In Defense of BitchingStefanie Wilder Taylor
Being a mother is some hard shit. That’s the truth. But you knew that right? You knew that because a ton of mothers —mothers who write about mothering, myself included — love to regale you with stories about the crap parts, the times that try our souls, and some people are sick of it. Maybe not you but some people.
A parenting blogger at Jezebel wrote a post about dealing with the terrible two’s that inspired some vitriolic comments about the nature of complaining about having kids. I’m familiar with this. This is my territory! When I had my first child I couldn’t believe what a train wreck I became in such a short span. By the time my daughter was four months old I was an unshowered, sleep-deprived, uninteresting, breastfeeding failure who fairly constantly spewed negativity to anyone who would listen. As you can imagine, my husband got a little tired of it. Actually most of my friends probably felt annoyed. I imagine that at some point everyone in my life probably said a silent prayer that I would strongly consider Zoloft. I don’t blame them but it had to come out.
In desperation to find someone who would listen, I started blogging about it and very quickly I got a book deal. My first book, Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay, was born a year later and it sold quite a few copies. To my utter amazement and joy, many other mothers wanted to hear this stuff. No, needed to hear this stuff and this stuff, to the untrained eye, sometimes read like a rant about babies.
A lot of new moms, including me, just want to find their tribe. A tribe where we speak our own language and have our inside jokes. To these other mothers, loving our children is our baseline. Yes, we all love our babies. We want them to feel loved, nurtured, breastfed (until they’re 15) have high self esteem, learn their ABCs (in Spanish, French and Italian) and always always always know how we love them so much we almost can’t breathe when we watch them sleep. We sometimes have dreams we can’t find them, dreams so real we wake up in a cold sweat, tears running down our sleep deprived cheeks and walk around not feeling right for the rest of the day. Most of us would throw ourselves into traffic to protect them but first take them on an educational trip to the frog exhibit at the museum. Yes, this is the parenting 101 part.
But what about the days where our toddlers act like they’re possessed by the devil? How about when our eighteen-month-old decides sleeping is for assholes? Or our two-year-old throws a forty-minute tantrum because we ran out of Mandarin oranges? Isn’t it cathartic to write that? Isn’t it cathartic to read that?
Well no. Not to everyone. To my dismay, one-star reviews came in on Amazon from people who didn’t appreciate me complaining about parenting. Reviews like this one from “Compulsive Reader”: An unbelievably depressing and simplistic memoir of sorts by a woman who evidently finds her ineptitude as a mother hilarious, this book manages to make babies sound like a cross between cancer and the IRS. The constant references to drug use are sickening, and her aversion to natural processes disturbing. Note to the author: motherhood can be a blast, and not just because of the hormones.
There were quite a few other like that one. Twenty four of them so far but who’s counting?
The truth is, I don’t care because when you’re in the trenches, which I believe is about the first six years (then you have a second tour of duty from about fourteen to nineteen), there’s a need to bond with other mothers, mothers who aren’t trying to put on a front, mothers who make you laugh and tell it like it is. I’m just entertaining the troops.
That’s why I write. And that’s why I read. I don’t care that you absolutely adore every part of motherhood. That’s not what I learn from. I learn from hearing your fears and insecurities. I learn from hearing about how you almost lost it and yelled “SHUT UP — PLEASE!!!” to your three-year-old. Or the time it wasn’t almost. Why do you think Go the F*** To Sleep was such a runaway best seller? Because it’s sweet?
So to Tracy Moore at Jezebel and to every other mother out there writing about the grueling, gritty underbelly of parenting, keep it up. We need your dispatches from the front lines. Just try to also keep it funny. Because like I said, parenting is some hard shit. We could use the laughs.