Sunday, 8 May 2011

Mother's Day

No matter what many people might tell you, being a primary parent isn't the hardest job in the world. Even being a great parent is not that hard. The hours are long, but the work is not especially physical. It doesn't take a lot of brain power. The skills are varied, but not difficult to learn. It's really not as difficult as so many mothers make it out to be.

However. Being a good parent is an exercise in putting others before yourself much of the time. When I cook breakfast, whether it's eggs or pancakes, I am the one who eats last, every time. If someone needs something during dinner, it is me who goes to fetch it from the fridge. My first child was born in 1994, my second 15 months later. From the moment my son arrived, drinking an entire cup of coffee while it was still hot became an impossible dream. It wasn't until May of 1998, during my first day back in the paid workforce, before I enjoyed that experience again.

Your kids will feel that their things are their things, but will presume that you will share what you have with them. Even now, if I come home from work with a meal--even if they've eaten, and even though it's sometimes after 9 at night--they'll swarm me like locusts and pick my plate half-clean before I even realize what's happening. Restaurant food is still enough of a treat to them that they want in on it, any time they can.

Being a good parent means the same shit, different day, over and over. It means telling your kids the same shit, over and over, until you sometimes feel like you're talking to a brick wall.

Being a good parent means you have to say no, even when it makes your kids scream that they hate you. Sometimes you have to make them cry, even though your child's crying is a wonder of evolutionary biotechnology designed to be psychologically painful to the people who hear it. And you know, even when you're doing it for their own good and they'll one day appreciate that your discipline taught them right from wrong and good decisions from bad, well, that appreciation is going to be a long time coming. It's a deferral of thanks for all the things you did that they didn't like at the time, and that you didn't like to do either, but that helped shape them into decent human beings.

It's an exercise in frustration. The number of times my children have clamored for a specific food they love--be it pizza pops, yogurt tubes, a specific kind of breakfast cereal, pepperoni sticks--only to decide they're sick and tired of it two days after it went on sale at Costco and I bought two months' worth of it...well. It's years of hearing "just a sec" whenever you ask them to do something, and "but I want it now!" whenever they ask you to do something. And while parenthood isn't as intellectually gruelling as many occupations, well, the work is boring as fuck at times. If it weren't for the internet and TV, I'd lose my mind some days.

And you don't get paid for your efforts for years. And I'm not talking money, I'm talking about the moment your kids realize the breadth and depth of the job you took on when you had them, and how thankless a job being a good parent is at times.

So until that day arrives, the day my kids say, "You know mom, all those times you pissed me off because you wouldn't let me do what I wanted, all those times you put me in time out because you loved me enough to not indulge my bad behavior, all those times you didn't buy me that designer whatever because it was too expensive, all those times you ate last...well, thanks," I'll take a day a year to let other people pat me on the back.

Happy Mother's Day to me. And to all the other moms and dads out there who are the primary caregiver to their kids, Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

6 comments:

  1. No comments regarding this post ? I’m surprised.

    My wife takes the brunt of my 10yr-old’s impatience but I certainly picked up on your “just a sec" whenever you ask them to do something, and "but I want it now!" whenever they ask you to do something.” statement. You have true talent for looking at an issue from the opposite angle from which you stand. My compliments to your exceptional insight as well as to your parents who taught you so well (picked up from reading your sexual assault post).

    I tell you though; your work load is at least six times ours (just one kid). Are you near enough to your sister or another relative or your boyfriend (How about this; “your best guy”) to give you a break once in a while ? That’s what they recommend when looking after someone who needs full time care. I hear exhaustion in this posting of yours and yet you put in serious mental effort into your men’s rights work. I’m amazed.

    I’ve started reading your blog from oldest towards newest and am taken with your intelligence and deep thoughts regarding men’s rights or even better personal responsibility, and honestly, your struggles just living your life and raising your kids.

    Girlwriteswhat, I wish you all the very best to your and your family,
    Merril

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  2. It's coming this weekend, so: Happy Mother's Day. :-)

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  3. I've been wondering... From my observations it seems as though children tend to behave somewhat better around fathers than mothers. If that is true, could this be because children observe female hypoagency and that observation somehow diminishes the effectiveness of mothers' discipline? It seems to make sense to me that children would be smart enough to wonder why they should obey their mothers if they observe grown women acting like children.

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  4. I'm starting to be of the opinion that female hypoagency has actual physical characteristics attached to it--that is, neoteny (the retention of child-like physical features) is greater in women than in men. Women have softer facial features, smaller noses, higher foreheads, larger eyes, less angular/muscled body shapes, and higher-pitched voices.

    If you ever noticed how men and women, when encouraging an infant to do something new (such as going down a slide, or even walking) or interacting with a child during play, will speak in a falsetto, while when being stern they will naturally lower their voices. It's been shown that people--even into their 80s--respond with quicker obedience to a deeper voice.

    So it may be that women retain enough childlike physical features to make children not see them as AS adult as they do men.

    When you think about it, though, the advantage of evolving toward greater neoteny would be in order to exploit the protective instincts of others--to see women as *almost* children who deserve protection from harm, from difficulty, from hurt feelings, all of that. This would have provided women a huge reproductive advantage, especially in harsh environments, inasmuch as it allowed them to more successfully manipulate others to be agents by proxy.

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  5. Those are interesting observations--I hadn't thought about it that way before but it sounds plausible to me. I still think some of it is due to behavioral observations, though. For example, if a mother cries during a bad situation and a father does not, that might be another thing that makes a child feel a mother is not as adult as a father.

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  6. Wow. Karen, I'm sure you know me from your YouTube videos. But, I never imagined that I would be mesmerized by the way you open up and describe your personal life like this.

    That being said, I have never even heard of adult children stealing the food from their mother's plate. My mom had to push me to try a lot of new things. I was a major shut-in. I grew up in front of the TV, playing video games... which I regret now, because I had a big, awesome, cheap amusement park only 5 blocks from my house. She would get so frustrated with me, because I would act like a wuss or sissy. Like, for instance, when I bawled my eyes after getting off a ride at another amusement, because I puked.

    I always a good, quiet, well-disciplined kid by nature. I was a quick learner. So, I didn't countless lessons about the same thing.

    My mom always tried share everything with me. And she pushed me to be just as open and truthful about my private life. She never punished for any thought I conveyed, because I was usually full of guilt and despair over it anyway.

    My mom was very manly. She couldn't stand other women and how they treated men. She loved men... I mean, LOVED men. She had no qualms about telling me all about her love her men. And some things she said, I wish she had kept to herself.

    God rest her, I miss my mother very much. I guarantee you, she would be a major fan of your work. ;-)

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