There’s an article — a cover story, actually — in a recent NY Magazine that is titled, “Why Parents Hate Parenting.” Ooh, that sounds harsh, doesn’t it? And while I don’t want to debate the article (at all), I did read it and I did find that this parts resonated with me:
Children may provide unrivaled moments of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak. This … makes it perfectly clear why parenting may be regarded as less fun than having dinner with friends or baking a cake. Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.
The reason I went to the article in the first place (aside from the fact that my mother told me to) is that I heard several panelists discussing the article, and parenting, on the NPR talk show Tell Me More. Because I was doing a camp drop-off run I didn’t hear the whole program I’m not sure what the entire focus was for the hour, but the part that I heard the longest was a discussion about how parenting offers you no feedback, a la a company’s annual performance review. It’s gratifying to hear how you are doing at a particular job, and if you don’t get that feedback, the job seems that much harder.
That discussion stirred a memory in me that I thought I’d share:
About a million years ago, when I was home with my first baby, the calendar year was coming to an end. I was busy trying to figure out how the holidays would fit into my new gig as a mother — does the car seat really snap into this stroller frame so I can go Christmas shopping? Can I time the mall trip between feedings or naps? Do I have a shirt that isn’t milk-stained?
As I sorted the mail one afternoon in December, I opened a card from my college roommate who, at the time, was just beginning her career at American Express and didn’t have any children (yet). The card was nothing particularly special and I can’t recall the exact words here, but what it said was,
It’s the time of year when all of us who work are going through year-end reviews, and I thought that I would let you know what I think of your performance this year — since you won’t have an official year-end review any more. I just wanted you to know that I think you are doing a wonderful job, that your performance as a mother has been tremendous, and if I could give you a raise or a promotion, I would.
Like I said, I took literary license with the wording, but the sentiment is exactly right. The card couldn’t have come at a better time, and I remember to this day how buoyed I felt by reading her words. Still, 14 years later, I cherish them (and her).
Q2 just came to a close….maybe we should provide a performance review for someone who is loving their children these days, but not loving parenting all that much.