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?
** 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.