You Are The Worst Mother In The World and Other Unexpected Joys of Parenthood

Yesterday when my naked two-year old escaped from my futile attempts to diaper him and unceremoniously crapped right in front of the fireplace I began to wonder how anyone survives parenthood intact. I mean, come on, a small person just took a shit in my house. On my stuff. And he has no remorse. He’ll do it again as soon as he gets the opportunity.

Then later, when said two-year old produced a crap in the toilet and I danced around him Mariachi style chanting, “Poopy in the potty! Hey! Poopy on the potty! Hey!” and proceeded to drag my older kids in to look at the crap and praise their little brother I began to doubt my ability to function in the adult world.

I might have known from the get-go that motherhood wasn’t going to be all talcum powder (don’t use it, you’ll kill the baby!) and roses. My first-born, my daughter, was a teeny tiny beautiful baby hand grenade. She had colic. She screamed constantly. She could only tolerate the most expensive, stinkiest formula on the market which she barfed all over me at regular intervals.

I didn’t leave our tiny 400 square foot apartment for the first three months of her life. I lived with her attached to my body. She had the look of someone who was gunning for a fight. Her squishy red face read: I’ll fuck you up. I loved her madly, of course, but I was afraid, very afraid. My husband was too. We walked around her as if in a mine field. She could blow at any time we whispered to each other. At times we considered her as an animal expert might a wild animal: Shhhh, be very quiet–there, in that motorized swing is a young example of Homo sapiens, subspecies Terribilicus Infantus. 

My daughter and I have had our tender moments over the years, but she has always kept me on my toes, always kept me doubting my abilities to parent correctly. She did all sorts of “atypical” stuff as a toddler: licking walls, licking doorknobs, not making eye contact, facing out of the circle when all the other kiddies were facing in the circle, repeating the same word so many times the most patient person would poke their eyeballs out, lining all of her toys up in rows over and over like a little anal-retentive accountant.

After her preschool teachers raised a big red flag, we had our girl checked out by a bunch of experts and she was declared somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. Spectrum sounds so nice and rainbow-y, as if your child is a unicorn leaping over all the pretty colors, right? It’s not. It’s occupational therapy, speech therapy, IEPs, social skills training, and huge bottles of Advil.

Now that my daughter is eight, in a classroom full of “typical” peers she has entered into a new phase. She is enraged with me and her life about 98% of the time. She claims that I ruin her “best day ever” almost every day when I greet her at the bus stop.

My daughter thinks I smell funny, have bad breath, pay too much attention to her, pay no attention to her at all, never give her any candy or treats or puppies or kittens. She wants me to fix everything immediately, though she is often not able to articulate what is broken. She has the most amazing grasp of language and imagination. But most human behavior is totally confusing to her. She watches me all the time, befuddled.

Yesterday, as we were carting our way through Target, my daughter stopped dead in her tracks and apropos of no immediate incident said, “I’m driving you insane, right?” and I said, “No, why would you say that?” (while thinking, not insane, love, it’s bat shit, you drive me bat shit.) I want so badly for my daughter to know how much I love her angry, brilliant, dorky, confused, artistic self. I want her to see how much I admire her spunk, her piss and vinegar, her drive to connect.

Sometimes I do agree with my girl that I am, indeed, the worst mother in the world. After all, I did cave when she relentlessly questioned me about the tooth fairy. Me: Fine! She’s not real, okay! She’s not real. It’s been me all along. Daughter: How could you ruin my fantasy? How could you destroy everything I’ve believed in for my whole life? Me: But there’s still Hanukkah Harry! I’ve told you about Hanukkah Harry, right?

Motherhood, parenthood, it’s a bitch, a punch in the crotch, sometimes amazing, usually exhausting. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a license for raising humans. I’m barely holding on to a learner’s permit, and by the time I get it figured out (if I ever do), my three kids are going to be out in the world seeking therapists with whom to examine it all. (Shiver.)

72 thoughts on “You Are The Worst Mother In The World and Other Unexpected Joys of Parenthood

  1. I love you writing about Ruby. Your candor is comfort to all of us – and I’m sure particularly to moms of the kids on the non-unicorn-y spectrum who need so much more…you are a lovely mother, Jen. And loving too.

  2. We for sure will not survive parenthood intact. Guaranteed. The scars may be deep and not visible by the human eye, but these little enigmas are driving us crazy, one carpool at a time. It’s somehow comforting knowing you’re out there, feeling it along with me.

    • I am, definitely feeling it along with you. That’s the best thing about knowing other parents–we are in it together, for better or worse. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. Not one of us has the parenting “magic bullet” with which to shoot ourselves and replace us with the smarter, sexier, happier version of ourselves. I guess, more than anything, parenting is a test of our mettle as humans who are born to nurture (and who think, regularly, about eating our young. This is my sloppy philosophical way of saying “I hear ya sister.”. This is why I enjoy wine. Regularly. With zest.

  4. This is wonderful! And I just had a lovely evening being the shittiest parent I could manage. Mind you my kids helped push me there. So. So, so. This piece is a sigh of relief for me tonight. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. When my daughter was a baby we actually negotiated on a goat in an attempt to find the right “formula” for her colic. And then one day (after a mere 12 weeks of bawling) she became adorable and awesome and loveable and easy. And then she turned 15 and become a total bitch. And now I am counting the days until she moves out. Parenting absolutely punches you in the crotch. Or the nuts. Or as I like to say, in the egos.
    P.S. I love the way you write.

  6. Fabulously funny! And thank God you’re such a terrible mother – I thought I was the worst mother in the world. (Should I be happy or sad about coming in 2nd place?)

  7. Oh my gosh~ you are me. I am you. Whatever.
    My twins are 8 and both are on the Spectrum {you’re right, a totally awesome word for a totally horrible thing} and your 8 yr old is just like one of mine.
    It’s therapies and evaluations and Dr’s appts and Mama bawling in the kitchen because she was potty trained 3 years ago and I don’t know why she isn’t anymore. But, my kids think this is all normal. It was sad to tell them that not everyone goes to the Dr like they do~ and not everyone’s Mother is a screaming lunatic like theirs is.
    My 2 year old is like your 2 year old, too. Pees on the couch constantly. And the floor and my bed and her bed… I have an 8 year old to do that, thank you very much, now put your diaper back on or sit on the potty before I strap you on it until you’re 12!!! She also cried for 12 straight weeks, wouldn’t breast feed and “had” to have formula that was $30 a can.
    Soon enough. though, it will be all over. I wonder if we’ll ever miss it…

  8. If you could hear this… I’m clapping, thank you for this. And reminding me that its a challenge, but look what we get out of it.

  9. Reading this, I’m amazed, effing amazed, that you had more after Ruby. I think my son is wonderful, adorable, a double handful of wired energy (not ADD, not autism spectrum, but exhausting nonetheless) — and destined to be an only child because I have no energy left for another. I’m still struggling to take a shower with that kid in the house!

    Really wonderful writing. You must write a book — you know, in your copious free time. Really made me feel not so alone — and that if I’m a shitty mom at times, I’m not alone. Parenting is hard. We fucking deserve medals, but people who occasionally do easy stuff — like acting in a movie or doing one heroic deed — get all the credit. We are all heroes for getting through each day and going to sleep figuring we’ll probably do it again the next day.

    • Joy, Amen! I give you a Golden Globe! I like to keep things interesting and I really do love kids (just not having them in my house 24/7) :-) Lucky for us our 2nd child is pretty mellow…thus the third. Crazy chaos. Thanks do much for writing!

  10. You know the phrase, “parents get the kids they deserve?” Well, I still don’t know what that means and I think the cliche sucks. “Anyhoo,” since our daughters have always gotten along so remarkably well (I wonder why) let me share this story with you (and, I guess, others who might read this post).

    I got home the other night and Zoe is downstairs occupied with something. I said, “Hey how was your day today?” and she immediately replied, “Great!”

    Now, Tory’s been telling you about the challenges adjusting to life in the Netherlands so I took this response as fantastic news.

    “Great?” I said. “Great? I am so glad to hear you say that, Zoe!” I exclaimed.

    “Well, it wasn’t great,” she said. “It was good. Not good, I mean it was just ok.”

    We return to the States on 12/19, I’m sure a play date of some kind with the girls would be “just ok.”

    • Oh, Dave, I could just hear Zoe saying that! And the look on your face must’ve been priceless. I am so excited for your return to the States! Happy, happy day! Thanks for visiting me here! It makes me feel all warm inside.

  11. My friend and I were talking today, and this is what she says to me: “I told my husband last night that our family is not how I thought it would be!” Amen. Sometimes kids throw you for a loop, and make you question everything you ever thought, like how much is too much yelling??!! Hang in there mama, and keep writing. We need each other.

    • Amen is right! Show me the person who thought their life/family/marriage is exactly how he or she thought it would be and I will fall off the sidewalk. I’m glad your friend was honest with her husband. It’s hard work to raise a family. Thanks so much for writing, Heather. :)

  12. Beautiful description of life with exceptional children. 2e children (ones who are both gifted and have a social, emotional or learning challenges) represent a particularly wild parenting roller coaster ride. I grew up with 2e siblings and specialize in counseling parents with these wonderful, but demanding heartwrenchers. Best advice: hang on to your sense of humor and follow your heart.

    • Oh wow, what a blessing you must be to the parents who come for counseling. I can’t wait to read your blog. Thanks so much for the reminder about having a sense of humor.

  13. That was the exact medicine I needed to wash down my Vodka. Or, wait…maybe that isn’t quite right. Anywhoo…I also have a daughter on the spectrum. And ours is all nice and rainbow-y. Bwahahaha!
    Ok, for real…your writing and sense of humor were a breath of fresh air this morning. Thanks for the post!

  14. omg – from one mother to another – living in the gorilla cage is horrible. Even though I love my kids, I feel like I am held hostage by them a good deal of the time and wonder when this life stage will be over, and how many age lines I will have by the time I’m done.

    So glad I ran across this article. It is how I feel a LOT. Just praying that I survive sane.

  15. Do whatever it takes to retain your sense of humor. You will live through this an incredibly strong and wise person. Remember that You and Dad are the Parents and do not let the Children drive the car. Develop an outlet through which to retain your sanity…wait, is it the blog? No, it needs to be something through which you can forget (put it on the back burner, so to speak) about your Divine Mission and concentrate on YOU. Walks, dates, skydiving, flaming sword juggling, something challenging and mind-consuming. Do not let others tell you what is the right thing to do. You will figure it out!!!

  16. My son is on the spectrum, too. I totally related to you picking up your daughter at the bus stop and being told that you had ruined her day. It’s amazing how any little unexpected break from expectation or routine suddenly can ruin an otherwise perfect day. Thanks for writing this.

    • Thank you for relating! It is so hard to get myself to the bus stop sometimes. It’s like greeting a snarling animal and trying to calm it down with a fruit snack. Have you found any tricks that work for after school agitation?

  17. Just read your Article.. i have a 12yr old Daughter on the Autistic spectrum also with communication disablity..What is normal who knows as what goes on in my house is normal and parenting well what can i say wish there was a hand book….lol
    thanks for sharing it put a smile on my face

    • Hi Hazel, I’m so glad you stopped by! I think parents of kids on the spectrum have to redefine their parenting style all the time to fit the needs of their kiddo. It is hard work sometimes. I’m sure you could use a day of pampering!

  18. When my daughter pooped in the potty instead of in her pants I drew in a deep breath and put a huge smile on my face… She lifted up her hand in a kind of “stop” sign and said: “Don’t. Say. Yay.” Thanks for making me feel better KvetchMom.

  19. You are my new hero…or maybe my soul sister, mommy mate or anything that says “thank god there are other women out there living the same life as me!” When my oldest son was potty training and peed on the carpet, I just looked at the floor, said my good-byes and dreamed of the day that hardwood floors would erase all the memories left staining my living room carpet! Bless us…every last one of us!!!

    • Thanks so much for writing, Peggy! Power to the mamas! I can’t wait to ditch our carpeting. So gross. We just added a kitten to the mix, so I’m sure cat puke will soon bless us as well :)

  20. I wish I could say I had. Mostly,it’s about trying to limit his exposure to unexpected changes. I try to prepare him for the situation and the situation for him as much as possible ahead of time. I have had to learn not to tell him we’re going somewhere until it is for certain, we are on the way, or we are actually there — in case it doesn’t work out. For instance, I told him I would take him for ice cream after the grocery store the other day. When we got to the ice cream stand, we discovered it was closed for the season (who closes an ice cream stand for the season in Florida?). He had a huge meltdown. Even after we drove to another ice cream parlor, he still had trouble dealing because it wasn’t where he expected to go. It was better, but he was still upset that the other ice cream place was closed. My son has high functioning autism. He is on the extreme end of high functioning, and he has had years of social skills classes. It is sometimes difficult for other people to understand that when he has a meltdown he isn’t just being a “brat”. He just doesn’t have the coping skills another kid his age might have. We were in a store in Media, PA last summer. Jacob was starting to have an “issue” because he couldn’t find the drink I sent him to get (they changed the spot where they were stocking it). He wasn’t in meltdown mode yet; he was in “issue” mode. He was huffing and puffing to me across the store that he couldn’t find it (it was a small store) when a woman, who looked to be in her 40’s or 50’s, yelled at him that he should quit being such a “f#*&!ng brat”. This would be stunning behavior directed at any child, but directed at my autistic child, it precipitated a meltdown of epic proportions, which may have been why she literally ran out of the store. My son, who has trouble letting go of things and moving on, still will ask me when we go to a convenience store, “Remember when that woman yelled at me and called me an f—ing brat?” — which will begin the whole process of having to deal with it yet again. Had I been closer to her before she ran out, I would have given her what for and then some for yelling at him that way. I try the best I can to prepare him for the situation. I will text him after school to let him know that I will be there in 5 to 10 minutes, so he knows when to expect me and isn’t caught off guard when I get there. Transitions are difficult for him, so I try to warn him of an impending change as far in advance as I can. This is actually my best tool — the forewarning. But sometimes, like in the situation last summer, it just isn’t possible. The other thing is that he is totally non-medicated. When he was on medicine, he was a monster after school — huge mood swings. He goes to a school, where they prefer him off meds if at all possible. More than anything else that has helped even out the absolute after school fits. Without knowing anything more, I suspect that the bus stop may be a transition issue for your daughter. Okay, I’ve gone on long enough.

    • Thank you so much for sharing about your son. He sounds exactly like my daughter. I can’t tell her about anything unless I know 110% that it is going to happen. And even then I need to be ready to explain everything about the event to her because she gets anxious if she doesn’t know what to expect. I think you are right about after school being a transition issue. *Grin & bear it* Ugh.

  21. Pingback: Falling Out Of The Family Bed | Kvetch Mom

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