Thursday, November 29, 2012

No one ever said it would be this hard

As you may remember, I didn't think Marissa Meyer (new CEO of Yahoo) was a great role model for working parents or changing our workaholic culture. That's still true.

But I thought this mean-spirited article by Lisa Belkin on HuffPo, was pretty uncalled-for. Apparently, like us, Ms. Mayer has been blessed with an "easy" baby.  Not to mention, she has help - her husband reportedly stays at home, plus I'm sure neither of them shleps to the grocery store or cleans their own bathrooms.  Not unlike our current situation.

But apparently she's not allowed to call it like it is, because "it turns her into one of those mothers we don't like very much."  I'm sure Ms. Mayer doesn't particularly care, of course.  But the article goes further and makes these dire predictions about how her baby could change in an instant, and how she shouldn't be too smug, etc. etc. 

And the comments?  Even worse.  They seem to be wishing her all sorts of ill will, and warning her about all of the rough patches that (may not) come ahead.  

While I do not aspire to her version of work life "balance", I'm not rooting for her to fail, or waiting for her to eat her words, as several commenters seem to be doing.  I hope baby Macallister continues to be easy, because honestly, that makes parenting that much more fun. It's easier to be patient when someone isn't demanding your time and energy 24x7 by yelling.

People, it's not a reflection of your own parenting when other people say they're having an easier time of it.  I'm not sure why it's so hard to get that.

Apparently, while we're allowed to talk on the Internet all we want about how parenting sucks and babies are hard, we're not allowed to breathe one word of how some babies actually do sleep long stretches regularly or are generally "easy".  I've seen this in real life as well as online, and it frustrates me.  

I don't think anyone with an "easy" baby is deluded into thinking it's their excellent parenting that made it so - it's totally the luck of the draw.  In fact, before BabyM was born, I was sure she wouldn't be as chill as her big sister, and that we'd have to "pay" for the relatively easy babyhood we had with T. (We haven't, knock on wood.)

Clearly, it's our excellent parenting at work here.

Why do we think like that?  Is it an American thing? In Seattle people talk about "doing penance" for our gorgeous summers by living through 9 months of gray. I think that's a depressing way to look at things.

What I've found is that if I dread something to come (terrible twos, potty training, etc.) it *feels* worse than if I just accept it as developmentally appropriate for my kid.  And yes, even parents of "easy" babies have things that are "harder" than others.  

But all the "you'll see, it's harder than you think" stuff?  It's condescending and just plain annoying. Wouldn't it be great if we could just accept that all experiences are equally valid and sometimes people just get lucky?


  1. Totally agree. I feel like there are too many Debbie Downers when it comes to parenthood, parents and non-parents alike, always saying "you'll see." You'll see what? That even in my sleep-deprived, 3 am diaper-changing, and baby-screaming, moments, I'll be grinning ear-to-ear because I just love my cutie pie so much? 'Cause I feel like the un-solicited parenting advice-givers always leave out that part of parenting, and it's the best part.

    1. Suz, I am so happy for you! I never imagined you would love it so much :) And I'm right there with you at 3am. There is nothing better than new baby top of the head smell. (When said baby has a clean diaper, of course.)

  2. "Apparently, while we're allowed to talk on the Internet all we want about how parenting sucks and babies are hard, we're not allowed to breathe one word of how some babies actually do sleep long stretches regularly or are generally "easy". I've seen this in real life as well as online, and it frustrates me. "

    YES! This!

    Also not OK anymore: actually enjoying being a parent, even the messy parts. I'm sorry, but if people can write about how they enjoy training for and participating in a marathon, I should be allowed to enjoy caring for a newborn. Yes, it's hard work. Don't care, enjoy it anyway.

    And I'm sorry if this ticks people off, but there ARE some things that we as parents can do that affect the behavior of our children. I can (and maybe do) have the world's most easygoing baby, but if I allow his sleep to be disrupted enough, he becomes cranky and miserable and Not Much Fun To Be Around.

    I don't want anybody to use a cranky/colicky baby as a reason to beat themselves up. Even if it were 100% "your fault" (which, to be totally clear, I DO NOT believe it is), I think you should forgive yourself and start anew. But I think it's really OK to be proud of your parenting choices and effort and skills.

    1. I do agree that once you know how your kid operates there are definitely ways to set them up for success/failure. (Though that may not be clear to outsiders). In our house, for all of the ladies including myself, being tired and hungry leads to MAJOR DISASTER. So we try not to get there, and that results in us being anal retentive about nap and bedtime schedules.

  3. Maybe because we don't have real problems? (I don't say that smugly because i spent a good deal of time last week being annoyed at two medical providers who claim to have "extended hours" yet are open four weekdays, no weekend days and not past 5:30 PM.) I think humans want a Reason Why for everything which is fine, in and of itself. However, since Statistics 101 isn't mandatory for citizenship, people don't realize that applying singular experiences to the population as a whole doesn't fly, nor does crediting (or blaming) a single variable for an outcome in a multivariate problem.

    Plus, it's so freaking easy to criticize someone we only know from a news story or Internet message board. Since we can't know the whole story, we fill in the blanks with pieces from our own experiences and - voila! We've solved the world's problems.

    The thing is, there *are* people who parental braggarts out there. The polar opposite of those constantly complaining where everything (EVERYTHING!) is sunshine and roses - again, fine on its face...but not when there's an undercurrent of "look at my great parenting!!!" with the gushing. Maybe the ones trying to out-complain the others are overcompensating for the Sunshine & Roses crowd? I don't know but - back to statistics - i like to think that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. And that we have enough self-awareness to catch ourselves when we inevitably veer into the upper or lower Sigmas.

    1. Very true. Are you perchance a finance person? :)

      I think my quibble is the unsolicited assvice and the general meanness that seems to be ok in certain crowds if someone dares to be "too positive", whatever that means. I like Cloud's solution below better - if she can't take hearing it, she leaves the room (or closes the browser, etc.) If it's a friend, you can be honest with them about how it's hard to hear. Any good friend will adjust for that.

  4. Having been on the receiving end of A LOT of advice about baby sleep from well-meaning (but perhaps sometimes a little smug...) parents of "easy babies" I can sympathize with the frustration that is making those people write mean things. I absolutely do not agree with them writing that frustration out in mean-spirited comments on the internet, though. Two wrongs don't make a right, etc., etc. I am genuinely happy for people with babies who are easier than mine were, and I hope Marissa Mayer succeeds in pulling off the parenting and work combo she's chosen.

    However, it can be pretty hard when you haven't had more than 3 hours of sleep in a stretch for months on end to respond nicely to someone telling you about how awesome it is that her baby sleeps 8 hours a night. I always tried, but honestly, sometimes I had to just leave the room.

    It is great that you don't think the sleep thing is a reflection of parenting skill, but believe me, there are A LOT of people who really do think that the sleep issues we had were due to our bad parenting. My fragility on the issue was why I started lying when people asked me how my kid slept. I also sometimes get the "I can't believe you suck this much at the basics of parenting" look when I confess to my daughters' picky eating, so I rarely discuss that in public now, either.

    I agree that you and other people who are having good, happy experiences should share your reality. But I also need to feel free to share MY reality, which was that babyhood was a pretty hard time for me in some ways. And much like it is best not to go on and on about babies in front of someone who is struggling with infertility, it may be best not to talk to much about your easy baby in front of someone whose baby is giving her a harder time.

    My kids are both now sleeping through the night in their own beds the vast majority of the nights... so I'm no longer sensitive on this issue. Also, I figured out where my kids are easier than some- they are great at traveling!

    1. @Cloud - thanks for weighing in! I definitely think it behooves folks to think before they speak - I don't "gush" about how much sleep I'm getting esp to my friends who are having a rough time, but if someone asks me "the question", I do answer honestly, but quickly.

      I am surprised that you get so much unsolicited advice (assvice?). I haven't gotten any, but maybe I give off too much of an f-off vibe for that ;) THAT would piss me off, for sure. But I do agree with your "two wrongs don't make a right".

      I'm not saying people shouldn't *feel* jealous, grumpy, etc. that someone else seems to have it "better". That's human nature.

      But I don't think it warrants giving someone unsolicited advice, "you'll see" doom and gloom, or rooting for them to fail so they can say "I told you so". That's just sucky.

      On another note, perhaps there's some sort of Conservation of Baby Sleep Law, because neither of ours can fall asleep without someone laying down with them, sometimes for a very long time. I'm revisiting the Moxie archives on the 90,000 different ways to put a sleeping baby down in the crib without waking her back up.

    2. Yeah, I just spent from 8:30 until 10 on bedtimes. I'm right there with you on that. Sometimes I can get zen about how nice it is to cuddle with Petunia (Pumpkin is super easy to get to sleep now that she never naps and Kindergarten tires her out). But sometimes- like, say, tonight- I just have to fight the frustration down.

      I think I get advice because I don't look intimidating at all, and I generally can't bring myself to be curt and shut people down. I have that problem at work, too. Also, my kids are spectacularly bad sleepers (until age 3 or so) and eaters (ongoing). So it must just look like I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

      The thing is, if I leave aside the sleeping and eating issues, my kids aren't so difficult. Like I said, they're absolutely great travelers. And they are both reasonably easy to manage- i.e., they tend to do what we ask them to do (although Pumpkin will debate the request with us).

    3. For people who like to travel, having kids who travel well is awesome! We're pretty scarred by our return flight from Ireland so we're not attempting any more big trips for a while ;)

      When I think about the adults I know, there are some who still don't sleep well (or what I'd define as well) and are picky eaters. But that's just who they are, and it's not a "thing" - we don't give them unsolicited advice about how to fix their "problems". Ok, my hubby would probably disagree with that, but I try not to do this to him :D

      I've got another post in my head about how we expect kids/babies to be like perfect linear functions - ie you put in this input and get the exact output one expects. Except that they're *people* which means you're going to see all sorts of stuff.

  5. I couldn't agree more! I am very lucky in so many ways with my daughter but I feel reluctant to share how great she is for fear of offending others and frankly of jinxing it! My daughter has never been a great sleeper but she travels like a star (in fact she sleeps better on a plane than in real life come to think of it), is a great talker and makes me laugh out loud every day which is more than I can say for anyone else.
    Motherhood shouldn't be a competition. I think we would all be a lot happier if we could celebrate the good and not feel we have to criticise the bad. Every baby is different so the way we parent needs to reflect that.

  6. I don't know why moms feel like the internet is a great place to gang up on other moms. It's just irresistible to some to point out how others are doing it wrong simply because it's different than them! Although I guess there's plenty of that in real life.

    Early on I learned that there are people who actually give non-judgey, helpful advice for what worked for them. I have learned many a parenting tip from these wonderful moms! Then there are those who give you their opinion and call it advice. To these people I simply nod, smile, and change the conversation.

    So far my babies have been 'easy', but there are two of them so it's never really 'easy'. They sleep well and eat well and challenge me elsewhere. I expect there to be hills and valleys and I do the best I can with both.

    If people are sharing the good along with the bad in a way that is authentic, then those posts are helpful! If people are glossing over things to try and make their life seem different, then I choose to just click next on my blogger feed! No need to write a rude comment, but no need to waste my time or make myself feel bad! Thanks for the post, interesting convo!

  7. As a non parent, I find this an interesting point and one i"m going to remember next time I get bent out of shape because some poor baby is crying while I'm having dinner. As I've aged I've gotten better and thinking it's not the baby's fault, and feeling sorry for the parents. But as a younger version of myself, I would get annoyed at the "parenting skills" of these parents who would dare to allow their baby to cry while I was trying to eat. Ridiculous way of thinking, and I'm glad I'm mature enough now to just be glad it's a healthy, screaming baby with parents who are tired.

    1. Us parents thank you ;) But I do believe there are times when parents are setting their kids up for failure by bringing them somewhere inappropriate and then not taking action when it doesn't work out. (Hello parents who brought their 1 year old to fancy steakhouse El Gaucho at 9pm.) I don't mind as much if it looks like the parents are trying to do something, like take the baby out when he starts to cry. But just letting him cry while other people are trying to enjoy their $$$ dinner (for which we pay a sitter $15/hour to watch our own!), not cool.

      But at Red Robin at 5pm, I'm a heck of a lot more tolerant. And on an airplane where people are trapped.

  8. Both of my children were easy babies, they are now 12 and 9 and in some ways harder, some ways easier. Also, I am from Seattle (well the area anyways) and it actually is a beautiful place to live (yes is overcast a lot, not 9 months though, LOL.( It is especially beautiful in summer and fall.

  9. I have to say, I love your attitude. I tend to be more of a Debbie downer, so sometimes I need a gentle reminder that everything will be okay.

  10. Oh my word. I totally agree. I feel like in blogging as in life people want to compete over whose life is harder. It drives me nuts. I suspect it has a lot to do with the venom they get if they are too positive. But people also get a lot of attention from the woe is me stuff too. I think other cultures do this too because too much praise attracts the 'evil eye'.

  11. I particularly loved this paragraph, "What I've found is that if I dread something to come (terrible twos, potty training, etc.) it *feels* worse than if I just accept it as developmentally appropriate for my kid. And yes, even parents of "easy" babies have things that are "harder" than others."

    I usually hate to admit this because of the looks it gives me, but nothing about motherhood was as hard as I expected it to be. I think I took all of those horror stories to heart and expected the absolute worst and then it was just actually normal. I also try not to stress out about things or overthink them because then I'll get super anxious and find myself unable to do anything except think of worst case scenarios. So I just do it - whatever "it" is at the time.

    And even though my children & motherhood are easy (tiring and overly repetitive, but easy) they have taken a huge toll on my marriage. It seems like my husband and I are just too busy taking care of kids to talk to each other...and don't even get me started on the cost of date night babysitters for three kids under four because it's a number that we cannot afford. Ever. I 100% stand by the fact that the worst part about motherhood in MY life is that I now only get one date a year with my husband.

  12. I really don't get the people wishing Mayer ill, or the "just you wait" folks. The best explanation I can come up with is that because motherhood is such a common experience, people who've been in it for a few years sometimes feel compelled to offer unsolicited advice. But Mayer isn't being judgmental. She's not saying "my baby is easy because I'm a much better mother than the rest of you." If people are hearing that, I think that says more about the listener than anyone else.

    Kids are different. My older two always stayed up for ages. My youngest is in bed by 7:30 every night.

    1. Yeah, I think it's what people are reading into her statement that makes them say those things.

      I dream of 7:30. We've gotten horribly off track as of late...


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