Everything in my life used to be a big deal. I worked for a boss who viewed every aspect of our work environment down to who went to lunch with whom as a big deal. My husband, who is amazing, used to view a pile of catalogs on the kitchen table as a big deal. And both my parents and his parents raised us to treat every test, every homework assignment and every chance to achieve as a big deal.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a great attitude to have if you want to produce responsible, independent, financially stable adults. It just becomes an absolute nightmare when those Type-A adults decide to become parents.
I can still see my husband standing over our newborn son he’d just laid on the changing table for the first time. “Honey,” I said, “you look like you’re about to take on the biggest live television production of your life.” (He’s a broadcast engineer.)
“I am,” he replied with a furrowed brow. Our first year of parenting, as it turned out, was a very, very big deal.
Every time our son cried, one of us was there in 30 seconds or less. By the end of his first week I had charted his feedings and diaper changes in Excel. When I explained to a nurse that my son never cried out of hunger because I had him on a feeding schedule, she nearly choked back her gum.
At seven months we gave into sleep training out of sheer exhaustion. We just couldn’t spend our nights jumping up for his every cry any longer. A week solid of bedtime wailing nearly killed me. But it also gave me the first of many motherhood epiphanies. My son would be just fine. A few tears weren’t a big deal.
I had another one of those “not a VBD” epiphanies recently when I sat among a group of mothers, most of whom had at least 2 or more children under 5. They all traded tips on which birth control methods they were going to pursue to make sure they’d never have to worry about getting pregnant again. “I’m done,” one mother proclaimed after having to lecture her toddler for the third time that day. The other mothers nodded, rolled their eyes and added to the chorus of “No” commonly heard among groups of young kids running wild.
I’d just spent the past week being introduced to my toddler’s very independent, extremely opinionated personality. I was haggard, to say the least, after countless rounds of temper tantrums, repeated lectures and our first rounds of time out. Therefore you’d probably think I was primed for a conversation about making sure I never had to deal with the horrible emotions and exhausting frustration of having to discipline my child again.
Instead, as I listened to these women talk about getting the medical version of springs inserted into their fallopian tubes, I just kept thinking, “It’s really not that big of a deal, is it?” I mean, sure, no one enjoys saying “no” more times than McDonald’s serves Big Macs, but is it really worth altering my biology to make sure I never have to say it again?
This was the reality check I desperately needed to dig me out of the misery and exhaustion of having to discipline my own child. If I wasn’t able to empathize with women so worn out that they’re willing to go to surgical lengths to make sure they never have to say “no” again, maybe I’m really not that tired of being a mother after all. Because, honestly, while having to be the disciplinarian is far from the most fun job in the world, it really isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, dealt with appropriately, discipline is a healthy part of raising a family.
Every woman has her limits. But, how many situations in daily living are truly as stressful as they feel in the moment? The same mom begging for birth control also commented that when her children whine at being disciplined, it hurts us moms more than it hurts them. And she’s right. Good discipline helps, not hurts. So, why should we let it overwhelm us?