Mrs. Frugalwoods recently admitted that she’s nervous about becoming a mom, but she’s learning to accept we’re all flawed. This kind of thing strikes a chord with me and I had to talk about it. First off, let me just say:
No one should EVER say “It’s so great. Enjoy every minute” to someone with children.
Don’t stop reading if you don’t have kids. This post is for you too. I want to talk about the logistics of having children. As a stay-at-home mom, I am a “professional” in the field. So please listen up.
Why Kids Are the Worst:
Not enough parents out there are comfortable admitting that sometimes they are sitting at home, covered in spit up, completely exhausted thinking “I must be doing something wrong because I don’t love every minute of this.” Imagine your dream job. The absolute greatest job on the planet. Do you think you would enjoy EVERY SINGLE MINUTE? No. There would be really crappy moments. There are always really crappy moments. But for some reason, we’ve decided that if you’re going to be a parent, you better darn well LOVE it. ALL THE TIME. (Sorry, I’m yelling again.)
Mr. T and I had Penny when we were both in school and working. On Mr. T’s graduation day, we went to the ceremony and then he had to race off to work. I took Penny home and within an hour of being home, I ended up absolutely covered in poop that had managed to blast out of her diaper and pants. I sat there, covered in poop, completely helpless. I had to call Mr. T to come home because it was everywhere and I didn’t even know how to start (bless you single parents out there… I know that I have NO IDEA what that is like. I don’t pretend to). When Mr. T got home, Penny and I were both in the bathtub crying.
Any new job is hard. No one expects you do know what you are doing in the first few weeks/month of your new job. That’s why there is training. If you’re dealing with software, your company’s program is unlike any other, so someone has to teach you how to use it. You can have a solid understanding of software and still need to be trained on a specific program. That’s expected.
When you have a baby, your baby is unlike any other, but there is no training. You can read all the books and be a general baby expert, but still have no clue how to navigate your “model” of baby. There is no one that CAN train you because this version is untested. Your job is to figure it out. This is a high stress situation and you’ll have to navigate it mostly alone. And the stakes are high. Because this is a baby we’re talking about, it can literally be a life and death situation.
We’re terrible at admitting all of this out loud, so parents feel inadequate. They think maybe they are the only ones that don’t love every minute of their job. They think they’re the only ones that don’t have a clue what they’re doing. As a society, we make up for that by buying stuff. If we can get the safest car seat, crib, bouncer, swing, bassinet, baby wrap, bottles, toys, etc. then we can be the best parents out there.
Why Kids Are the Best
Yes, parenting is the hardest job out there (in my opinion), but the benefits are large. Eventually, you figure out the basics of your “model” of child. Sure, it still gets viruses (literal and figurative) and sometimes stops working (which happens in a much more dramatic and loud way than a software program), but your kid loves you. You are needed in a way that you will never be needed in any other job. And you are loved in a way that goes beyond any employment as well. There are moments when you are so floored by your child’s ability to love you that it is inexpressible. And you learn so much about yourself and your ability to love as a parent. I make better choices because of my children. I want them to see that education, health, travel, giving, and gratitude are important. So I have to learn those principles and show them by what I do that these are priorities for me. I want my girls to be confident, brave, ambitious, and comfortable with their bodies. If I’m not, they won’t be. Being a parent is refining. It is fulfilling, enlightening, expanding, and awesome (both awe-inspiring and just plain cool).
If you don’t have a kid, these payoffs seem like something we parents say to make up for those moments you may have witnessed when we’re covered in poop and crying. Let me assure you that these benefits are real and the quiet, amazing moments experienced are beyond anything I ever experienced before becoming a mom.
I recently came across a big financial break down of whether you should have kids in your 20s or 30s and I thought “who cares? because once you have a kid, everything about them leaves the paper anyway.” That being said, kids can also be a great influence on finances, but because you are the primary “programmer,” they can also be terrible influences. It all depends on how they’ve been taught. But children are born forgiving, loving, curious, and frugal. They don’t care what brand of onesie they’ve got on. They’re going to get baby food all over it no matter how much you paid. And their favorite toy is going to be the tag or the box. The toy itself will be ignored. Or worse: make them cry every time. They don’t need stuff.
Older kids learn how the world works. They know things in stores have to be acquired through some sort of trade of cash or a swipe of a magic card. Unless they are taught otherwise, they probably think everything is attainable quickly and easily and there is an endless supply of money or credit.
I don’t know what I’m doing in this whole parenting thing. I’ll be the first one to admit it. But I’ll also be the first one to admit that you won’t know any better than I do. These are my kids and I’ve paid the price. I know I’m messing up. But I also know I’m doing a great job. (If you are a parent and you can’t admit both of these things, get there. Give yourself grace.)
Recently, our family left a friends’ house. It is a gigantic house with amazing views. As we left, I was worried about all the things my kids would be thinking (they have a bouncy house in their basement!). When we got into the car, my oldest said “I like our house. Think how many chores those guys have to do!” And Mr. T and I gave each other mental high fives. We’re winning at this.
Alyssa @ Generation YRA
Thank you for sharing the realness of parenting! My fiance & I are preparing for the future with our family, and recognize that there is such a wide spectrum of joy & hardships that will come with raising children. The last story you shared about leaving your friend’s house – that is fantastic! I can just picture that scenario in the best way. 🙂
You really never know what kids are going to do because they are born their own people. So it’s always exciting to see when a little bit of influence is getting through!
Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope
I live for those “quiet, amazing moments.” I never realized the magnitude of amazing and fierce emotions that come with loving a child. It can be scary at times without any instruction manual and there are overwhelming moments (often involving poop), but kids really are awesome.
You’re so right about how babies prefer boxes or tags over toys. I love what they do in Finland, so much more practical than those long baby-registry checklists: http://creatingmykaleidoscope.com/2015/01/22/what-do-you-really-need-for-a-new-baby/
I’ve always loved the box baby thing. Also, those clothes are all super adorable because they’re scan design. I want to move to FInland. Or Sweden. Or Norway. I’m open!
*Sigh* I love this article so very much! Once upon a time I actually thought I was a good parent. Now, I know better. I joke that the kids’ college savings (funded by PFDs) are also available for psychological counseling for all of the crazy I’m putting into their brains. But, I also know that I’m doing a great job. Such a perfect idea of that parenting balance. P.S. Scandinavia is totally on my must-do list. Now that Iceland is only 7.5 hrs away in the summer I’ll hopefully be going sooner rather than later. It might not be your thing, but the movie Trollhunter (I found it hilarious) has some great footage of Norway.
I’ll have to look up Trollhunter. Sounds fascinating. At least you have college savings… we’re just planning to funnel the kids PFDs from our savings in theirs when they start working as a Roth IRA. We’ll see how that goes.
Our Next Life
We don’t have kids and don’t plan to, but I think this is sort of a meta lesson that nothing in life is all good or all bad. Everyone is flawed, and everyone is also perfect in their own way. 🙂 But if you ever expect something to be perfect and exactly like you dream it will be, you’re bound to be disappointed. So keep it real, just like you said. 🙂
I agree, but I feel like we’re particularly bad at doing this with parenting. Everyone is afraid to admit it’s hard because somehow that might translate into you not loving your kids. And then people without kids see the tough times and think “don’t you wish you didn’t take this job?” and while it is hard, the answer is never “yes” to that question.
Ditching The Grind
Great post! Raising kids is easily the toughest yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Even on the second and third kid, nothing can prepare you for the first night you take them home and you realize there’s a little person living at your house that’s completely dependent on you.
They can be so frustrating sometimes and then do one little thing that makes all the frustration worth it. It’s amazing watching them learn and grow. I always joke that I can’t wait to kick them out (they’re 7, 5, and 3 so we have a while), but I know it’ll be sad when they leave.
I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job and they’re grateful every day for you!
Your kids are similar ages to mine. And yes, I joke about the same things! But thank you for the uplifting comment! I agree with that first night home. I never sleep well because I’m always afraid they’ll stop breathing (even after living through it with two others!). And it’s crazy to meet them as they get older. They are certainly born with their own little personalities!
I like how honest your post is. You’re not the first mom with a story of poop blasting out of the diaper. As my sister would say “at least, she had a diaper on”. Her pants, shoes and sweater still remember that day.
What I really like is where you say that it makes you a better person. Because if you want to teach them good practices, you have to master them yourselves and be credible. That’s probably one of the hardest thing to do but also, I imagine, one of the most rewarding if you see them following your lead.
Very inspiring post Maggie, I can’t wait to teach my daughter all the good stuff and think about how to lead by example
Your day in the poop will come! You guys will be great. The point is, it never gets less scary and you never feel like you know what you’re doing. But that’s part of the job. 🙂
I think I am with Mrs. ONL on this one. My SO and I have discussed kids quite a bit and we don’t really see any reason to have them. Maybe at a later date we may end up adopting. Kudos to you for being a stay at home mom! My mom raised two boys staying at home and I think she did a find job 🙂