Saturday, January 21, 2012

Please, Glennon Melton

So, apparently, this blog post by Glennon Melton has been shared on Facebook 105, 500 times. That's a pretty big number, so it's not surprising that I've seen links to this article popping up all week. I have to say, I'm a little bit disconcerted that so many moms apparently identify with Melton's ideas.

First of all, parenting is not like climbing Mt. Everest. Climbing Mt. Everest is an intense, gargantuan task that a teeny tiny portion of the population undertakes. You have to be a very specialized kind of person to even attempt, much less succeed, in achieving the summit. Having children is a normal biological and cultural part of life. People all over the world in all kinds of situations have children. Saying parenting is like climbing the world's tallest mountain sounds like something an anti-child or anti-family person would say, not like something a mom ought to say. And even if the technicalities of the analogy were better suited, using the words pain, drudgery, exhausting, treacherous, and killer to describe parenting is...sad at best.

Of course there are hard times with parenting. Duh. That's not news to anyone, Glennon Melton. Just like it's not news that climbing Mt. Everest is hard. People who choose to climb Mt. Everest do so because they really  want to, and because they actually do enjoy climbing mountains, despite how intense and hard it is. It is possible to enjoy things that are hard, you know. And when people remind you that it's possible, you can stomp your foot and say, "I don't want to be told to enjoy my children! I want to not feel guilty for complaining about them!" Or you can take a deep breath, laugh at the craziness of kids, and hope that one day, you will look back on parenting just as fondly as the little old ladies do--regardless of the antics of your children.

Luke is still little--just 16 months. There have been trying times (last night's scream-instead-of-sleep included), but I recognize that there are probably slightly zanier times ahead. The 2-3 year old range is full of adventure. I know this from experience with kids, but particularly from the Facebook of my friend Erin, who has 3 children (just like Glennon Melton. Hmm.) Her updates about her little son Liam are pretty epic. Her string of statuses about the artwork of her little Poo-casso made me laugh out loud. So did her longing for a mini straight-jacket and her admission that she had sewn Liam into his pajamas. So did her recent advice to check the oven for toys before turning it on. And this status from Thursday was SO FUNNY: "Just opened the fridge to find one of Liam's shoes shoved down into a container full of hummus."

I love Erin's updates because it never feels like she is complaining about her children. Is it fun to scrape a melted toy from your oven? No, especially when you were probably trying to make dinner. Is hummus kind of pricey and is it annoying to have it be wasted? Yes. Does anyone want to clean up poo smeared on the wall? Heavens no! But I can tell that Erin is laughing about the mayhem and that she absolutely loves her children. There is a lightness and a joy to the way she writes about her kids, and I love that. I find it uplifting.

I get the feeling that if Erin were confronted by the same identical check-out line situation that Glennon Melton described, she probably wouldn't even have been phased by it. It certainly wouldn't have prompted her to write a fairly whiny blog post about old women with good intentions. In fact, Erin's most recent grocery shopping adventure was Wednesday, and she posted about it with the same good humor she always does:
Let's see...I was examining a bag of clementines to make sure none of them were bad when out of the corner of my eye I saw Liam stand up in the seat part of our cart. He had somehow managed to shimmy his way out of the buckle, he looked at me and grinned before taking a flying leap out of the cart an on to me. Mind you, I had Rhys in a carrier strapped to my chest. I caught him (somehow...), but when he jumped, he pushed off of the cart with his feet sending it flying backward into the (apparently unsteady) display of blueberries sending them flying all over the place....and I do mean ALL over the place.

Personally, I hope that when Luke gets into more mischievous stages, that I will be able to laugh about it, like Erin. And I certainly hope that unlike Glennon Melton, my favorite part of the day as a mother is never when the kids are put to bed. 

9 comments:

  1. Agree, agree, agree. I felt like I couldn't say anything because I figured people would be all like "you don't get it, you aren't a sahm"... Blah blah. I truly enjoy most of my time with my child. Less so now that I am pregnant and tired, but that's what Dr. Seuss books and th occasional episode of Super Why! are for. It drives me crazy when people are constantly complaining, and then keep having more. Buck up, imagine raising nine children in a village in sub-Saharan Africa!

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  2. I had a very different reaction to her post. I didn't think she was complaining at all. I found it uplifting (as a mother of three who probably overachieves by comparison), and completely relatable. I am glad she wrote it. I actually had an experience like the one she hopes to give other women, where someone gave me a compliment about my parenting while my kid was out of control, and it STILL brings tears of gratitude to my eyes... that this lady noticed my efforts (even when I felt like such a failure) and told me I was doing a good job.

    Just a different take. Just because we have chosen to follow a certain path, have children, or have been blessed with them, doesn't mean that we forfeit our need to have support, or to vent, or just to have a hard day sometimes. It doesn't mean we aren't grateful enough. It just means that day was hard and we'll try to be better tomorrow. And having moments that DO shine on the hard days are a complete God-given blessing.

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  3. I was one of the many that posted that article and I have to say that I really did relate to the author in a lot of ways. (I even laughed at the mountain analogy, because Cliff and I climbed Mt. Fuji together and saw some parallels between the climb and parenting.) I love my children so much that I feel like my heart will burst, but some days are incredibly difficult. I really appreciated the author's honesty about her own experience, because I think we live in a society where admitting that parenting is trying at times is the same as saying "what was I thinking?" and you would rather be off shopping with your friends or climbing the career latter,etc, when that isn't the case at all! I just think that a lot of mothers have put unrealistic pressures on themselves to be perfect and happy all the time. It really troubles me specifically that so many women have felt the need to turn to medication to help them with anxiety and depression and feelings of failure in the home when I wonder if a little support from friends and family could do the same or more good? I think that parenting is at it's very best when we have the love and support of many.
    I mostly related to this article on the topic of newborns. My very personal experience with new babies is that they are SOOOO hard. I have had two colicky children. Lilia never slept for more than two hours for the first SEVEN months of her life. I refused to let her "cry it out" and tried everything I could to be the perfect mother to her while my husband was deployed and we were living in Japan. I was exhausted to the point that my body and brain didn't function and I had a nervous breakdown. My mom finally had to come out to Japan to help me. Lilia would go 10 hours during the day without napping more than 10 minutes. Her screams woke the neighborhood. We had her checked out by doctors, medication and herbal treatments, read books, etc. I felt unhinged, discouraged, and hopeless around all of the other young mothers that were always smiling, always showered, and always well rested. I tried to never complain in public because I didn't want to be "that mother." I had never felt so utterly ALONE in my whole life. Cliff and I seriously considered stopping at one child. It wasn't until Lilia became a DELIGHTFUL happy babbling toddler that I thought "THIS is what everyone was talking about!" There are still some days, though, that parenting is about survival for me. When I was sick and pregnant with Ivy I would cry myself to sleep from the pain of my throat being eaten away and the thought of my teeth rotting, but I KNEW I was doing the right thing because we had prayed about it and we knew from Lilia that it was SOOOO worth it. Saying that parenting is hard doesn't mean that I don't still love it and thank my Heavenly Father for my tremendous blessings. I am just also grateful for the compassion and understanding of other women that have gone before. Knowing that these women are cheering me on and letting me rant when I need to has kept me from despairing. We laugh about it too! Laughter is definitely the best medicine, but realistically when you are at your breaking point both physically and emotionally, sometimes a good cry helps too. It's cathartic. Then you snap to and resolve to be strong for your kiddos. This time around has been much easier with Cliff home almost every night. Ivy was an extremely fussy baby too, but I had HELP and support and most importantly - perspective. I just hope that I can be that pillar of support to other women and that others feel that they can let down their hair and know that they won't be judged if they are having a bad day. We all need each other and we need to know that we have each other's backs.

    Love you Linda! I always enjoy your thoughts!

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  4. I don't mean to imply in any way that the only appropriate response to hard times with kids is laughter. As President Uchtdorf said, this is not "an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach." Every mom goes through dark times, and just like with other difficulties in life, sometimes it feels like no one understands and no one else is having a hard time like you are. As a mom, I have had intense moments of despair and depression. Of course it's important for women to talk to each other about these things and to find support. I'm really grateful for the people that have listened to me when I've had a hard time.

    Sometimes it seems like in the world of parenting blogs and magazines there is a tendency to be negative about kids, to make normal, wacky things that kids do seem like a HUGE inconvenience. I don't have specific examples anymore (because I threw away all my copies), but Parents magazine in particular always made kids seem like a nuisance. A lot of Glennon's post came across to me the same way. I don't think it's valid to compare being a mother to having difficulties with a job--and no, there is not the same potential joy with a job as there is with parenting. But I think it's really important to try and enjoy things, even when they're hard. I don't like the notion of just giving up, of just saying "I can't enjoy a whole day. It's not possible. It's not even possible to enjoy 15 minutes in a row." Maybe she's exaggerating for the sake of emphasis, I don't know. It just seemed like she was saying "The only thing that's realistically possible as a parent is to scrounge up a couple happy moments out of a day of utter misery." Trying to find only a couple happy things is a good notion for when times are intensely difficult. I don't think it's a good idea for the normal day-to-day times as a parent though. If people conceptualize of the majority of parenting as super hard with a couple good times a day...well, who wants that? Who would want to have children if that's how it normally is? I like to think of it as the other way around--amazing and funny and joyful and fulfilling the majority of the time, with a couple hard times each day. Or maybe a couple hard weeks in a month, or a couple hard months in a year. However it's sliced, I don't want to think of parenting as 90% drudgery and 10% super-intense awesomeness, and that seemed like the proportion Glennon was promoting, I suppose.

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  5. I guess I just interpreted the article differently. I think she was trying to emphasize that even though there are a lot of difficult times, the good times are SO good they make it all worth while. They make the "climb" worth it and worth doing again and again. I know that for me I came to really cherish the wonderful moments and I learned not to take them for granted. Now that Ivy is coming out of the colic and Lilia is older I would say that the majority of the day and my days are wonderful. More importantly, because I went through the "drudgery" I now recognize how truly wonderful they are! I won't kid myself about the early days, though. They were mind numbingly difficult and knowing that other parents sometimes felt that way too was reassuring to me. I agree with you that it isn't helpful to complain or rant all the time. I think that positive thinking and hope do wonders even beyond parenting. I love that talk by Elder Uchtdorf. Especially the part about creation and creating. It's a worthy goal to be positive all the time. I'm just not there yet. Maybe I just need to hang around you more, ;)

    Jill

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  6. Everyone I know who read it, including me, read her post as a breath of fresh air. Glennon is raw yet validating to many, many mothers and women. I hope you'll read more of her blog. She says, "Love wins," and "We can do hard things."

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  7. I did not interpret Glennon's article to be negative or even to imply that she was not enjoying parenthood. The real message was that we should not beat ourselves up when we have moments of frustration. The Mt. Everest reference was clearly a metaphor and the way one interprets it is subjective- you chose to focus on the very literal aspects.

    I think the comparison to climbing Mt. Everest was actually quite perfect; in a world where parenting is just 'the norm' and anyone and everyone can do it, I want to be the standout. There are so many unfit parents in the world who I would never leave my child with. And then there are average parents, who provide necessities but are not intentional about parenting. Rather, they take life as it comes and just hope that they raise a well-adjusted, functioning adult.

    I think if you can look back and relate your parenting journey to Mt. Everest, you were probably doing it right. It takes much more effort to be an involved parent, one who makes the hard decisions in the short term because we know they will benefit our children in the long term.

    I believe we owe our children a lot, which is why I think people SHOULD know that parenting actually IS a gargantuan task before they create babies, just because it is the 'natural' thing to do.

    Every one of my accomplishments required some blood, sweat and tears. Those times were not unenjoyable, actually to the contrary, they pushed me to my limits and afforded me a joy I would not have known otherwise. I had moments when I wanted to quit but the unwavering desire for what was at the end of the road always kept me going. Still does. Parenting is no exception. Just because you know something is difficult does not mean that is how you remember the experience.

    I think her rawness is brave. There are feelings we ALL have as mothers, that most of us would not say out loud. However, in speaking about them, we provide comfort to eachother. It helps knowing we are not alone and not abnormal.

    I respect that Glennon's writing is not your particular taste. I do feel very sad about this one sentence in your post though (and actually it's the one reason I chose to leave a comment):

    "Saying parenting is like climbing the world's tallest mountain sounds like something an anti-child or anti-family person would say, not like something a mom ought to say"

    I think, that while it may not have been intended this way, it sounds extremely judgmental. Moms are still women, we are still human. We should support eachother and not perpetuate this 'put on a happy face' epidemic. If a mom feels it, why should she not say it? And furthermore, mom is not an all encompassing identity. As multi-dimensional people, we do not and should not fit in boxes. Just because every thought we have is not something a 'mother ought to say' does not mean that we are not the most amazing mothers.

    Actually, to the contrary, if everything you are saying IS something a mother ought to say, I'd contend you have lost your identity in your children and that's not an example I would want to set either. I love my daughter to death, wouldn't trade her for the world, but there are moments when I would rather be adventurously backpacking in Europe alone than dealing with a tantrum.

    Good for Glennon for setting the example for her children to be reflective, open, and honest. Sounds like she is raising confident leaders who will always be guided by themselves and not by what society says they should be.

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  8. I admire Glennon's post and I find her to be very positive. I like that her tone never patronizes, and she celebrates others. I also like how she never puts down other people, or needs to sound better than they are. I like how, even though she gets a great deal of attention, she uses it to spotlight the good in other people. I think she talks about difficult journeys that are incredibly beautiful and rewarding, and how those journeys are enriched by sharing them with others. I am an educator and a mom, and I adore kids, but I think the journey of raising a family is harder than I expected, so I tend to appreciate those who admit their struggles. I also think she has a great sense of humor.

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  9. I found your response to GM's openness and honesty really judge mental. She seems much kinder than you, though maybe by now you've softened.

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