WINTER SUNDAY: Mommy Culture And The Cold, Hard Truth

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Okay, full disclosure: I used to be that person, the one who cringed when the airplane seat next to me was occupied by an infant. The waitress who was unhappy when families and the ensuing mess were seated in her section. The diner at a nice restaurant who wondered why in the name of God the people next to her had to bring their crying, screaming kids with them. So of course I was amused by Allison Perry’s column in the San Juan Independent ranting about “Mommy Culture” and her dislike of the way parents feel entitled to special consideration. And six or seven years ago, I probably would have high-fived her for writing it.

That was before I had kids.

I still understand where she is coming from—I had my kids very late in life (when I was 38 and then 40), so I had plenty of years of feeling put upon and inconvenienced and even slightly jealous of the procreators of the world. But now I’ve experienced the other side of the equation, and I’m here to tell you: It isn’t pretty. You know that “grass is greener” saying? Well, in the interest of making all the non-parents or not-yet-parents appreciate the lushness of their turf, I’d like to give you a small glimpse of what Mommy Culture is really like.

Let’s start with the airplane gauntlet. The glares you get from half of the people aboard when you get on with your kids, the people who change seats so they don’t have to sit near you, the grimace from the flight attendants. If there were another option, I wouldn’t fly with my kids. A parents-only plane at twice the price? I’d take it. The last time I flew home my son puked all over me. Even after I did everything in my power to keep them occupied, quiet, and unobtrusive throughout the flight, I ended up covered in vomit in the only outfit I’d have until baggage claim. And no, my fellow passengers were not polite or understanding. They looked at me disgustedly, as if I’d murdered the freaking pope. Let’s just say that every flight is a stressful, painful, and dreaded experience for parents.

And then there’s the whole eating out thing. Also a nightmare. Either you are able to find a babysitter, making your night out three times as expensive, or you give it a shot with your kids and hope for the best. The best being that there is no embarrassing screaming or tantrum you can’t quell and that they will eat some portion of their meal and not spill their drink. And let me tell you, I know where every bar rag is located in every restaurant within a 50-mile radius. And while I sincerely appreciate the servers who present the drinks in spill-proof containers, the truth is that there is no such thing as a spill-proof container. They are only prolonging the inevitable.

There’s more to it, things you probably won’t understand until you have kids. The showers you don’t get to take for the first three years. The torture of a grocery-shopping trip—I think many moms have had to abort a trip and leave a cart full of items in the store and retreat to the parking lot in tears after a full meltdown in one of the aisles. Oh, and dragging your kids to the Magic Carpet or Lift 1, carrying their skis, and then trying to coax them to get up off the ground and stop crying, because skiing is fun! Being publicly humiliated is de rigueur, and I can’t think of a single dad who hasn’t been hit or kicked in the balls by a toddler who does not yet understand the sanctity of private parts.

None of this is meant to excuse people who feel like they can cut someone in line at the Coffee Cowboy because they are carrying an infant. Or anyone who feels entitled to special treatment when you are inconvenienced by what Allison so aptly names the “day-to-day shitshow that is raising children.” It is a shitshow, and I think I speak for lots of parents when I say that I’m truly sorry for the front row seat you have. The reality is that most of us do not expect any extra consideration because we have children. The predominant culture everywhere is that of grownups—every restroom has regular-sized toilets and faucets that are out of reach, every vehicle needs a special carseat for kids, etc.—and we understand that it is up to us to adapt. We understand that children are a choice and a blessing, and that it’s up to us to do the heavy lifting. All I ever hope for is not to be vilified, to be forgiven my failings during some of the shitshow scenes that don’t play out as I’d hoped. Remember, we’re all human. And once upon a time, all of us were the tiny human beings throwing tantrums, spilling drinks, kicking people in the balls, and embarrassing their own parents or caregivers. So muster all the patience you can, not for the sake of the imperfect parents, but for the sake of the imperfect kids who will hopefully someday grow up to be respectful, considerate adults.

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