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  • Writer's pictureJayma Anne Montgomery

THE LIFE-SUCKING PRIVILEGE OF PARENTING

I haven’t been a parent for very long. Our oldest is four years old. It took nearly three years for us to conceive and a seemingly endless streak of recurrent pregnancy losses before we found ourselves holding our 4 pound, 9-ounce bundle of joy in October of 2017. During those desperate years of yearning for a child so badly that it often mimicked physical pain, I clung to rosy visions of myself nursing my newborn or rocking him to sleep. It was always a ‘him’ because I just knew that the Lord wouldn’t torture me with a daughter after my upbringing (the joke is now squarely on me). Rarely, I would imagine a baby crawling or laughing but my pining uterus never allowed me to imagine beyond the infant years.


After two harrowing, high-risk pregnancies, we now have two children, the youngest approaching two years old. The hallmark fantasy that my mind created around parenting barely lasted 24 hours. Despite not needing to be in the NICU, our tiny daughter ended up developing nearly all of the common complications of an underweight baby. She developed jaundice, reflux, latching difficulties, and hypothermia resulting in a re-admission to the hospital at just seven days old. We spent our waking hours sleep-deprived, terrified, and overwhelmed. My husband and I would often steal glances at each other while she slept that seemed to ask each other, ‘what in the world did we get ourselves into?’


Now we are firmly in the toddler and pre-school years of parenting. I have long since abandoned the notion of putting my body through another grueling pregnancy. Adoption has been a desire of mine since childhood but the realities of parenting our two biological children have caused me to put a heavy place-holder on that thought that I’m still not sure I will ever double back to remove. These early years of parenting are marked by servitude. You become servants to their basic needs of food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. You stray into enslavement territory when it comes onto their sleep schedules, potty training, temper tantrums, and personal whims. The sheer adorableness of their little bodies makes things a bit easier to withstand but there are days when you can’t help but look back fondly on your child-free days and wonder whatever made you surrender them.


One such moment happened about a week ago. I had just gotten back from picking up the children up from daycare. They burst through the door demanding juice despite the fact that I had provided them with juice earlier in the car. I proceeded to address my toddler’s needs first, ignoring his incessant whining. He watched impatiently as I grabbed the apple juice from the fridge, screeching more loudly with each passing second. My daughter’s internal operating system was stuck on repeat saying, ‘Mommy, I want juice. Mommy, I want juice’ more times than I cared to keep track of. I took a deep, steadying breath and turned to my daughter. ‘Mommy is getting juice for Ezra first so you need to be quiet and wait your turn.’ She slammed her mouth closed and looked at the floor. Then I turned to my son and said, ‘Ezra, say ‘juice, please.’ He followed suit. Then I said, ‘You have to wait until Mommy gets it for you. No more crying ok.’ He stared at me but seemed satisfied. I poured the juice into his sippy cup and handed it to him. He immediately threw it right back at me. I immediately lost it. I gathered him up and marched into his dad’s office, practically throwing him into his arms. ‘Your son is rude and I’m done.’


I went back to finish getting my daughter’s juice and handed it to her. ‘I don’t want to use this cup.’ I took the cup from her and set it carefully on the counter. Then I took her by the hand and marched back into my husband’s office. ‘You two are behaving like entitled brats! Mommy and Daddy are not robots or your personal servants!’ I then proceeded to go on a 2-3 minute rant about ingratitude and learning to be less selfish. The content was probably far above their level of understanding but it felt so good to just put it out there anyway. I then told them I was going on strike for 10 minutes and slammed the door. This is where the strain of parenting young children has driven me to…going on strike without a union to back me.


I adore my children. They can be sweet and an absolute joy to be around. But they have cured me of the desire for more children for the foreseeable future and quite possibly indefinitely. It’s not just that we want to raise nice humans who don’t break the law and contribute positively to their communities, it’s that we are charged to raise them in a GODly way. How in the world do we mold these self-absorbed, emotional wrecks into Christ-like beings? I can barely stay saved myself trying to raise them and we are still so early in the game.

My heart goes out to single parents everywhere; to not have a reliable partner in the trenches alongside you must be incredibly lonely and draining. At this age, daycare and reliable babysitters are an absolute necessity but those services only extend so far. On a day-to-day basis, my saving grace is often my husband being readily available to relieve me when I need it and vice versa. When there is more than one of them and they begin to form a comradery, you find yourself both admiring it and dreading it. They unite against you even before they know that’s what they are doing and conspire to drive you slowly out of your mind if you aren’t careful. Other weary parents like ourselves bring so much validation and comfort. It’s important to know that this is just part of the journey and won’t last forever.


If I could journey back in time to my 23-year-old self as she was dating her husband and feeling as if our marriage and family would serve as a shining beacon of rightness, I would not hesitate to burst her bubble. I would let her down as easily as possible but I wouldn’t leave any room for ambiguity. ‘Marriage is hard. Parenting is harder. Parenting will be hard on your marriage. You won’t get any of it right most of the time so just do your best.’ That’s pretty much what I would say. And she would likely make all or most of the same decisions and errors but at least she would be more prepared for the fallout. I would also probably make her watch Bebe’s kids repeatedly and tell her that if she isn’t prepared to deal the possibility of having even one child like that, then she isn’t really ready to be a parent quite yet.




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