Updated: May 29, 2019
I don’t actually hate my kid. You probably won’t believe me upon reading this, but I really do love the little man-child I’ve been trying to raise for the last almost-fifteen years. It’s the raising part that I can’t stand.
Some women are born to be great mothers. They played with dolls as children, loved every minute of it, and looked forward to motherhood as they approached adulthood. They had to restrain themselves from buying hundreds of tiny adorable outfits for a newborn, even as their stretch marks were likely to grow faster than the new life just beneath their wavering surface. When their new bundle of joy arrived, they forgot about the pain of childbirth and the circles beneath their eyes that they never let mankind see in their pre-pregnancy days. The old them has died with the birth of their baby and following babies, and they don’t even seem to care, because their kids are their world.
Well, that isn’t my world.
I have never been, nor will I ever be, one of those mothers that seems to forget who they were once they’ve created a human being, nor am I the kind of mother who believes that her kid is and should always be the center of her universe. Somehow, I feel like I should be apologizing for this...shortcoming? Character flaw? Mental defect? But I can’t, and I’ve never been able to. So, why do I feel so guilty about my true feelings here?
Is it so wrong for a woman to retain her identity after having a child? When my son was born, my passions in life did not disappear with the afterbirth. Yes, I became a mother, but I still remained Andria the writer, Andria the Artist, and Andria the musician. Yes, there was less time to do those things, but I relished the few hours I did get to enjoy them, which was usually after my son went to bed. I don’t think most mothers seem to realize just how much they allow themselves to be erased once they have children. Even sadder, they seem to do it without even realizing it’s happening. If they do realize it, they put their desires on the back burner because they think it’s a requirement to parenthood. Well, let me ask you this: do you ever see fathers giving up their favorite hobby once their first kid is out of the birth canal?
I don’t know if it was because pregnancy, birth and raising an ADHD child were all a complete nightmare or what, but I really feel like I’ve been tricked somehow. I also learned more than a few things as time went on. The title of 'Mom’ means a lot more than being a woman who merely procreated. 'Mom’ is a term that also means snot-catcher, butt-wiper, referee, nurse, teacher, maid, peace-maker, caregiver, and self-sacrificer. For a job that demands so much, we get paid absolutely nothing. In fact, the drain on our bank accounts is always open and clear, never requiring a plumber to unclog it.
When I was pregnant, I thought that it was a wonderful thing. I had a good husband and a few years of marriage under my much-smaller-back-then belt, so I figured that starting a family was just the natural progression of life events in a woman's existence. What I didn't figure on was that things other mothers had told me about motherhood turned out to be false, at least from the perspective of one who didn't know at the time just how small her tolerance for kids was. What follows are some of these lies.
Lie #1: “It's different when it's your own child.”
Like hell it is. For years, I was annoyed by the frolicky behavior and bothersome blabbermouthing of everyone's latest procreation result. The screaming devils would ricochet from one side of the room to the other, knocking stuff over, running into people, and generally causing a ruckus only stoppable by a tranquilizer dart.
My kid's not gonna be like that, I told myself, completely buying into the lie that my kid was going to be special. My kid was going to be different. Oh, he's special alright---special needs. He has a good hard case of ADHD with a learning disability that makes him just as “different” as the veteran mothers promised me.
Lie # 2: “No matter what, it's all worth it.”
Sorry, but after nearly fifteen years of parenting, I have yet to experience more than a few it-was-all-worth-it-moments, and right now, I can't for the life of me think of any of them. Forgive me, but I really cannot fathom how more than fourteen years of this stuff makes it "all worth it":
-struggling through pregnancy with a severe case of pre-ecclampsia that nearly took my life, and my child's at his birth.
-fighting hard to hit every baby milestone. From the first word, to the first step across the room, nearly all milestones were hit with millstones round our necks, and by the time we achieved one, the sense of victory had vanished.
-trying and failing to be the stay-at-home-mom that can by some miracle produce well-adjusted children that do both chores and homework without a fight, and still have matching socks.
-raising a kid who, from the age of two, got and still gets frequent migraines that make him puke every time, usually on stuff I don't want him to puke on, like my husband, the wall, or on the new dress I was supposed to wear to my sister's wedding.
-struggling with the Teflon Brain that parents of ADHD children know all too well. We call it the Teflon Brain because it has a surface a thousand time more slippery than lubricant.
-arguing with teachers over the same stuff over and over again, because even with an IEP, your kid is still (at least statistically) the class failure.
-Having to deal with the fact that no one wants to be friends with your kid because he's “different.” As ADHD children are mentally about three years younger than their peers, it's like a kindergartener in a class of third-graders. No one ever wants to play with the youngest member of the group. And that's the way it's been every year.
-being driven to the edge of all patience because even though your kid is a teenager biologically, he's still a child mentally, because of the age lag thing. Or as I put it, The Age Lag Drag. It's like parenting a fourteen-year-old five-year-old sometimes.
When every single day of your parenting existence is a chore, how can any of it be "worth it?" What am I missing here? Where are these magic moments that I've heard talk of, read about in every parenting magazine, and seen in every movie that features a kid?
Maybe this is why I'm in therapy for depression and anxiety. But I can't be the only one who feels this way.
Lie # 3: “It's how you raise 'em.”
Not always, my friends. I've known exceptionally good parents whose kids still turned out to be jerkified adults who are more ungrateful than a kid who gets clothes at Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, back when my husband and I were really broke, not just kind of broke like we are now (we're talking food-bank broke here), we managed to get enough money together to get our son his first real bicycle. Most kids, even in this technology-saturated era, would be thrilled to get a new bike. And this one was as nice and shiny as an oiled swimsuit model. Our son unwrapped it, and we held our breath, waiting for that happy cry of surprise and the hugs. Instead we got,
“It's not the right color.”
“What do you mean it's not the right color?” I yelled.
“I wanted the blue one,” he moaned, looking down at the carpet.
“Your butt's gonna be that color if you don't learn to show a bit more appreciation for what you have,” my husband snapped, clearly as shocked and irritated as me.
As a consequence, we returned the bike to the store, and came home without one. Our son had to wait a very long time before another came along, much to his disappointment, and this time there was no complaint.
Lie #4: “You're lucky to not be a single mother.”
Maybe a little bit, but when you're married to a guy who had no clue what fatherhood meant, count yourself a lone child-raiser in that department. For the first ten years or so of our son's life, hubby worked overtime, while I stayed home and did the cooking, cleaning, and raising of both child and excessive belly fat. Occasionally bread. By the time hubby got home, he had just enough energy left to pass out on the couch after supper and shower, if he was lucky enough to even summon the drive to bathe. In short, I was what I called a 'married single mother.’ I was also the only one who had time to cook food or clean the house. Not much fun to begin with, but it's even more of a pain when you have two guys who are slobs, as noted in the “Apartment Annoyances” chapter of my book, Life is Short, so Lick the Bowl. Ebook here.
Lie #5: “You wait---you'll want another baby.”
Because all the hell I went through above is “just so worth it,” right? I'm having such a great time juggling a full-time job and struggling with my home life, that it would be great to just make it even more difficult by throwing another kid into the mix. It's like trying to fix a bad drink. Have another kid? I'd rather set myself on fire…
Lie #6: “Motherhood is the most rewarding thing you'll ever experience.”
Motherhood, the thing I have found most rewarding? Not even close. Let's dive into the numerous things I HAVE found rewarding and fulfilling in life:
-Fixing my broken marriage and turning it into a stronger bond than it was when I took my vows.
-That moment when I finished writing my first book.
-Celebrating the days when I didn't let my anxiety and depression get the better of me.
-Volunteering at a local organization.
-Bringing home my first acoustic piano after waiting 22 years for that moment. (I'd always had digital.)
The only “reward” I can see coming my way is a reward that I can't actually see, or even name, because I've never experienced a single rewarding moment in parenting. If I have, I've forgotten it. I wish I could remember. I wish I could be the mother who adored every single thing their kid does, who knows how to keep calm in a crisis, who has the gift of being nurturing. Patience, nurturing, and endurance are three of the best essentials of parenthood. For me, it's hard to admit that I have very little of any of them. Even more difficult is the fact that society hates those mothers who admit to finding mothering not what they imagined it to be.
I knew parenting would be a challenge, but not an 18-year sentence of endless drudgery with very few bright spots. There's a difference. Perhaps things would have been different if my son had not been born with ADHD and the learning disability that has made both of our lives more difficult than they had to be. I know it wasn't anyone's fault that he is this way, and I made sure that he knows it too. I do, however, have high hopes for the future. As he has aged, our relationship has grown. We have long conversations. We kick one another's butts at Monopoly. Sometimes we even go a day without getting on each other's nerves.
Whatever happens, I'm going to keep hoping.
P.S. Don't hate me for my honesty. I know I can't be the only one out there who feels this way.
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