“You chose to have kids.”
This seems to be a popular response to moms who vent about the struggles of motherhood, especially in relation to choices we are making in this recent pandemic. This phrase is intended to shame and silence moms who dare to talk about their problems in a real way. The implication is, ‘You chose to have kids, therefore you should always be happy and never complain.’ This message is toxic and needs to stop.
Yes, I chose to have kids. But just like anything else, I didn’t really understand everything that would come with that great responsibility. I didn’t know how hard pregnancy would be on my body. I didn’t know how hard it would be to feel “normal” again postpartum. I didn’t know I would have depression. I didn’t know we would have feeding problems. I didn’t know a pandemic would happen in our lifetime. I didn’t know I would be thrust into virtual learning.
I didn’t actively choose those things.
I didn’t carefully weigh and consider every possible risk in the entire world, and choose to raise my child in these conditions. These things just happened.
I chose an ideal. What I got was reality.
Maybe that was short-sighted of me to expect the ideal. Naive. Dumb, even.
It was all of those things. But admitting that my expectations were wrong doesn’t automatically make me an expert in handling all the things I didn’t expect to happen. No one gave me any super powers after I had kids. We learn through experience, time, and by working through the struggles.
So I don’t think it’s fair to essentially say, “Shut up and be grateful!” to parents who are struggling, or feeling confused or frustrated with the alternatives available to us right now. I think there is a lot of pressure to accept things that we don’t like, when it’s actually pretty normal and human to not love everything all the time.
Expressing my feelings about the things I’m frustrated with is not just me “being entitled.” It’s a way to process what’s happening in my life and to allow myself to live honestly. Bottling up feelings and pretending that I accept all of life’s crap with a smile leads to resentment and can wreak havoc on one’s mental health.
So, yes, I chose to have kids. And I chose everything that came with that. But I did not foresee the life we are all living right now. I couldn’t have prepared for it even if I wanted to. So let’s all give each other some grace when we see others venting or complaining, even if what they think differs from what we think.
We are all facing uncertainty. And uncertainty is scary. The bottom line is that we are all continuing to figure this out day by day, even minute by minute as things continue to change. Parents need love and support from our communities and friends, not contempt and disgust that we are not totally content with our situation. I love the children I chose, but I don’t have to love our life right now. And that’s okay.