The (not so) magic of babies

By Lisa Cucinotta

I was at a client meeting today and overheard a conversation between a mom that just returned from maternity leave and an expecting father.

“Oh, it’s just magical.  You’re going to love it,” she raved.

Being the nosy nancy I am, I of course butted in.  “Are you referring to having a newborn?” I asked her.

“Yes, it’s just so wonderful,” she gushed, smiling radiantly. Say what?

Listen, I had postpartum depression with Julia, and that’s not everyone’s experience so yeah, I am a bit jaded.  Having Luca was a fabulous course correction, and I genuinely enjoyed a lot of my time with him, but let’s be real here.

Being a first time mom to a newborn is an experience that can be described as magical.  But not without also caveating that it’s also many other things like terrifying and exhausting.

Moms (and dads): If you are selling the lie, you’re not just lying to yourself, you are setting our parenting culture up for failure.  Dramatic of me to say? Maybe.  But I literally can not count on two hands the number of women who told me that I was one of the ONLY people that warned them that those early weeks were going to at times, between gazes of love and wonder and unicorns prancing also be demoralizing, mournful, emotional, foggy, bloody (yes, bloody) and confusing.

People will make comments about how you won’t get sleep.  They’ll make jokes about it.  But they won’t tell you that the sleeplessness will often be accompanied by unending screams that simultaneously break your heart, hurt your ears, and feel like a condemnation of you and your failure to parent correctly.  Because surely other moms can make their babies stop crying (spoiler alert: bag of nopes there).

You might hear in passing about colic.  But you won’t be given the details about how colic is defined by multiple days of THREE PLUS HOURS IN A ROW of crying.  That shit is hard.  I did not have a colicky baby, but I remember even just average crying with my daughter and how hard it was.

Maybe, thanks to a few parenting memes going around FB, you have somehow heard about the hospital underpants.  It is essentially an underwear sized maxi pad.  Because if you have a vaginal birth you will BLEED.  I was sent home from the hospital told not to be worried about clots unless they were LARGER THAN A TENNIS BALL.  I’m not sure I’d even be able to worry at that point because I would have passed out from fright.

Let’s just take a moment to talk about breast pumps.  Do you know I did it for three months before I found out about hands free pumping bras?  I held those damn flange things against my boobs multiple times a day when I could have just been hanging out, still a cow but with hands free.  And surely no one told you that you actually have to get the right sized flanges for your nipples.  It’s not a one size fits all situation.  And how weird it is to be LITERALLY milked.  I never even made enough milk with Julia without supplementing with formula.  For the first month, my doctor had me nurse Julia, then pump right after – including middle of the night feedings.  Do you know how much it sucked to not only nurse, then pump, but then have to wash fucking pump parts in the middle of the night.  I remember more than once crying in the bathroom at three in the morning as I washed and sanitized pumping supplies thinking that this will never end.  Magical I tell you.  Like prancing unicorns of joy.

I could make you a list more numerous than the number of pee and poop diapers you will change in those early months of other “magical” moments.  Projectile poos, the fear of touching your baby’s umbilical cord before it falls off, the porn star rocks that your boobs will be when your milk comes in, reflux, baby acne, meconium. Trimming miniscule baby fingernails (without making them bleed) so they don’t scratch themselves up like Edward Scissorhands.

I named this blog Truth in Parenting for a reason ya’all.  Only in sharing the truth with each other will we be able to know that parenting is two sides of a coin.  In truth, we don’t have to feel shame or disappointment that our experience isn’t like others, because there’s a really good chance that it is – both good and bad.

 

 

The Cult of Motherhood

So, raise your hand if you participated in some Mother’s Day tea or other event at your child’s school this year. Adorable, right? I imagine these things are all pretty similar, so you probably had a morning much like mine. I showed up to a little breakfast of danishes and fruit and juice. (My toddler was thrilled because there is only one food group to a toddler: carbs). We all sat in a circle on the rug and the kids sang songs to us. You Are My Sunshine, Happy Mother’s Day to You! and my own personal favorite: MOTHERP. Oh, you don’t know MOTHERP? I didn’t either. Here goes:

M is for the Many things you gave me
O is for the Other things you gave me
T is for the Thousand things you gave me
H is for the Hundred things you gave me
E is for Everything you gave me
R is for the Rest of the things you gave me
P is for the Presents that you gave me
Put them all together and they spell MOTHERP!
(children dissolve into giggles)

The kids then went around and took turns saying “I love my mother because…” First up was Emme, who revealed “I love my mother because she lets me help her do laundry.” Right on, kid. You are welcome at my house anytime. Elliott offered up “I love my mother because she takes me to play basketball at the basketball court.” Hmmm, well…it’s actually Dad that does that, but OK. I’ll take it. I freeze when I’m put on the spot like that too. We were then presented with handmade gifts. Elliott’s class made necklaces. That’s a picture of the one he made me up there at the top of this post. I love it! Not made of macaroni, and thus pretty wearable in public. All in all, super heartwarming. File it in the memory bank to keep you warm when they become ungrateful teenagers, right?

And so here we are. Mother’s Day has passed, and school ends next week, and then summer vacation. Oh and somewhere there in the hazy heat of summer, Father’s Day happens, doesn’t it? Fathers don’t get invited to school for a breakfast in their honor. Father’s don’t get serenaded, and told why they are loved in front of a whole class of kids. (Fathers don’t get handmade necklaces, but they’re probably not too broken up about that.) In the midst of summer vacation, our dads are getting shafted, which is why I think we need to move Father’s Day up a bit (or have year-round school, but that’s an essay for another time).

Sure, you can have your own Father’s Day celebration at home and do all those things-make breakfast, sing songs, etc. But I think there is something to be said about preparing as a class and giving the idea that dads deserve praise too the reinforcement of a group celebration.

What I’m getting at is the abolishment of the Cult of Motherhood. Having a class party for moms and not dads enforces the idea of the Cult of Motherhood for our offspring’s impressionable minds. Yes, it’s super awesome to have a day and a celebration for the hard work I do as a mom. And yes, I think that even today moms still do in many circumstances more of that heavy lifting of parenthood for a variety of reasons. But dads are in the trenches too, and the more we send a message of equality to our kids, the more equal the future will become.

The Cult of Motherhood is killing us. You know what it is, even if you’ve never given it much thought until reading these lines. The Cult of Motherhood says that being a mother is the most important job a woman can do. The Cult of Motherhood degrades those that can’t have kids or don’t want to have kids. The Cult of Motherhood shames working moms, and lays guilt at all of our feet whenever we choose something for ourselves over our children. The Cult of Motherhood celebrates Pinterest Moms and perfect homemade birthday cakes, and highly-planned crafting afternoons that most of us won’t ever live up to. The Cult of Motherhood has got to go.

Every time you watch a movie where the dad is a bumbling idiot played for laughs, know the Cult of Motherhood is alive and well. Have you ever seen a woman out in the wild with a misbehaving child? Chances are the people around are wondering why SHE can’t get her child under control. See a man out with a child having a tantrum, and I’d place bets that people are thinking, “Aw. That poor dad sure is having a hard time!”

I watch competent dads every day. Dads that I am exposed to are not these bumbling sit-com fathers. They are killing it. And if they aren’t killing it, they are having the same struggles of parenthood that moms are. We can’t keep putting moms on on a pedestal and expect them to know everything, while we perpetuate the idea that fathers know nothing. Fathers know. Fathers parent, they don’t babysit. Let’s raise up the dads and tear down some pedestals and start leveling this playing field a bit.

Equality will only come from a shift in thinking that includes dads more, and singles out mothers less. We don’t need to fight for maternity leave, we need to fight for parental leave. Every parent deserves to bond with a new baby, and have time to adjust to the upheaval that brings to your life. And it needs to be encouraged that dads TAKE that paternity leave. Just to have it available and not use it does nothing. And Dads need a celebration all their own with a classroom full of kids singing to them.

So, let’s move Father’s Day up to the 2nd Sunday in April, and get some lyrics together for a new song called FATHERP. Get crackin’.