Maybe people find pleasure in complaining.
Maybe they need to justify their own problems by projecting them upon others.
Perhaps some people simply lack perspective.
I’m not sure.
But when Elysha was pregnant with Clara, we were repeatedly told about how difficult and exhausting parenting would be.
For reasons that I still fail to understand, it seemed as if it was the mission of the great majority of parents to destroy any perception that we might have that our child would be a blessing in our life and parenting would be a joy.
We heard stories about lost sleep, mounting expenses, the loss of basic adult freedom, the inability to see a movie or spend time alone, the stress on our marriage, the tantrums of a toddler, the never-ending string of dirty diapers, the cries in the middle of the night, and more.
For every positive comment made by a person about our future as parents, there were at least ten comments describing parenting in a negative light. This is not an exaggeration. Nor is it uncommon. I hear comments like these made to expecting parents all the time.
This is why I make it a point to tell expecting parents about how easy it has been to be a parent. How ridiculously easy and utterly joyous it has been to raise our three-year old, and how it seems to get easier day by day.
And it’s true. Compared with all the struggles and difficulties that I have experienced in my life, parenting has not been hard.
It has not been hard at all. It has been easy.
And it is not because my wife and I are exceptional parents or because our daughter is an uncommonly good child. It’s simply because the blessings of parenthood kick the ass of the struggles of parenthood.
Yes, I had to change six diapers yesterday, and yes, at least one of them was exceedingly disgusting. But this meant that I was able to spend some uninterrupted, one-on-one time with my favorite person in the world, listening to her tell me about her shadow on the wall or the book in her hand or the mobile over head or her plans for the afternoon.
And yes, diapers are expensive and we have considerably less discretionary income than before our daughter was born, but in exchange, we have Clara. Did anyone actually think that raising a child would save you money? Were the expenses of childrearing a surprise to any of these naysaying parents? It’s simply a tradeoff. Less discretionary income in exchange for an amazing, hilarious, loving, joyful human being.
I advise expecting parents to ignore the rising tide of negativity that will inundate them as their due date approaches. At the very least, smile and nod while reminding yourself how insufferably miserable people can be, regardless of their circumstances.
Even better, I encourage them to inquire as to why these nattering nabobs of negativity would want to ruin the excitement and anticipation of an expecting parent. I urge them to challenge these parents’ assertions and question their motives. I tell them to keep an open mind and ask questions of these parents who insist on describing parenting as a miserable experience.
You haven’t slept well in five years? Were you a parent who refused to allow your child to cry herself to sleep? Was your toddler was still sleeping in your bedroom on her third birthday? Are you and your husband one of these couples who keep score of the time spent with and without your child or subscribe to the “If I am awake, you are awake” philosophy?
Not every child will become a good sleeper, but a lot of parents screw this part up royally and then whine about it for years.
Or how about this one:
You haven’t seen a movie in five years because it costs a fortune to hire a babysitter? You own an enormous house with a three-car garage. You have a 50-inch television mounted on the wall in your living room. You own an iPad. You drive a brand new car. You subscribe to HBO, Showtime and Netflix. Your child owns every trendy toy under the sun. Your handbag cost more than Patriots season ticket. Not every family has enough money to hire a babysitter on a regular basis, especially in this economy, but oftentimes their inability to afford a babysitter has more to do with financial decisions unrelated to their child.
None of the warnings that parents imposed upon me prior to the birth of Clara have ever come true.
NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM.
Now that my wife is pregnant with our second child, the naysayers have returned, finding time in their miserable and harried lives to explain to me that one child might have been easy but two are not. They use trite and overdone expressions like “One plus one does not equal two when it comes to having kids!” and “Watch out! You won’t outnumber the kids anymore!” and take great pride in doing so.
But I know better now. I tell them to go to hell. Yes, another child will increase my level of responsibility. Yes, another child will cost more. And yes, perhaps this next child will not be quite so easy as Clara.
But in the end, I will have another amazing, joyous, wonderful, hilarious, loving human being in my life, and that will kick the ass of additional responsibilities and added costs.
I have made it my mission to go through life telling expecting parents that they are about to enter an exciting, joyful and unbelievably exciting time in their lives. I tell them that parenting will be far easier than most people describe it. I encourage them to ignore the army of jackasses who, for reasons that will always elude me, insist on stripping expecting parents of their hopes and dreams.
My daughter is three years old, and raising her as been as easy as pie. I sleep more than I ever have before. I see about a dozen movies a year. I play golf and attend Patriots games and go to the gym regularly. My marriage couldn’t be stronger. We couldn’t be happier.