My One Advice to Parents: Don’t Read!

Facebook is annoying in many, many ways. Not only do you have to put up with the so-in-love friend, the bragging friend, the friend-of-questionable-political-leanings, and the football enthusiast, there is the onslaught of memes and ecards that makes me contemplate defriending everyone on a weekly basis. Who would have guessed that Buddha could make me this aggressive?

I dearly love most of my Facebook friends, and wouldn’t have befriended the rest if I had not found them likeable or had something in common with them. Given the right mood, and the right level of intoxication, I too feel like sharing a witty or inspiring quote from time to time. Having to read them on a daily basis, being shared by friend after friend, does get on my nerves though. I know I should focus on the little things! I am aware of the benefits of putting my phone down and talking to people in person! And oh boy, do I LOVE my children!

A motivational poster about parenting.

Because these are the worst. I can’t imagine anyone needing reminding to love their children, yet people seem to love sharing such insight. And by now, it just makes me angry. The point of sharing anything on Facebook is making a statement about yourself. We’ve all done it, whether to support a political candidate or a friend’s charity run, or to spread our righteous anger at the treatment of animals. All worthy causes, but ultimately, all little markers saying, “Look at what’s important to me! This is who I am!” In the case of words of wisdom on parenting, it’s like waving a little placard saying, “I’m doing it right!”

Parenting is hard. Even when it’s going swimmingly, its outcome is uncertain. Even if we have no other aspiration than turning our children into decent human beings, the way there is paved with problems and self-doubt. This doubt never goes away. The most patient person will eventually flip when faced with a 5-year-old’s near-teenage tantrum. And immediately your world will crumble around you. Will the child remember this? Will this be the turning point, the moment she will tell her therapist about in the years to come? Am I just not up to this?

How could you be? This is not the hardest job in the world (something Facebook ecards will remind you of at regular intervals), because it’s not a job. It’s life. You can’t resign, you’ll have to see it through. And you will make mistakes, just like everyone else. So on the one hand, sharing uplifting words about playing with your children being more important than buying them ipads or cleaning the kitchen can help and validate you. You must, after all, be doing it right. But every time somebody posts such uplifting messages, a parent who just wants to run away and not play with her devil children today dies a little inside. If you can’t even manage the little things in life that make such a difference, have you not completely failed? The last thing you need now is some sanctimonious asshat writing stuff like this:

Dear Mom On the iPhone,

I see you over there on the bench, messing on your iPhone. It feels good to relax a little while your kids have fun in the sunshine, doesn’t it? You are doing a great job with your kids, you work hard, you teach them manners, have them do their chores.

But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now…..

Your little girl is spinning round and round, making her dress twirl. She is such a little beauty queen already, the sun shining behind her hair. She keeps glancing your way to see if you are watching her.

You aren’t. […]

No, you will not enjoy every second of your life as a parent. You’ll love the little monsters, but they’ll drive you crazy, and you will need a break from adoring their every move from time to time. And as soon as you take a break, people will judge you. Online, this otherwise quiet resentment from strangers will be loud and unrelenting. Parents love judging each other, because in the day-to-day misery of being fully responsible for another human being, feeling right about something is the only thing that will help you go on. Your house is a mess, your children have been eating Cheerios all day, and you’ve said “fuck” in front of them more than once? At least you’ve cuddled them and told them you love them. And that’s what matters most, right? Screw this. Chances are you hate the sight of them today. Today has no redeeming features at all. You have not cuddled the kids. Guess what? It’s fine. Don’t try to self-analyse by reading mommy blogs. Everyone will always find a redeeming feature for themselves, and you’ll feel worse. Just stop reading. Take a breath and try again tomorrow. You’re a grown-up, and the little ones have made you lose sight of yourself for a bit. You’ll be fine, and if Facebook just shut up for a few days, you’d remember that you are awesome and can do this.

Of course it’s not only Facebook. I have stopped reading anything child-related, because all it did was create pressure that I didn’t need and couldn’t handle. Tips for healthy meals? My kids will not eat them. Fun games to make out of discarded cardboard tubes? They’ll be even more bored than me. How to turn my children into leaders? I don’t want to create an evil army, thank you, and I feel quite sick now. I feel so liberated now I’m doing things my way, even if it means I’ll still make mistakes in most people’s eyes. I really think I can live with that.

By Karo

Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

5 replies on “My One Advice to Parents: Don’t Read!”

THAT’S how you know you really love your children — Because you don’t have patience for anyone else’s. You merely endure the playdates or classroom stuff. ;)

I do marvel at some of my friends’ magical ability to love playing with kids, or the teachers who have magic teacher tricks for getting kids to do what they need to do. Those people do deserve our applause.

Anyway, this was a great post.

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