They huddle in Anthropologie-clad packs in the children's section of the downtown library, ponytails bobbing earnestly as they compare notes about potty training and the proper way to puree organic vegetables. They clog the paved paths at Cheekwood, walking side-by-side behind oversized designer strollers. They may not have the slightest understanding of current events, but they can talk about the presence of bisphenol A in baby bottles with an air of authority that would make you think they hold an advanced degree in chemistry. They start mommy blogs, where they write in painstaking detail about the supposedly entertaining things their little darlings do and say each day. Oh I know all about the rookie moms.
I was one of them.
In fact, looking back, I think I gave even the most die-hard rookies a run for their money. My first-born child was in a playgroup from the time she was 4 months old. Before she started kindergarten, I took her to art classes, music classes, creative movement classes, dance classes, nature classes, zoo school, library storytime, children's festivals, puppet shows, and anything else I could find by tirelessly poring through park schedules and local parenting magazines.
On my own mommy blog, I penned post after post about all the minutiae of my daughter's young life. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I wrote all about that, too. For the most part, my readers were kind and indulgent. Many were rookie moms like me, eager to share their own experiences in the comments. Others enjoyed reminiscing about their own time spent in the mothering trenches.
But every so often, someone would complain, and the complaints always read exactly the same. "Who cares?" they'd write. "You act like you're the first person on Earth to have had children." At the time, I imagined the authors of these complaints were sad, bitter trolls, dressed in dirty T-shirts and sitting in dingy studio apartments.
But now, I wonder if those trolls weren't in fact older and more jaded mothers — because what I didn't know at the time was that the most convicted new moms often end up suffering from a painful affliction just a few years later — mommy burnout.
Today, I view the rookie moms with the seasoned eye of a career soldier, and shake my head at their doe-eyed innocence. As someone who's been in their shoes, I can safely say that they have no idea what's about to hit them. While I still take my children to special classes and events, I no longer feel the fervor of the newly converted. And even though I still love being my kids' mom, I have to admit I spend more and more time dreaming of a time when I can find more than five minutes to actually accomplish something — something that has nothing to do with my children. Hearing the word, "Mommy!" two thousand times a day will do that you. The problem with my admission is that it seems to trigger a visceral response from other women. A few years ago, a popular blogger wrote several posts about what a rotten summer she was having. Her kids were driving her crazy, she explained, and she didn't know how she was going to make it until they went back to school.
Negative comments poured in, both on the woman's own blog and on others. "You don't know how good you have it," people griped. "Your poor kids! I feel sorry for them!" "If you hate being a mom so much, maybe you shouldn't have had children!"
As a society, we don't like it when a mom breaks rank and admits that one of the supposed end-all and be-all experiences of womanhood maybe isn't all it's cracked up to be. I wonder if my generation of parents has set the bar too high for ourselves, creating an impossible system of social checks and balances that leaves us feeling guilty when we admit that sometimes, being a mom isn't the slightest bit fun or rewarding. In fact, sometimes, it's actually a pain in the ass.
But maybe it's OK to want a few things for ourselves, too. Maybe it's OK to feel mommy burnout from time to time without feeling horribly guilty and unappreciative. Maybe I'd be a better mother if I taught my kids to work around my needs sometimes, just as I work around theirs. Or maybe I'd be a bad, ungrateful mom, who probably shouldn't have had kids at all if I think they're such an inconvenience.
It's hard to say.
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