"Dude, this parenting thing? It's so hard!"
If I had a dollar for every single time I said something to that effect, I'd have some very nice shoes and possibly a designer handbag. For a long time, I took comfort in wallowing in the woe-is-me (something I'm quite guilty of still, even though I know better) and so did every other mom of my generation, many of us whining online via mommy blogs.
Recently, I was obsessing (hey, nobody's perfect!) about why my almost-three-year-old was misbehaving and about how I'd messed up my 5.5 year-old, neurotic mini-me. My mother-in-law caught me reading yet another parenting book and remarked, "I never read any books, you know? I just figured it out. You will too. You already know what to do. It's not that hard."
In the midst of all the recent chatter about how studies say that parenting sucks, how it doesn't bring you happiness and how you'll be more miserable than your childless friends, I read Andrea Gordon's interview with former Babble.com founder and editor-in-chief Ada Calhoun. While I haven't read Calhoun's Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves To Raise Good Kids, I think I get the gist of it: if you block out the noise, quiet the constant stream of mental chatter and act out of true, conscious love, you're probably going to be OK (and so are your kids). We've all got it in us. No books or experts required.
Motherhood has lead me on a journey of sorts, one that ends and begins at that magical right answer: We intrinsically know what is right for our families. Most of us set out to do good by our kids, to nourish them and nurture them with love and guidance. But we get caught up in what we're doing wrong, instead of forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and celebrating our successes. We need to stop the judging/researching/obsessing and start appreciating that the key to enjoying parenthood is to just be.
The problem with the suckage of parenting lies not in the multitude of choices (because holy crap, are we ever lucky to live in a country with so much choice for moms), nor in the endless tasks that come with the job. The problem is in our thinking. We're so focused on where we need to be, or on what else we could be doing with our time (hello Twitter and work addictions!) that we absolutely miss the point.
When we do it consciously, parenting is FUN! Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make that sound easy. Trying to be in-the-now when there are lunches and doctor's appointments to be made takes practice. But when we are present, when we see our kids for the wonderful gifts of life that they really are, having children actually enhances the experience of living. They help us to see the beauty in the tiniest things and the insignificance of much of what we identified with before having them. They make us laugh (especially at ourselves) and high five giant M&Ms and squint to spot beach glass. They live only in the moment and remind us to do the same.
So wake up parents (and yours truly included), life isn't about all the things that are out of reach after the daycare check gets withdrawn. The secret to a happy life is in the living of it. Stop and smell the children (just maybe only after a bath...).