Before I became a mom, my best friend told me that she was excited about the weekend because she was going to be away from her kids. I have to admit, I judged her a little bit. Fast forward to two kids later, and I know exactly how she feels. I love my children, but there are times I can’t wait to get away from them.
There are times that I want to hide in the bathroom with a magazine and a chocolate bar.
There are times that I dream of my toddler being able to work the remote and get his own snack, while I sleep past six am.
But when I tell this to people, I can’t just say that I want to hide; I have to make sure that I always begin with, “I love my children, but. . . “.
For the most part, loving one’s children is a given; it doesn’t need to be qualified. You might be afraid that you don’t have the capacity to love someone more than you love yourself. But when that little being arrives in your life, your heart expands.
The child becomes a part of your future.
This is why the qualification, “I love my children, but . . .” has been bothering me. Of course, I love my children, but why have I felt the need to remind people.
I wouldn’t say, I love my job, but I want to quit. Was it because I was afraid they would think I actually didn’t? Or was it because I wanted them to think I was a good mother? Or, perhaps, I needed to remind myself that I was?
I began to hear other mom-friends utter the same assurances at various play dates at the park, birthday parties, and mom support groups.
“I love my daughter, but I’d rather be somewhere else than soccer practice.”
“My daughter is so like Wednesday Adams. But of course, I love that character. It’s just that she can be really dark.”
“I love my son, but the three hours a day he’s at daycare is the only time I can relax.”
I realized I wasn’t alone and that mothers everywhere were constantly reminding themselves and the world at large that they loved their children.
This wasn’t solely a me problem but rather a commonality that mothers everywhere struggled with on a daily basis. I theorize it has to do with three reasons.
We don’t want to be judged by others
Remember how I judged my best friend before I had children? As a single woman, I had no idea the demands raising children placed on mothers. Sure, I could understand intellectually and even sympathize, but nothing prepared me for the actual reality. A friend of mine lamented that her husband was away on a business trip and would be able to eat his food without sharing. Before becoming a parent, that statement wouldn’t have been as relatable. I noticed the non-parents in the room laughed but also gave her a strange look.
People judge us as parents all the time. Your kid’s the one screaming in the restaurant or still using a pacifier at four-years-old. Suddenly, the lady in line next to you at the grocery store starts to mention how easy it is for kids to ruin their teeth as your kid sucks on a bottle while sitting in the cart. As a last resort, you gave him one to buy more time while shopping.
Being judged as a mother is a daily occurrence at times and you don’t want to add to it by complaining about your kids. So you qualify by reminding the listener that yeah, your little angel is a butthead, but of course, you love him.
We don’t want to be viewed as bad moms
Being a bad mom goes against the grain of all we know in this crazy world. To go down this bumpy road is to go against thousands of years of gender programming. We are taught that we must give every single ounce of our time and energy to raise our children and love every single moment of it. If we don’t, we are akin to the stuff on the bottom of one’s shoe.
Even though motherhood is a constant struggle for some, it doesn’t mean they don’t love their children any less than those who have found motherhood fulfilling. Sometimes we need to complain about our kids. Qualifying that we love them reminds the listener that we aren’t bad moms; we’re just having a bad day.
We don’t want to feel guilty
If I call my toddler a little monster, I need to add that he’s super cute or gives me the sweetest kisses. There needs to be a balance between the good and the bad or the guilt settles in. I wasn’t raised in a religious household, so I’m not sure where the guilt comes from, but I’m flooded with it constantly.
Guilt affects non-parents as well, but as a parent, I spread an even deeper layer across all my interactions. If I don’t remind myself that I do love them, even when I’m scrubbing the crayon off the wall, I’ll feel guilty about disparaging them. I created them, so I need to love all of them. Otherwise, the guilt settles in.
How to not qualify?
The simplest answer is to not do it. It’s a bad habit like saying like every other word that needs to change. Okay, it might not be that easy. I tried it a few times, but not adding a qualification made me feel like I was being judged, slapped with a bad mom sticker, and feeling guiltier than getting a large ice cream cone at McDonald’s on the way home from Gymboree.
It dawned on me that I didn’t believe that the qualification wasn’t necessary. I needed to trust that even though I was complaining, I was, in fact, a good mom. Perhaps, this whole time the, “I love them, but . . .” wasn’t for the listener but more for me. The truth was I needed the reminder; otherwise, I wasn’t living up to my own personal standard of perfection. My own judgment was worse than the lady with know-it-all attitude at the grocery store.
I needed to believe that my mommy skills were good enough and that complaining was in fact okay.
I still find it hard to not qualify. Bad habits take time to disappear. Now, though, I take a pause and then continue on. I know I love my children, and in the end, that is what counts.