When my kids were babies, I didn’t want to read articles titled, “10 Ways to Make Bathtime More Enriching.” I wanted to read about other moms who were fishing craisin-speckled feces out of the tub with a bath toy while swearing and silently weeping.
I didn’t want to read, “5 Screen-Free Restaurant Activities for Your Kids.” I wanted another mom to tell me that she burned with resentment when the kids needed her to take them potty just as the food arrived, because of course they were both girls and she was the only parent who ever had to take kids to the fucking potty in public.
I didn’t even glean anything useful from “The Bedtime Routine That Will 100% Work for You No Matter Your Child’s Age, Your Personality Type, or Your Life Situation.” But I did appreciate that other moms put ear buds in and sat in the hallway drinking wine while their kids sobbed explosively from their tiny toddler beds.
I rolled my eyes at “How to Know Whether Your Kids Are Well Rounded” and gobbled up essays where moms disclosed that they had their kids in daycare even though they weren’t working. I wanted to read that I wasn’t messing up my kids’ lives because I sucked at crafts or said bad words or craved alone time.
I wanted to read that other moms also preferred their children in small doses. That their mornings were a disaster and that they couldn’t seem to stick with chore charts and their kid went through a biting phase too but that the older toddler who got in their kid’s face at the play area totally had that shoulder bite coming.
Now that I have a tween and a teenager, I am equally disinterested in “Communication Strategies Guaranteed to Work for Your Teen;” “Boundaries 101 for Moms of Teenage Girls;” “Read These 42 Books To Make Sure Your Kid Has Healthy Relationships, “ and “5 Ways to Tell If Your Kid is A Fucking Basketcase.”
I don’t want to hear that the struggles now mean she’s going to “find her people” in college and that she’ll change the world. Even if I believe that, deep in my heart (please, please let it be true). I don’t want to hear that rejection is protection from people who aren’t right for them anyway. I am not interested in learning how I can maintain my own healthy boundaries so that my kids can learn strength and resilience and I can stay sane.
Here’s what I want to read: I want to hear from other parents that this era of their lives sucks too. I want to read the stories of moms who cry in the shower and feel like they are having panic attacks at Target when they see kids who hurt their child. I want to read about how they feel like burning down the village and screaming in people’s faces until their throat is raw. I want them to tell me that they understand how hard it is to discern when to advocate and when to quietly retreat. I want to read real, gritty stories about how messed up the system is and how we aren’t the crazy ones.
I have no interest in reading polite, helpful, tidy summaries with parenting resources. I want to hear your gut-wrenching story and I want you to tell me that you see yourself in my words. I want to remember that there is no manual or guidebook—there wasn’t then and there isn’t now. Bring me your stories about how worried you are about your kids. Maybe you think they are assholes, or maybe you think they are liars or lazy or hoarders or basic or too weird or too much or you’re terrified they are going to lose themselves or get swallowed whole.
Tell me about how you cried at the concert because your kid had to quit and that means you had to quit, too. Tell me how angry you are, that it isn’t fair and it isn’t right and I’ll tell you you aren’t crazy and you can tell me I’m not either.
All I have ever wanted in this world of writing and reading about parenthood is to read the real stuff. The spaces for mothers to write honestly about motherhood are being rapidly displaced, making way for “reported essays,” where experts give you something helpful to share so people don’t think you’re a navel-gazing basketcase with poor boundaries because you want to write a story that has essentially no point except this: This sucks and I am drowning, and hey, how are you doing?
I guess that was the beauty of the (gag, don’t make me say it) “mommy blogging” era, a time when really, our writing had no point. It existed only to exit, to be read, to land on soft ground where another mom would say, “God, that feels like me.”
I know there are a lot of uplifting resources out there. If you’ve shared them with me, thank you. Of course I want to read and learn and have hope and be strong and do better. In fact, a bunch of stuff that I said I didn’t want to hear up there, I actually appreciate and attempt to integrate. Really. But you get the point: sometimes, I just want to fucking write: no point, no solutions required, no problems solved. And maybe, sometimes, you just want to read: no point, no learning achieved, no skill acquired.
So much has changed since the days when I gritted my teeth on the floors of public restrooms trying to shove chubby legs through pull-up holes and cover the sensor on the back of the toilet that scared the Bejeezus out of my kids. But so much about me hasn’t changed. The kind of parent I am. The kind of writing I do. The type of people I want to talk to.
So tell me: How the hell are you doing with this parenting era, whatever it looks like for you? I’ll listen. No “how-to” lists or bullet points or expert commentary required.
P.S. You can check out what I’ve been up to on The Mother Plus Podcast here, including a short solo episode I did a few weeks ago about that whole “preferring your kids in small doses” thing.