on being an a**hole
Good morning. Lusting for two workmen to pass by carrying a sheet of plate glass for me to run through. Or throw my husband through for waking up both kids with a 5:30 AM departure. Or my four-year-old for snorting snot into the back of his throat. Or my 22-month-old for being so damn cute but for requiring me when I’d rather loll.
This morning is brought to you by four bottles of Rescue Remedy and an automatic tennis ball-lobber loaded with Advil.
With one of my children no longer here, I should be enlightened somehow, grateful, joyful for the extra two hours that a 5:30 AM elbow-to-the-face affords me with my progeny. I should leap out of bed to don my Fun Times With Mrs. Frizzle astronaut-themed apron, and after serving scrambled eggs adorned with cheerio happy faces, I should clap my hands three times and construct a magical rocket booster made of popsicle sticks as organic banana bread rises in the oven.
There are two kinds of UGH inspired by a post like this. There’s the silent UGH, accompanied by the tsk, tsk, tsk and the solemn head-shake of other mothers. Those poor children. I’m calling her local authorities. She twittered the other day that she has a velcro restraining wall, and velcro coveralls, one pair in size four and one pair in size two, and that sounds almost as painful as lacking a sense of humour.
And there’s the out-loud UGH, accompanied by the grimace of the childfree. My god, parents are miserable. All they ever do is either a) complain; or b) declare themselves some kind of higher lifeform. (looks at watch) Oops. Gotta go. It’s time for my champagne cocktail and swedish massage.
The lovely No Pasa Nada wrote the other day, most fairly, of her contempt for our contempt—that is, of women who deem themselves women (as opposed to girls) thanks to the transformative effect of childbirth and/or parenting. Now, I never said that. But I did rant akin to that, didn't I? Yeah. I did. And then again.
A few people called me on it—not many, because I suspect at the time I was buffered from the red scorn by the barrier cream of, you know, death. And now it’s cropped up again and I’m compelled to explain, not coincidentally on this particular morning.
Here's how it looks from here. The ass of the non-mother is pristine-like-gymnast. Hundred-dollar bills get stuck to it no matter where she sits, and she does so whenever she wants. It’s the only one she needs to wipe. You are not a Real Woman until you require a perineal sitz bath, we sniff. Only then can the mysteries of the universe be revealed. (riches come in oil, gold bricks and ass autonomy.)
We love our kids, but we don’t always like them. We love motherhood but at 5:30 AM—stray bolts of lightning be damned—we might wish it away, or at least wish it to pause. We condescend because we feel trapped and we loathe ourselves for it, because hey, kids are cute and mothers are supposed to be selfless.
And so we say stupid stuff when drenched in projectile vomit. Stuff like you have it easy and you don’t know love and you don’t know sacrifice and you’re not a girl, not yet a woman, all of which makes you want to rustle up some projectile vomit to aim in our direction. Rightly so.
We say these repellant things, these thoughtless quips, not because we think we're better but because we think we suck. Because when we fail, we fail not just ourselves but our children. We make them feel small, put snowsuits on backwards, throw sippies at them filled with milk gone to unintentional yogurt.
My children, you see, are likely to remember me as a battleaxe. A snapping, snarling she-dog. I’m not joking. It breaks my fucking heart, but I can’t stop it, not even after one of my kids died and I should know better. Motherhood comes with an extraordinary pressure and limitless examples of how it should be, how it could be. And so we lash out. Some insist that it forms us into something bigger than you, something more seasoned. And because we’re up to our necks in it—the guilt, the self-loathing, the doubt—some of us say this out loud. Sorry about that.
Heather is right. We can be condescending and shrill and insufferable. We might puff ourselves up with supposed seasoning without considering the ache of those who want children and wait in limbo—either for cooperative uterii or cooperative seed-sowers. With this self-congratulatory tone we diminish women who choose differently, or who simply aren’t there yet. But it’s unlikely to stop.
We’re unlikely to ever be confident in what we’ve done and in how we do it. We’re never going to think we’re good enough mothers. And so we gaze romantically, longingly, at what we perceive as your blank slate, your fresh start, your autonomy.
(Overinflated claims of maturity and fulfillment via motherhood does not imply your own immaturity and emptiness. It just means we think we suck in ways more profound than we’ve ever sucked before.)
Please accept this peace offering: this here handful of linty cheerios. And know that you, if you ever choose to become a mother, are likely to become an irrational asshole by hormonal default, if only on three hours of sleep. Please call us when you do, or hey, anytime. We’ll do fishsticks.