Those of you who are parents know that it is not a role that is conducive to having high self esteem. In fact, the entire process of childbirth seems to be just a small foray into what life will be like when you are stripped entirely (and almost literally, in the instance of giving birth) of any and all shreds of dignity that you might have maintained in the previous months when you had another person grow inside of you and take over your body and life. I won't go into gory detail, but suffice it to say that it is very hard to preserve any sense of modesty or decorum while expelling another human being from inside of you. And after having 4 children in 4 different hospitals (none of which were teaching hospitals, incidentally) I find it a little hard to believe that there just happen to be students who want to crowd in and watch this "miracle" of birth. Every. Single. Time. I am convinced that it is just part of some diabolical plan to make sure that every last modicum of self-respect is gone by the time I leave the hospital. In preparation for what is to come.
And what is to come, you ask? What is it about parenthood that makes it hard to feel good about yourself? Well, let's start with what it does to you physically. Suffice it to say that I did not even know to appreciate my pre-child body. Dang. I wish I would have. Who knew? Who knew that back in my prior-to-childbearing years that I should have felt good about myself simply because I was not scarred with iridescent stretch marks and my belly button still looked like an actual belly button and not some mangled, disgusting, puckered....well, you get the picture. Granted, probably my mom knew. But I wouldn't have listened to her anyway.
Next, let's talk about emotional scarring. Take a heaping helping of lack of sleep, sprinkle in some I'm-doing-everything-wrong, blend in a teaspoon of I-have-boogers-in-my-hair-and-cheerios-in-my-bra, and top it off with just a smidgen of maniacal tantrums and you have the perfect recipe for I Am The Worst Parent Of All Time. And that is just the toddler years.
After the toddler years? After they start speaking and truly expressing their feelings? Oh, my friend. Oh, how it only goes downhill from there. And the older and more articulate they get, the worse the blow to your already threadbare self esteem. For instance, let me share with you just a sampling of the lovely sentiments my children have expressed to me recently:
"Why are you going to the gym, mom? You're already hot. I mean, you're not like 100% hot or anything, but maybe if you took care of that stuff on your stomach, then you would be...But, I mean, you're probably like 90% hot or something."
Yes, and by that stuff on my stomach do you mean the stretched out result of your gigantic head occupying the space that previously was reserved only for my undigested lunch??!? Bunch of ingrates, these kids. (I guess I should feel pretty pleased to be 90%. It could've been a lot worse.)
"No, I don't think your butt looks bad in that swimsuit. It just looks kinda mom-ish. Like a mom butt."
I don't know what a mom butt is. And I don't want to know. I really don't.
After a conversation between my older kids and their cousins about how none of them want to get old because elderly people don't look like themselves anymore:
"My mom's old. And she still mostly looks alright."
Thanks. Just thanks. You do know how to make a girl feel beautiful.
"Mom, this looks like a dress you would wear."
"Yeah, that's way cute! I totally would."
"No. I didn't say it was cute. I said you would wear it. You're just lucky dad can't see that well."
Um, no words. None.
So, I guess my point is that in addition to endless patience, the answer to every question under the sun, and a veritable toolbox of how to solve any and every toddler through adolescent problem, you must also have in your parental arsenal a thick skin. A very. Thick. Skin. Because there are days that your children will say and do things that will make you long for them to just scream that they hate you and you are the worst parent ever. At least that's a little less personal.
So why do it? Why bother? Why have children at all? Because they love you. And they need you. And there are those rare moments when you actually feel good about what you're doing. And the amazing children you are raising. The rest of the while? It's pretty thankless. Don't expect to be able to maintain much of a sense of self regard. It's not for the sensitive soul or faint of heart, that's for sure. And you can always take comfort in the fact that one day, their children will be doing the same thing to them. And you will be there to raise them back up and tell them they are wonderful. I do believe that is what is called the circle of life.