Several years ago, my husband and I were at dinner, and I remember focusing on a family a few tables away. They had three boys, and the oldest, who looked like he may be in preschool, spent the entire time on a tablet with headphones in and had barely touched his hamburger or French fries on his plate. The middle child, who couldn’t have been more than two, had his mother’s cell phone propped against a cup of water, watching cartoons. The youngest, a baby, was in a stroller and was fussy, so his mother and father kept taking turns trying to put a pacifier back in his mouth. This right here is why motherhood made me a hypocrite.
While they were dealing with their three kids, my husband and I were enjoying a quiet dinner with good conversation and a glass of wine. Why? Well, we didn’t have kids yet. I can’t remember exactly what was going on in our lives at the moment, but we were somewhere in between marriage and children. Due to my newfound ‘wife’ and ‘adult’ status, I must of thought that I was more than qualified to give my opinion to my husband about this family near us. I leaned over and gave a quick, super-judgmental comment: “Please don’t ever let us be those parents.”
I wish I could say that as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized I was being ridiculous. That I had no right to comment on another mother’s parenting. I mean, who am I to make such statements about complete strangers? But to be honest, it got worse when we found out that we were expecting our first child.
I was the epitome of the “first time expectant mother.” I had every app on my phone and could cite exactly what animal or food item my baby resembled that week. I purchased organic cotton clothes and, of course, washed every single item of clothing in chemical-free laundry detergent before they would ever touch my son’s precious skin. I made sure we painted our son’s nursery in low VOC paint and researched for weeks the best chemical-free diapers to buy. I registered for ridiculously expensive wooden baby gyms and heirloom teethers.
While pregnant, I remember getting eye rolls from other mothers mostly, who would pass gentle yet direct comments along the lines of “None of these things will matter to your baby” or “All your baby needs is love.” I would shake them off thinking that the mothers who were telling me this were the same ones who thought placing babies on their stomachs to sleep was safe, so what do they know?
And, well, here we are. I am a little less than two years into motherhood, and I will be the first to admit that motherhood has made me a hypocrite.
Almost every aspect of parenting and motherhood that I had dreamed and pictured in my head is completely different from what I intended it to be.
I toured and researched dozens of daycares for my son and ultimately landed on Montessori due to the learning environment, approach, and absence of plastic, battery-operated toys, yet, while I type this, I am staring at his obnoxious plastic dump truck that honks and makes ridiculous noises.
I promised myself that day in the restaurant that my future children would never have “screen time,” let alone know cartoon shows enough to be obsessed with the characters, yet my son repeatedly asks for “Wa-was” (aka: The Wiggles), knows every single character, and can sing the theme song word for word. We have also been those parents that prop up a cell phone on a cup of water while at a restaurant because we just need a few minutes to pay our bill or finish our meals.
I breastfed my son and would get pats-on-the-back from other mothers, saying “Great job! Breast is best,” and I walked around like I deserved a medal. When it was time for solid foods, I would spend hours making homemade purees from locally-sourced organic fruits and vegetables because even the Kroger organic section wasn’t good enough for my precious baby. Now, here I am, feeding my son hot dogs, store-bought frozen vegetables, and “Yes dear, you can have that 95th cracker you’ve asked for.”
Motherhood has turned me into the biggest hypocrite of all. The family with screens at the restaurant is now part of my arsenal. All of the things I asked my husband to “not let us be,” I am. As I am reflecting on this, I am wondering where, or why, things changed. The truth is, motherhood is hard. And as an expectant mother and new mother, I didn’t want to think of the hard stuff. I wanted to focus on the wooden toys and the hypoallergenic diapers that have cute prints on them. It was so much easier staying on my pedestal than having to realize that I am human, and I don’t have it all figured out. I can say that although I still have sides of me that may be borderline crazy, I have realized that feeding my son hot dogs will not land him in prison, and my love for him is not measured in organic cotton onesies.