Today was a challenging day. I had to be at work an hour earlier than normal, and it was an exceptionally busy day once I got there. I found out my husband did *not* get the time off request he put in for next week despite requesting it a month ago, which throws a wrench into our plans. He got a ticket for his car inspection being expired, which is an expense we now have to budget for.
And Kairi would not go to sleep.
It’s interesting timing that she picked today to have a bad night, as I read this article earlier, and did a thing I try never to do on the internet: left a comment (granted it was on a fb page where that article was linked, but still). My comment was not inflammatory as it was just defending the author for stating on work days she only spends two hours with her son, because honestly, I would love a two hour average with my daughter on days I work. Instead, I usually don’t even get to the babysitter’s until between 5:30 and 6, and then I stay and chat for a few minutes (considering our primary babysitters are actually Billy’s parents, it would be kind of rude to just show up, take Kairi, and leave without a short visit). If I can go straight home, this allows me just under an hour before I need to start her bath. Less, if she didn’t take her afternoon nap, a little more if we can skip a bath (which has become increasingly difficult as she has learned to nonverbally ask for one) and she took a late nap.
But I rarely get two hours. The one night a week I work late I come home at bedtime, and have, on a couple of occasions, gotten home after she goes to sleep. If I have any errands to run at all, she goes to bed late, because I just can’t bring myself to take her from the car, to the bath, to the bed, and getting home that late usually has her too hyped up to go straight to sleep anyway.
I’m getting off track–my point isn’t to complain about how little time I get as a mother with a full time job outside the home, though that is an easy topic to go on about. But my point, is about the comments to the above article, and how (predictably) horrible they got.
In the things that happened to make this a less-than-ideal day, I am allowed to complain about all of them, save one.
I write my own schedule. Therefore, I knew I had to get up an hour early today. If I was going to complain about it, shouldn’t I have thought about that before writing this day in? Never mind the fact that it’s part of my job to be there early on days we open early–and for that matter, shouldn’t I have thought about that before accepting this job at all? Once I made that choice, I forfeit my right to wish I could sleep in from time to time, didn’t I?
My husband also works in retail. Therefore a time off request is never more than just a request. Therefore I have no right to get upset that his request was denied. After all, that’s part of the package. Didn’t I know that? I should have considered that before making plans. Retail schedules are unpredictable, if I’m going to try to plan events in advance, I should be prepared for disappointment when things don’t work out. Who am I, to be bummed about this?
And the car. Oh, the car. The sticker is right there on the windshield. Nobody ever has any excuse to miss a state inspection. If you forget, or just got busy with everything else going on, you deserve everything you get, and you better not complain about having to pay a fee, because you made that decision.
See how absolutely ridiculous it sounds to say you can’t get upset or frustrated over something just because the outcome is a result of a choice you made?
So why is it, when you get frustrated with the challenges of parenting, the internet feels like it’s okay to tell you they feel sorry for your children, that everyone knows parenting is hard and you’re an idiot if you thought it would be otherwise, and you should always push back the frustrations you feel because you’re just a monster if you get annoyed with your baby.
I get annoyed with my baby. I stood in my kitchen at 8:45 tonight after going back and forth more than once trying to console her, after turning the heat off on the water I was trying to boil for pasta for the third time, after letting her comfort nurse for half an hour, after giving her a bath she didn’t need just because it was one of Those Days where we didn’t have much time together and bath time is bonding time, and just closed my eyes, and whispered “please shut up please shut up please shut up” over and over and over again, with varying degrees of language added in. (Spoiler alert: she didn’t.) So I put dinner on hold yet again, went into the bedroom, and soothed her until she fell asleep, and put her to bed.
I get frustrated. I get so frustrated that I send my husband texts stating I’m going to stab myself with a steak knife if she doesn’t let me eat–and then I take a deep breath, go into the room, and pick her up and rock her, and sing to her, and speak to her in a soft voice. I do my very best not to show her I am frustrated (although I fail at that as well sometimes), and as soon as I can I pour a glass of wine and think about how silence really is an amazing sound.
Maybe someone else would have kept going with dinner, and let her cry it out. Maybe that person didn’t feel frustration, because babies cry, and they accept that part of it, and steeled themselves long before not to let it bother them.
Maybe on a different day I would have continued to go back and forth and it wouldn’t have bothered me, because my day would have left me with more patience.
Maybe a million other people would have responded a million different ways, because every child, parent, and situation is different.
In customer service, there is a culture of rewarding people for venting their frustrations on total strangers who had nothing to do with the situation that initially upset them. But in parenting, you not only are not rewarded for expressing yourself over a situation that you find frustrating, but you’re ostracized for daring to admit you got frustrated in the first place.
We obviously don’t have a problem with misplaced anger. We don’t have a problem with people getting annoyed–even angry–over situations that honestly do not warrant anger, and that we entirely brought on ourselves. Billy could vent about his ticket online and have people tell him the cop (who was just doing her job) was an ass who should have let him off with a warning, rather than admonish him for not getting the inspection taken care of. And yet, if you are brave enough to admit that parenting is anything other than magical every second of every day, your character is called into question. Presumably because babies are involved–they can’t help themselves, after all, and they don’t mean to upset us. But the cashier you just spent half an hour screaming at wasn’t even working the day you had bad service, and yet, it’s socially acceptable for you to walk out of the store with a coupon after your horrible behavior.
Getting frustrated is a lot different than taking your frustration out on somebody. Hurting your children? Bad. But loving them, taking care of them, and giving them a safe place in the world–and then exhaling everything you pushed deep down until your kids’ needs are met in a place they aren’t exposed to? Not so bad. And probably pretty healthy.
So why is that something nobody seems to be allowed to do?