“Lots of people would trade you.”
That’s one response I got to a recent Facebook post about my four-month-old having three diaper “blowouts” in one day. It was a lighthearted post, meant to make friends laugh. And many of them did. Everyone else was amused by my poop-covered misfortune. Most of them were parents and had waded through their share of onesies and pants that were ruined by what a diaper could not contain.
But that one comment, which differed so greatly in tone from the rest, really stuck with me. I didn’t engage. I felt no need to enter into a commenting war with someone I don’t even know very well. But deep down I wanted to defend what I wrote, because surely a Facebook post about my child’s poopy diapers does not imply that a) I want to trade places b) I am ungrateful for my beautiful (albeit sometimes stinky) children or c) I am unaware or unsympathetic to the plight of those who aren’t able to have children. Because I know all too well that plenty of people want babies who can’t have them and would give anything to change their own “pooplosions.”
After thinking about it, though, I was glad that I didn’t engage. Because due to things completely unrelated to the poop, that day had been a particularly hard one. Like, the kind that leaves you lying in a heap on the verge of tears after the kids are in bed. These kinds of days don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re doozies. Over the two and a half years that I’ve been a mother, I have grown to learn that all parents have these days. For a long time, I felt very isolated and thought that I was a horrible human being. But it turns out that all human beings who are raising tiny human beings have their limits, and those limits can be pushed and prodded by tantrum-y toddlers and fussy babies.
For starters, I was battling a painful case of mastitis, which is caused by a clogged milk duct. My breast was hot to the touch and red. A fever was creeping up on me, and it hurt immensely. The only thing that could help it was nursing my baby, except nursing was excruciating as a result of the mastitis. A booby catch-22.
Let’s just say that I was starting off at a disadvantage. Then my two-and-a-half-year-old decided that he wanted to push every single one of my buttons. He spent his time poking the dog (who is 12 years old and wants nothing to do with him), climbing the furniture, and engaging in every dangerous or destructive activity that he could think of. I started off by calmly trying to divert his attention or explaining why he shouldn’t do these things. But after a couple of hours, the word “no” was escaping my mouth every 35 seconds or so. This led to yelling which ultimately led to me unleashing a voice from within myself that neither I nor my son had ever heard before. He had inadvertently flung his fork and it flew clear across the table and hit the baby in the chest. No harm done. But it could have been bad if it were just a few inches higher. “What did you do?!” emerged from the depths of my belly. If I could have sees myself in that moment, surely I would have had horns on the top of my bright red head. My poor toddler burst into tears, as did I. The baby sat unassuming in my lap. The dog hid under a nearby couch. I had reached my limit. I could handle no more.
Luckily for everyone, the babysitter was due to arrive at any minute. I pulled myself together long enough to show her what my son’s dinner would be, and then locked myself in my room with the baby with the intention of doing work. But the mastitis was too much to handle, and I had no choice but to pop Tylenol and pass out while the baby napped.
The cherries on top of the day from hell were those three “pooplosions.” And by that point, all I could do was laugh and mention it in a Facebook post. And so here is the real reason that one person’s comment really got to me: There are days, as a parent, when you’re chock full of guilt and despair. Rage. Exhaustion. Sadness. Regret. You feel empty, and drained of the person you once were. You need to be able to vent about it all.
Motherhood, especially with little kids, can be all-consuming. In a mere moment you can swing from pure, joyful, drunk-love as you listen to your small child tell an animated story about a bug, to pushed within an inch of your sanity when that same child demands something for the hundredth time that day without so much as a please or thank you.
Your buttons get pushed, your temper gets tested. You’re tugged on, sucked on, and yelled at. You can feel crazy, like you’re outside of yourself. You feel hopeless and helpless.
Venting is a healthy way to inch back toward sanity and love. It is unrealistic to think we moms should savor every single moment with our kids. Because you can lose yourself so easily while caring for others. Sometimes we just need to breathe. To reclaim ourselves. Complaining in a Facebook post, or even occasionally losing your temper with your children, does not mean that you don’t love them. It doesn’t mean you wouldn’t trade a single moment of life with them. And it doesn’t make you ungrateful. It’s just being human. It’s healthy. And it’s normal. And it shouldn’t be admonished.