For Moms Who Are Sick Of This Sh*t

From your friend without kids who thinks you’re doing great.

Sara Benincasa
May 12 · 9 min read

Hi Mom. (I’m talking to you, a mom who is not mine.) How are you? Good? Are you really? Did you just say that because we’re women and it’s what we’re supposed to do, especially when we’re women with kids and that’s supposed to automatically be the most fulfilling thing in the entire world and indeed the known universe? Are you actually exhausted? Is that “good”?

You don’t have to bullshit me. I’m your friend without kids. I don’t know shit about raising children! If I thought I’d be some kind of expert genius at it, I probably would’ve had some by now. If I do end up having them because I adopt or somehow get knocked up on the two days or two seconds or whatever that a woman of my age is supposed to be fertile each month, I’ll come crying to you and offer to pay you to tell me all the secrets.

I know you don’t have all the secrets. I know you’re making this up as you go along. That’s okay. Everybody does it, especially people who have devoted themselves to performative perfect mothering as a brand. Their kids would rather come play at your house. Messy people fucking rule.

I’ll never tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your kids, unless you’re drunk or desperate enough to ask me and actually believe me, or unless I think you’re actively hurting them or underpaying your hardworking babysitter or nanny, in which case why are we even friends? I’m not friends with abusive people, at least not once I figure out they’re abusive. I’m on-purpose friends with real, loving, trying-to-be-decent human beings who sometimes reproduce or otherwise acquire children and who sometimes want to stick their head in the goddamn oven, if only to tell the shitty organic gluten-free cupcakes for the stupid fascist parents’ association bake sale to fuck the fuck off.

I think your kids are gorgeous and special and smart and amazing and I also think you’re a heroine for not setting all their toys on fire because yeah, they’re shitheads sometimes (but only when you say they are shitheads! At other times they are the greatest people alive!) I think you’re fantastic for not throwing things at random passersby every damn day at dropoff, especially that one asshole (you know who she is, or maybe it’s a he or a they! Assholes have no gender!)

I’ve got no skin in the game other than that I want you to be happy and healthy. And sometimes that means you vent about things like being a single mom with not enough help, or with no help — or a mom with a partner and still not enough help or no help. Also sometimes you tell me things that your vagina did, like fall out a few days after you pushed out a kid holy fucking shit, or how your kid somehow broke your asshole from the other side (rude), or how you cried when you saw the staples from your surgery, and how you couldn’t piss for days and had to have a catheter, and how this doesn’t feel like your body anymore, or how you’re worried about how one of your kids will deal with your gender transition, or how you think you should stay married for the sake of the kids (you shouldn’t — okay, I did give you some unsolicited advice, but seriously, kids benefit more from a healthy divorce than a sick marriage) or how you waited and waited and waited for the state to approve the adoption and then the birth parents came back and said they wanted the baby so you had to give her up and it broke your heart and you’re scared it’ll happen again but you’re so close this time…you’ve told me all these stories and more.

Sometimes you tell me about the babies who didn’t finish growing inside you and how you still think about them and still count their birthdays on your due date, and how you miss who they could’ve been. I had a miscarriage long ago; I didn’t know I was pregnant; I don’t think I would’ve had the baby if I’d found out. But maybe I would have. It makes me sad sometimes to think about it, even though I know I am also relieved, sort of. I can’t pretend it is the same, because it isn’t. Everyone’s story is different. I don’t know how to tell you to act “normal” with the kids you have when you miss the kids you miss. But you can tell me, and I’ll be quiet, or I’ll say something that doesn’t really help probably, but you’ll know I’m listening and I care.

Sometimes you tell me about your kid who died, at six months or two years or 18 years old. You tell me that some people stopped talking to you, people you thought would have your back, as if they thought death would get their kid too soon, too. You tell me that you survived, that you figured out who your real, strong friends were. You tell me that you’re still sad. You’ve told me those stories, too. I am proud of you. I am honored you would tell me those stories. You are still a good mom to your kids who are here. Grieving doesn’t happen on any timeline I can figure. You are amazing.

Sometimes you tell me you wish you could just skip ahead to grandkids. Sometimes you think your kids’ learning struggles are your fault. Sometimes you tell me you hate all the other moms you know except one, and she’s moving and you’re terrified.

You tell me you’re trying not to mess up how your mom messed up, or you’re trying to be better than she was and she was the best, or you didn’t even have a mom and Mother’s Day and holidays and sappy Thanksgiving commercials piss you the fuck off because you didn’t have any or that, or your mom was a fucking piece of shit who abandoned you, literally or figuratively, or your mom always says you should do things this way and this way and this way and your kids love her but you hate when she comes to visit, or you miss her so much and wish she would live closer or pay as much attention to your kids as she does to your sister’s.

I know you’re trying. I know you’re doing your best, except on the days when you half-ass it or don’t try because you’re just so fucking tired.

Your mental illness is not a betrayal of your children. Your addiction is not a betrayal of your children. I see you in the waiting room at my shrink’s office. I see you at meetings, with your kids playing nearby. I am glad you are getting help. If you aren’t getting help, please get help. Ask for it. It’s out there. There are other moms like you. I have a mom and dad who encouraged me to get help. I was and am so lucky. You deserve that help. You do.

I don’t put you on a pedestal or think you’re perfect or that you’re better than anybody else because you decided to have kids (or didn’t decide, because kids were visited upon you because somebody forced you to do it or because the law where you were wouldn’t let you wait to have kids when you were ready.) But I think you are doing a hard thing, and I admire people who do hard things. I get anxious when I walk past a Crossfit gym, you think I think motherhood is easy?

I know sometimes you won’t be able to call me or email me or text me because you’ve got other shit going on. I will call, email or text you, or I’ll give you space just as you give me mine. Sometimes I will worry I’m not a good enough friend to you; sometimes you will worry you’re not a good enough friend to me. Sometimes we may feel far away from one another even if you’re just a mile up the road. But we both know I’m busy too, in a different way, and we’ll find each other again if we’re meant to do so. True, deep friendships that last require breathing room sometimes, and we can mark that time in days, weeks, months or even years. But a true friend will be there and pick up with you where you left off. And as for a weak, untrue friend — fuck ’em. Who gives a shit?

Which brings me to mompetition. Holy shit, that sounds terrible. Do you want me to show up at a party and say something deliberately weird to that lady who always tells you how you should dress and tries to make you go to her insane anti-vaxxer cult meetings? I’ll do it. What’s she gonna do, blackball me from the mommy group? Guess what, Harpsichord, I don’t give a flying fuck about Wine Mom Nights at Slappy Hooligan’s! I’m sober and I’m a bitch who has as yet produced no puppies! Let’s talk about dildos! Why are you backing away? It’s not like I’ve got measles, mumps or rubella!

Anyway. I know it might sound weird that your friend who loves kids but has never shown a particular burning desire to have them is, like, telling you this stuff. It also might sound weird that I love kids. I do! I mean, not enough to be around them all day like when I was a teacher, but they’re often very interesting little people. I enjoy them very much in doses! My nephew is a baby and he looks like an extremely old man! Human development is fuckin’ nuts, man!

I know you fuck up. I know you let your kids down sometimes, or you think you do. I know you don’t meet your own expectations all the time. I know you think it’s a secret that sometimes you wish you hadn’t had kids, or fantasize about what life would be like without them, or genuinely hate them for a brief period of time, but it’s not a secret. The key is that you keep trying, and that you set and maintain healthy boundaries where possible, and that you don’t expect them to listen to you vent (that’s what me and your therapist are for) and that you don’t punish them for things that are not their fault, like the fact that they look like your stupid dumbass ex.

I trust that you are doing your best to raise good people, kind people, loving people, decent people. One day, they’ll appreciate how hard you tried, even if they still have understandable and real issues with you. One day, they will see you as a real person.

I already see you as a real person. I’m an adult, and also I’m cooler than your kids (just kidding except not! Will your kids drive you to get emotional Kit-Kats at Rite-Aid at 3 a.m.? Probably not!)

I see you working hard. I see you using Siri’s talk-to-text function in your car while you barrel down the highway and try to jam fries into a Wendy’s chocolate shake because fuck, that’s good. I see those same fries fossilized under the baby’s carseat in six months (how the fuck did they get under there?) I see you struggling with postpartum mania, which doesn’t get talked about as much as postpartum psychosis, which doesn’t get talked about as much as postpartum depression, which doesn’t get talked about as much as FIFTY WAYS TO LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT IN TIME FOR YOUR HUSBAND TO FUCK YOU BEFORE YOUR PUSSY FALLS OUT AGAIN.

I know I don’t understand it all, and that I can’t empathize so much as sympathize or just pre-coat the Wendy’s fries with the chocolate shake and shove them in your mouth while you drive. I can watch some TV with your kid so you can shit in peace. I can change a diaper, and probably do it wrong, but the diaper will be on. It may be backwards, but it will be on. If your son pisses on me during the process, that’s fine; dudes have done weirder things with their dicks in my presence. I cannot abide you talking to me about circumcision one way or another. I do have a limit; that is it.

So I won’t get everything and I won’t understand everything. I might say some stuff sometimes that sounds precious. I know I’ve got more free time than you do. I know I get more sleep than you do. I know I shouldn’t ever bail when you’ve paid for a sitter and I promise I try to keep our dates even though I may show up late because I’m bad at time, and also at math. Sometimes I’m envious of what you have, just as I know sometimes you’re envious of me.

Friendship isn’t always easy. Being a mom seems rough sometimes, and great other times.

I see you. I love you. And I’m so fucking proud of you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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