Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Dream Logic of Parenthood

Storyteller, writer, and podcaster, Jay Acunzo, has a great thread up on parenting. 

"I just spent 3 days with dear friends, all of whom have kids ages 8 month to 4 years. Something I need to get off my chest about being a parent of young kids and the culture we live in: 

What the culture shares and even demands you share about having kids/being a parent is that it's precious, it's a gift, it's a joy, etc. But this is not what actual parents talk about or how actual parents feel. Instead...We talked about the fact that our physical and mental health had gotten problematic. Our careers had taken huge hits. Our friendships were drifting. Our relationships with our partners felt strained (one person summed it up as: they're basically just the other parent I live with). We didn't sit around writing Hallmark cards to the joys of parenting. We sat around going HO-LEE FORKING SHIRTBALLS this is impossibly hard and every dimension of our life got worse: health, finances, career, love, etc. EXCEPT a new dimension called Loving Our Kids (10/10 great).

Now, the culture (and indeed, the voice in my head) is going... walk it back, man. Add asides like "(even though I adore them!)" But the way the culture talks about parenting is not how actual parents talk about parenting to each other. 

To understand, think about dream logic. In a dream, you go, "I'm driving a car on the highway. Also I'm underwater and I can breathe just fine. Also this is the bike shop my dad owns." And your brain just goes... Yes. 

This is parenting. It is multiple things, fully. Terrible and great. Crushing and uplifting. At once. Parents ought to be given more permission to say multiple things are totally true at the same time, because we feel ashamed to feel bad about our experiences otherwise. Because yes, we all feel like dogsh*t during the early stages of parenting very tiny kids. Yes, we wish we had more time for ourselves and our work. And yes, kids are the reason why every dimension of our lives took a hit EXCEPT this one amazing new dimension. BUT ALSO...We wouldn't trade it. We don't regret it. I routinely drop everything to console or play with them. I would, without thinking, take a bullet for them. I'd arm wrestle The Rock -- and I promise you, I'd win -- for my kids. 

But ALSO? This highway is underwater. This is dream logic. And people who have yet to experience the dream or for whom the dream is just a distant memory as they age -- and certainly folks who give career advice when they don't do actual parenting at home themselves -- can't understand. Because it makes no sense. To fellow parents: I see you. I'm with you. Embrace how you feel. There's nothing broken about you but PLENTY about the culture." 

I love the use of "dream logic" to understand how bizarre an experience it is to parent littles. It's all-encompassing, and then after a night of pacing with a teething infant, you go to work and try to act like a normal human being with your shirt buttons askew and no make-up and did I remember to brush my teeth this morning?? 

I also appreciate the acceptance that it's not all a bed of roses. We always insist to children that of course they had nothing to do with parents divorcing, but I think children can be very hard on a marriage. It's not the children's fault, absolutely, but did they play a part?? I think lots of relationships could withstand all other annoyances in the world, but not the big one. Being exhausted and surrounded by noise and mess and having a litany of new things taking up every ounce of your time and energy... how could that not negatively affect a relationship? 

And it is so worth it, worth all the costs, because they're amazing creatures that we got the rare privilege to watch grow and change and develop into themselves. I am definitely a better person for having them in my life.

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