Recently I have been following Penelope Trunk's blog. She is a very well known career advice columnist and writer in the US and has a spectacularly interesting blog because she is crazy and holds nothing back. She writes in detail about her fights with her husband, her struggle with Asperger's Syndrome, her divorce, her sex life and her relationship with her kids. It is rare to find a blogger that is willing and eager to tell the world about their most vulnerable, awful moments and confess their mistakes to the world. She coined a wonderful term to talk about magazine covers and interviews that portray rich, famous working mothers as being superwomen who have it all. You know the kind, you see them at the grocery store with Angelina Jolie on the front cuddling with one of her 12? children fulfilling the dream of being a caring full time mom and a globetrotting actress simultaneously. The wonderful term for this is Mommy Porn. I *love* it because it is so utterly appropriate - pictures that suggest that the most outrageous and impractical fantasies are somehow real. A key part of her attitude in this is her assertion that people generally don't like spending time with their kids.
This is not an easy thing to say. People will noisily proclaim that they love their kids (which is true) and that they wish they could spend more time with them (which is occasionally true, but regularly false). If people really wanted to spend more time with their kids they could give up work and stay at home with them. This is financially feasible but most people simply don't want to do it! They would much prefer to go out and work; although they want the best for their children they don't actually want to be around them most of the time. Some people certainly confess this, but generally in a very quiet 'don't tell the neighbours' kind of way. I have met many moms who stayed home during maternity leave and most were desperate to get back to work and away from the children long before their 8 months was up.
This is definitely true for me. I love Elli but I really don't like spending time with her. I just get no satisfaction out of following a small person around playing her games by her rules and when I am trying to get things done myself or play my own games Elli is stubborn and willful enough that I end up not enjoying the process. I end up having constant wars with myself because I really do want to have a good relationship with her and I want her to be happy but the things I do to try to make that happen end up being boring at best and terrible at worst. Most probably this is due to the modern advantage of having children be a choice... the fact that I chose this life makes me think I should damn well be enjoying it. I know Wendy has had some strange conversations where people find out I am at home and assume that I must be taking care of child(ren) full time and they become somewhat confused when they find out I am not. They must have some moments where they wonder what could be wrong with me that I do this or what must be wrong with Wendy to put up with such behaviour on my part.
I often end up feeling very frustrated over the whole thing. I wish I could take more pleasure in the day to day grind of taking care of and entertaining a small person. I can be silent about this but I cannot make it go away; it is who and how I am. Just as there are people who would go insane sitting at a computer by themselves all day building a spreadsheet there are people who would go insane staying at home with a small child all day. The trick for those who are like me is that they often end committing to a decade or more of childcare and unlike a job you cannot so easily change your mind once you figure it out. The world is full of messages that parenting is a rewarding, wonderful, rejuvenating experience that many people do effortlessly and when questioned publicly few people are willing to speak negatively of it. There certainly are people out there for whom parenting feels easy and wonderful but for most of us it is much more of a struggle than we let on.