insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

the impossibility of parenthood

I have hit another breaking point. This is undoubtedly one of the posts that will get some member of my extended community to tell me I’m oversensitive, unkind to the well-meaning, and too quick to anger.

Today, I just don’t care. Read at your own risk.

If you’ve been a parent recently, and you’re of a certain socio-economic status, you’ve probably heard a whole lot of this:

“You’re having a hospital birth? With a doctor? Aren’t there any midwives in your area?”
“Stress isn’t good for a gestating fetus. You need to relax and rest.”
“Stress isn’t good for your baby. You need to relax, and rest.”
“Stress isn’t good for your child. You need to relax, and rest.”
“You’re putting that onesie on wrong.”
“Why isn’t she wearing shoes?”
“That bookcase looks overloaded. Did you know falling TVs can kill children?”
“Oh, the chest clip on that carseat should be higher. That’s not safe.”
“Are you sure you installed that carseat right?”
“You need more than one of her favorite lovey, or you’ll regret it.”
“Breast is best, you know.”
“Well, at least you’re using organic formula.”
“She’s in daycare? Oh.”
“Is the daycare feeding her organic food?”
“Are you sure you want to vaccinate on the regular schedule? You do know how aggressive and stressful that is, right?”
“Avoid antibiotics at all costs to avoid damaging her gut flora.”
“That poor baby is getting eaten by mosquitoes!”
“Don’t use bug spray on that baby, it’ll cause cancer.”
“Wash your hands! Wash her hands! Use antibacterial wipes!”
“Don’t overuse antibacterial wipes, they cause superbugs.”
“You let her drink well water? Is it filtered?”
“No bottles at bedtime!”
“You let her sleep with you?”
“Don’t forget to brush her teeth.”
“Is there flouride in that toothpaste?”
“Did you put sunscreen on that baby? Where’s her hat?”
“You haven’t taught her to wave bye-bye yet?”

And let’s not forget the part where I’m also supposed to work hard to provide for my family, but not work too hard so I can spent lots of quality time at home, enjoying every moment of my child’s life, as I keep my house clean and tidy and make home-cooked meals with organic ingredients (that aren’t available in the small town I live in) while I make time to exercise, meditate, and sleep 10 hours a night after I read to my child and play learning games with her and walk the dog while I also spend quality time maintaining relationships with my husband, family, and friends as I eat smart and pack my lunch and plan for weight loss while I appreciate the small things and live in the moment.

Let me put it simply:

THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. These expectations are impossible. They conflict, and they expect that parents have more hours in every day than there are in a week.

Maybe I need to share less of my family with the internet, so there are fewer venues for people to tell me the ways that I am insufficient to the task of living the perfect life you want me to have. Maybe I need thicker skin, which would require being a different human than the one I am, so that’s probably also not happening. Maybe I need to sleep so I can rebuild some emotional resilience but OH WAIT I CAN’T because I am spinning up into an anxiety attack because my daughter, who ate a nitrite-laden hot dog for dinner, is sleeping in my bed (not hers) after having a bottle of milk (which she needs no less than 20 oz of per day, but she shouldn’t have too much dairy because cow milk is toxic to humans, and that milk is organic, right?) to help her sleep, after brushing her teeth (instead of before, so now she’ll have tooth decay) with flouride toothpaste (which is going to kill her), and so I am clearly a failure of a parent and how am I supposed to sleep when all those things are true?

I just can’t. I can’t sleep, and I can’t do this.

My child is sleeping. She is comfortable and happy and loved. She was soothed to sleep by her loving parents, who did the things they felt best to care for her today. And as I think about it, it becomes clear to me that this is not anxiety I am feeling. I am not anxious about my parenting. I am confident about my parenting. I am comfortable with my parenting. I am, however, angry. I am frustrated. I am bewildered and unhappy.

Life is not Pinterest, nor is it the National Enquirer. It will not be picture-perfect, and neither will it be filled with sensational horrors. It is just life, good, bad, and indifferent. It is my life. It’s a good life, and a happy one. I know you love me, us, and I know you mean well, but for pete’s sake: back off.

Gwyneth’s bookcases are safe. Her carseat is correctly installed. We feed her well, and she is lovingly cared for in a safe and comfortable home to the best of our knowledge and ability.

That’s all any of us can ask for, and I’m going to bed.


  1. If that makes you unkind, I am too šŸ™‚

    I mentally translate every single one of those statements-one-hears to “you’re not performing upper-middle-class white suburban mother-femininity well enough!” To which my mental response is “STFU”, because I don’t actually value that.

    You do you. (As if there was another option. šŸ™‚ Alla them can STFU.

  2. ranger

    Just visited my friends’ 10 week old for the first time. I feel pretty great that I didn’t ask any of those questions or make any of those comments. Phewww!

  3. Katie

    I vaguely remember an NPR story about how there’s no evidence-based research finding a positive effect on children for… all sorts of things. I think it focused on after school activities and such. The closing interview was with an economist who said he let his kids watch lots of TV. Because the one thing that did correlate strongly with future happiness was kids knowing their parents loved them, and he found that he was much more patient and loving towards his kids if he didn’t try to spend EVERY WAKING MOMENT with them.
    Anyway. What Andromeda said. And good for you.


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