are areas where you need a comrade too.
And, if you don’t have kids, be nice. Maybe you won’t ever have kids so you won’t know uniquely what it’s like. Maybe you will. Either way, be nice. We don’t like being late and smelly and tired.
So, parents, I am sorry. I know nothing. If you are alive and your kids are too, I salute you. If you’ve gotten sleep recently and you’ve showered this week and you’ve eaten more than a granola bar, you are my hero and I love you. Thank you for not slapping me when I was on my know-it-all-horse.
Humbly, and respectfully,