Wednesday, January 27, 2016

But Will I Really?

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

I need a reality check. I think. I’m not sure. Maybe what I really need is a healthy dose of some sort of mothering gene that I didn’t get. I’ve come to accept, mostly, finally, that I don’t have what I normally think of as the standard “nurturing spirit.” I’ve written about it extensively,* and I’m slowly realizing that I have used a too-narrow definition of mothering and nurturing.

The truth is I don’t have any great fondness for newborns and babies. Sure, I have loved mine, but I don’t feel any sort of yearning toward them in general. I can look at someone else holding a baby and have absolutely no desire to snuggle it. In fact, I don’t have this feeling toward any age of children. I just don’t want to hang out with them. I have always considered this to be a major personality flaw. In fact, I still sort of do.** But at least now I have come to recognize that it doesn’t mean that I’m not a nurturing, loving mother of my own children. At least, not much.

So that’s why I get a little confused when I see a friend or stranger or celebrity post on social media, “I am just crying so much. Little Z has started walking. It’s the end of an era.” Or, “I’m so happy-sad about potty training. My kid doesn’t need me so much anymore.” Or, “I miss how little she was!” I am just generally really excited about my kids growing up more. Maybe this will stop being true when they hit the teens? I don’t know.

But even more, the posts that really puzzle me are the ubiquitous bits about how you’re going to miss the laundry and the diaper changes and whatnot. And these posts always start by addressing those of us in the throes of parenting littles, and they say, “Yes, we know you don’t think you’re going to miss it, but trust us, you will.”

To which, every time, I think, “No way.”

First of all, let’s get serious. I will be doing crazy amounts of laundry for at least the next 18 to 20 years. This is not tapering off any time soon. Also, I really don’t like doing laundry. Or dishes. Or vacuuming. Pretty much if it involves cleaning, you can guess that it’s not an activity I’m big on. So, if I don’t like it now, how am I suddenly going to get nostalgic about it in the future?

I think what they’re really saying is this: “You’re going to miss having your kids need you so much.”

To which I say, “Well, why don’t you just say that instead? That I can probably believe.” I’m sure someday I’ll look around at an empty house and think about the good times when they needed me more.*** Although, in all honesty, I am just loving having them grow up more and need me less for things like behind-wiping and pouring milk for their cereal. How are these not good things? But I can theoretically conceive of a time when I will miss the 8yo coming to me to discuss her schoolwork or the 5yo wanting to snuggle while we read a book.

But if that’s what they’re really saying, why in the world do they keep on bringing up the laundry? And they do it so emphatically. It makes me wonder—I’ve gotten over my lack of universal nurturing, but am I now missing something else? Am I genetically absent a love-of-children’s-laundry gene?

Explain it to me, world! No one has yet convinced me! (And trust me, I’ve read it about a bajillion times.) What am I missing?

Or maybe we’ll just have to wait another twenty years, and then suddenly I’ll be a believer?

* Like here, here, and here.

** Partially because it extends to all ages, not just children—I just don’t love being with lots of people. It’s partially an introvert thing and partially a socially awkward thing and partially an emotional energy thing, and it has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post. So, moving on. . .

*** But probably not those times when one of them was screaming because her favorite shirt wasn’t clean because I’d forgotten to do the laundry—or she wore it every day for the past week, and I’d washed it every night and just ran out of other stuff to wash with it. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience. This is just a hypothetical.


  1. I feel the same way about other people's babies and kids, which has totally surprised me because I babysat tons as a teen and mostly enjoyed it. I wonder sometimes if what those older women really mean is that we'll miss that, generally, the biggest problems we have are getting through the laundry and dishes. The nature of the problems we'll face is bound to change as the kids change.

  2. You are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you!!! I have three kids ranging from ages 4 1/2 years to 2 weeks and I love watching milestones fly by. Sleeping through the night? Yes! Washing his own hair with just help rinsing? Great!

    I don't enjoy time with other people's children, but that's why I became a college English teacher and not a kindergarten teacher. Nothing wrong with that. And I cried a lot when I was released after 2 1/2 years of teaching gospel doctrine in order to teach primary.

    Maybe you will miss some things and maybe you won't. And maybe what you will miss will be very selective. It's not easy when there are so many blog posts and talks and comments from people who feel differently, but I think it is okay to unapologetically own this part of yourself.

  3. I adore you.

    Yeah, I will never miss laundry. If I someday hire a laundry service, I feel confident in saying I will never look back on that decision with regret. If anything, I would argue that having someone else do all the cleaning would give me more energy and excitement for the important parts of parenting...sorry, there was a point. It isn't "yay, laundry!"

    I love my kids with the fire of a thousand suns. I love watching them grow. I get nostalgic looking at pictures of videos of their younger selves. But I don't feel this way about anyone else's kids.

    In other words, I feel you. <3 

  4. Ohmygoodness. Thank you for saying this. I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

    We decided 4 was enough for us, and the only reason I like cuddling other people's babies is 1) To give them a break and help them out and 2) I'm kind of good at it. Somewhere along the way with my 4 I learned baby-ese and I can usually deduce pretty well what's wrong with a crying baby and how to fix it. I get a kick out of it. ;-)

    But yes, I agree, I am always more than excited to scoot them along to the next life phase, although I know there will be a few things that get to me- when my oldest graduated from preschool I got weepy (mostly because they showed all their photos and played the song, "Let Them Be Little"- they were just asking for a sob fest) and I know that when my youngest starts kindergarten I will probably kind of fall apart a bit (shopping trips get lonely when I have no one to talk to).

    The one time that advice really did help me was those middle-of-the-night wakings and feedings. When it would happen, I would force myself to look into the future, and see myself lying awake in bed at 1am, glancing at the clock over and over, praying to hear the sound of the front door opening and closing so I would know that my baby girl was finally home safe. Or sometime in the future when she stalks down the hall, slams the door to her room and I hear her sobbing and screaming, "You don't even understand!"

    It will be those times, I know, that I truly will long for the days when her cry from her bassinet from across the room is what woke me up at 1am, and when that cry meant, "Mommy, I need you. Please come hold me close and warm against your heart." Yup, just those thoughts would make that long, chilly trip to the bassinet at 1am feel a little bit more cherished.

    But laundry? Pshh. If I never have to fold a onesie again in my life it will be too soon.

  5. My mother-in-law had her kids doing their own laundry at age 12. I'm looking forward to implementing that responsibility In my kids lives.

    Motherhood is hard work. While I have young kids (9 and under), it's a 6:30 am to 8 pm job that I chose to do. As long as I give it my all, I feel all is right in the world. When I don't, I repent/change my strategy and feel better. Each day my goal is to create happy memories and add a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Chores won't be happy memories, but how loud we sang while doing them will be.

    I'm not naturally playful with kids, but when I try to be, I feel like the sacrifice or rediculousness of it was worth it.

    My biggest fear is not that I'll miss my kids at certain ages/stages, but that I'll have regrets. No what ifs or if onlys. As long as I remember this is a job that I'm accountable for and try to get better each day (have/show a bit more love for my kids), I'll have fought the good fight...won the war.

    Best wishes!



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