She wrote it all.
It's all been said and done now. Her thoughts were a thousand times more articulate and illuminating than my own and I found myself nodding, chortling, and grunting in agreement pretty much non-stop throughout.
For example, her section on "flow" and the parent. Part of why parenting infants/toddlers is such a miserable experience is because there is no sense of "flow"--defined as that sensation of being totally absorbed and "in the zone", where an hour can feel like 5 minutes. Flow requires the perfect balance of stress and boredom--just challenging enough to keep you engaged and not too challenging that you're feeling high anxiety.
But parenting is like the opposite of experiencing flow. You are either bored out of your mind or stressed out of your mind.
First, the boredom--because babies can't talk, because reading Hop on Pop for the 50th time blows, because helping someone stumble around the park and not get to their destination for 30 minutes is mind-numbing, because tossing a ball back and forth, shaking rattles, playing peek-a-boo, labeling objects, and all the other stuff you're supposed to be doing for your baby's early development is, let's face it, completely boring after the first 90 seconds.
Second, the stress, which for me (and most parents I would imagine) comes from a very simple source--crying. Some people can tolerate a lot more crying than others, but we are all hard-wired by Nature to have a true physical stress response to our children crying. Heart rates are elevated, cortisol levels rise, blood pressure goes up, everything in you feels horrible.
So there you have it--the yin and yang of parenting small people--extreme boredom or extreme stress. No wonder in large national surveys mothers rank spending time with their kids less desirable than doing the dishes or other house chores. Hard to believe if you've never spent more than 8 hours with a small child, but I'm here to testify--that shizz is fo realz people. Fo realz.
|Don't let the cuteness fool you!|
Because the author was so dead on in capturing life with the 0-3 set, I was really excited to read on as she laid out life with school-age kids and then life with teenagers. Maybe this would give me a little road map toward what awaits and for once in my parenting life, I could get ahead of the curve!
Although I did find it somewhat helpful, alas, it didn't prove half as insightful sounding as the first part, maybe because she herself has only experienced motherhood up until age 5 (the age of her only son). All I gleaned is that kids between ages 4 and 12 are intensely over-scheduled and the parent basically morphs into a taxi driver. I'm thinking this might become irrelevant for me as Google develops the driver-less car any day now.
But aside from these little peaks into the horror and hells of parenting, I have to say my favorite part of the book was the last section in which the author explores the Joy of parenting. After all, the title does promise that it's "All Joy..."
Her descriptions of the deep and abiding joy in the midst of the pain of parenting were so poignant I teared up, a lot. In particular, she noted that single moms are by far the most stressed out people on the planet, BUT they are the least depressed. This seems counter-intuitive since you assume intense stress causes mental breakdown and depression.
But the author notes that depression is essentially a function of disassociation. When you feel like you have little or no attachments to the world around you, that is the key to depression. And parenting is the ultimate antidote. For the first time in your life, most likely, you feel the ultimate attachment. Never have you committed to someone to the degree that you commit to your child. And infinitely more so if you are his/her only, single parent.
To be on the hook, to be forever committed, to inextricably link yourself to another such that it is simply impossible to feel happy if that person is sad, is a monstrous burden--but also the gateway to paradise. As I've quoted before in reference to parenting--To love another person is to see the face of God.
And to that also, I can testify. That shizz is def fo realz too.