Opposition exists in all things: pleasure and pain, light and darkness, joy and sorrow…but this fact wasn’t fully apparent until I had a baby. Before the birth of my son, I considered myself a relatively stable person; I was rarely rattled by minor annoyances or major upsets whether at work or in my personal life. After, however, I turned into a raging psycho. I can now go from sweet to despicable in no time at all.
It’s not to say that kids completely change who you are (although it’s safe to say they do change just about every aspect of your life); but having a child will amplify the most extreme aspects of your personality–for better or for worse. For example, if you struggle with road rage and you don’t have kids, imagine what moronic driving will do to your temperament whilst you have a screaming newborn in the backseat; throw in spit-up-soiled clothes and aching, engorged breasts and you’re likely to have a full-blown psychotic break.
The fact is, there’s nothing I’ve ever accomplished or done in my entire life, that compares to the feeling in my innermost being when I look at the cherubic face of my sleeping baby. He is literally heaven incarnate. The joy and fulfillment are indescribable. The love I feel for my offspring is unparalleled.
As is the frustration that washes over me when he refuses to eat the seventh meal I’ve prepared just for him for dinner (I know you’re hungry…and since when do you not like beef bourguinon, macaroni and cheese, or french fries?). Or the exhaustion I feel as I realize he dumped the entire toy box I just spent 10 minutes filling (Seriously? I’ve already put those away eight times today, and you’re not even playing with them). Or the shame I feel when I see the tears welling in his eyes after I yell at him like I’m a boot camp instructor (what is WRONG with me, they’re just toys!).
As a new parent, life is lived in the extremes, because being responsible for another human being (especially one that is tiny, constantly vulnerable, and typically acts like he’s drunk) is one of the most intense undertakings one will ever experience. To look at your child and know that you created him or her is incomprehensible; it fills you with wonder and causes you to ponder the very meaning of life and human existence. To look at your child’s face and see your eyes staring back at you, your mother’s nose, your husband’s ears, and your nephew’s smile, makes you feel connected to your whole family in a completely new and unanticipated way. To be your child’s entire world–Finder of Missing Lego Pieces, Kisser of Scraped Knees, Consoler of Untold Hurts and Disappointments–makes you feel like the most needed and indispensable person in the world. But for each moment of blissful reverie, there are an equal number of challenges, sticky messes, tantrums, poopy diapers, bite marks, and “I hate you mommy”‘s to keep you humble and on your toes. You might be SuperMommy for nearly an entire day, but in the last quarter your child might decide to throw your iPhone in the toilet; don’t be surprised when you instantly and unwillfully go from June Cleaver to Norman Bates’ mother as you unleash unholy wrath on your spawn, Siri, and the cruel fates that allowed you to leave your cell phone in your toddler’s reach.
A lot of people think, “If having kids is so awful, then why did you have them? And why am I listening to you complain about them?” The purpose of this post isn’t to complain or whine about how tough parenting is (even though it is, so there 🙂 ). The purpose is to reassure the doubter that it’s worth it. The most worthwhile achievements in our lives are not achieved haphazardly or accidentally. The most significant things I’ve accomplished in my life–whether in sports, finishing a degree, or buying our first home–have taken years to fully realize. They’ve required me to toil day after day, year after year; at times requiring me to perform activities that were at times painfully mundane and other times unbearably difficult; along the way allowing me to garner occasional successes, but even more setbacks and failures. At the end of each long road, however, I realized that the journey was far more important than the realization of the goal itself, and that I learned way more about myself as I was enduring the highs and the lows and forcing myself to stay the course. So it is with parenting. Even though some days (most days, in fact) are hard, I know that I’m a better person now than I was before I was a mother. I’ve learned an untold number of life lessons (selflessness, unconditional love, patience) exponentially faster because of parenthood. As unstable and bipolar as I may feel from one moment to the next, I know that if I can just make it through that rough spot in the day, I’ll be rewarded with a sweet smile, a thoughtful kiss, or a heart-melting “I love you, mommy” just when I need it most.