There’s too much comparison in parenting. Way too much judgement. And not enough acknowledgement of the fact that sometimes we all have it hard.
This morning, as I was brushing my daughter’s hair before school, I spotted a wriggly little companion embedded within. Every parent of school aged children dreads such a discovery. I sighed as I contemplated brushing my daughter’s thick, curly tresses with that tiny comb, rang the school to say she was going to be late and reached for the head lice treatment (always a spare bottle in the cupboard).
An hour later she was treated, showered and ready to be delivered to school. The whole episode got me thinking – what if I had needed to go to work this morning? What if I had an important meeting or a non-negotiable deadline? Would I have sent my daughter to school and spent the day at work envisioning her scratching her head, while feeling acutely guilty about it? Or would I kill the lice and be late for work – having to deal with the wrath of my boss and the extra strain placed on the day by my tardiness? A head lice crisis is just one of the two million unexpected disasters working parents have to juggle with their jobs.
So today I felt lucky. Lucky to be at home and able to deal swiftly with the little blighters in my kid’s hair. And, as I so often do, I felt a deep surge of respect for working mums.
In fact, I was doubly lucky today. My husband, who works shifts, was off and able to entertain our toddler while I deloused his sister. Having my husband on hand to deal with a poonami, prevent my son from trying to lick the splashes of oily head lice treatment off the floor and keep him from throwing toy soldiers at my daughter’s sodden head was a real bonus.
Today I didn’t have it hard at all.
But sometimes my husband’s shift work is hard. Like when he has to work on Christmas Day. Or when one of the kids falls ill in the middle of the night while he’s on shift and I don’t know what to do.
Sometimes I find being a stay at home mum hard. Sometimes the monotony and isolation can be depressing. Some days I long for adult conversation and the career I almost had. I crave to be more than I am- to be valued, to contribute financially. Granted, I don’t always feel that way. Most days, I love my role.
But sometimes it’s hard.
Assumption circulates us all like vultures. You may look at me and my family and think I have it all. Indeed I am very blessed, but things haven’t always been easy. You wouldn’t know how I started my parenting journey as a single parent. Or that I should actually have three children in my arms, but there is one missing because she only lived for a day.
It saddens me when I see working mums and stay at home mums pitch against each other. Or when I hear breast feeders and formula feeders clash. Our parenting journeys – be they paved with our choices, our necessities or both – are unique to each one of us. These tapestries can only be fully understood by the people weaving them. At times we feel invincible. And sometimes we feel failure, guilt and shame. However rosy things may look from the outside, it always comes down to that.
Sometimes we all have it hard. When we glance sideways at another parent, all we really need to know is that sometimes they struggle too. Anything more is assumption, which in turn can lead to comparison and unfair judgement.
I, for one, am done with all that.