Photo: Roberto Caruso
My mother has always delighted in telling stories about what a challenging child I was. I grew up in a military family, so she was frequently tasked with solo-parenting duties while my father was travelling for work. I had a penchant for slipping from her grasp and running into men’s washrooms while we were out and about, throwing epic tantrums that involved hurtling myself around my room, and being all-around cheeky. (When she asked why my bedroom floor was covered in water, I held up my toy kettle and saucily asked, “Well, what do you put in your kettle?”)
And so it’s not surprising that she laughs when I share my own parenting tales of woe. It’s not that she’s not sympathetic, but rather that her feelings of vindication are just that much greater. Which is why I find myself logging on to my social media accounts to seek empathy from my wide circle of friends.
Facebook has always been part of my parenting landscape. When my first daughter, Violet, arrived three weeks early, I updated my status to read, “I had a baby last night. Totally weird and wildly wonderful.” It was purposefully vague, not indicating sex or name, and incited a cascade of comments. From then on, I was hooked. It was cute baby photos, fawning updates and Jolly Jumper videos all the time.
Then things got harder. We hit the terrible twos, had another daughter, June, and suddenly I regularly found myself full of frustration and anger, completely unsure whether I was doing anything right when it came to raising my children. Why wouldn’t they sleep? Why were they refusing meals that they’d eaten happily the week before? Why did they laugh in my face when I tried to discipline them?
I now use Facebook as an effusive vent for my rising mommy rage. Occasionally I aim for a comedic bent to my tirades, but sometimes I just fling my feelings online, laid bare for comment and commiseration.
The amazing thing is that so many of my fellow parents thank me for putting it out there. They’re comforted in the knowledge that they’re not the only ones whose toddlers are throwing entire bowls of food across the room. They see their own days reflected when I list the array of tantrums we’ve been assaulted with. And when they’re faced with bewildering moments trying to remember why they chose parenthood over a (seemingly) footloose child-free life, their feelings are validated by my similar musings.
Do I worry that my girls will one day find my cache of digital complaints? Nope. Not only do I keep journals for each of them that frequently expound on the challenges of parenting them, but I also make sure to pepper my sharing of low moments with the many wonderful times we spend together. Because, no matter how low the lows can be (Oh. So. Low.), the highs still make it all worthwhile.
For me, it takes a virtual village to raise a child.