Friday, September 07, 2012 • 3:44 AM Comments ()

Parenthood It Gets Better Project Begins with It (Sorta) Sucks

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Two friends visiting: three adults to one baby, good odds

Here is my completely obvious realization—that absolutely bears repetition: to become a parent, heck, to be a parent is tough. You think to yourself things like everyone else does it (better and easier than me). The person is tiny, how hard could it be? Of teens, you think, they have long legs or deep voices and tell you they know everything, how hard could it be to hand them money, feed and water them and send them off to school?

Answer: it’s all way harder than you think.

I do not mean this in some doom and gloomy, be very afraid way. I more mean—WOW. I mean for all the moments you just smile at them in amusement or companionable pleasantry or disbelief that you have such an amazing kid there are so many moments that are much harder than you ever imagined they’d be and when you’re being stretched much further than you ever imagined you’d be—or frankly than you ever wanted to stretch. And then you freaking stretch some more.

Who thought this up?

**

I’ve decided once again that there is one thing I know how to do with new parents: I empathize. I remember not to just ooh and aah and get all mushy it-goes-so-fast (that’s a lie, anyway, however true) when I see their adorable, perfect babies who only sound loud to them. I find some way to open the door to let them say how impossible the entire situation—parenthood, that situation—is, and then I make sure to be really direct about the fact that they’re right; it’s really, truly, completely vexingly hard.

Hard isn’t a bad word; it’s not a swear word; it’s not mean. You can love someone with your heart, soul and every exhausted fiber of your sleep-deprived being and still be completely kicked in the a*$ by how difficult it is to love someone on so little sleep and with so little free time and so many fewer firing brain cells. You can even be unsure it’s worth loving someone under those circumstances. If this were any other relationship you might look at the state of your appearance and fatigue level and tendency toward weepiness and lack of productivity and scrap it. Try again. You can even be unsure you love the person—enough or at all sometimes. You do not have to be guilty for not loving every moment of your life in real time.

To say to someone that things will get better is so much more credible once you join them in the reality that it’s hard right now. And, by the way but not by the way, as I affirm how tough getting to know a whole new tiny person is when coupled with getting to know yourself as a whole new parent I also remind myself that every parenthood-is-impossible moment I experience in real time is okay, too. I need reassurance. The difference between being a brand-new parent and having been a parent for nearly 17 years is that not only do I know that I need reassurance, I know that I have it within me to offer much of that reassurance to myself, if only I make sure to do so. But not all of it—that’s why my friends with kids a bit older than mine are so incredibly precious.

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