I have three gorgeous nephews ages 4, 3, and 6 months. They are charming and hilarious and bright. They are also little tornados, swirling and twirling into my childless world, leaving a path of cuteness and destruction in their wake. And by destruction I mean sticky handprints on my walls, a need to do more laundry in a day than I do in two weeks, and attention stealing laughter and tears in spaces usually reserved for adults only. I love them to bits. But I also find the worst of me brought out in their presence. I am fiercely judgmental of their parents and am finding it increasingly difficult to keep my mouth shut.
I am keenly aware that my type A personality puts me at great risk of being an absolute jerk. I am conscientious to the point of it being a negative quality. I think I know far more than I actually do. I love being right. Ultimately, it will be an ongoing challenge for me to refrain from becoming an overbearing helicopter parent. Thank goodness my glorious husband is my exact opposite and will help to tip the parenting scales to a more compromising and realistic middle ground.
My nephews’ parents are very different from us (Overarching Judgement: “MY way is the RIGHT way“). Their values and laissez-faire parenting philosophy are much different from my own. Watching them parent is extremely frustrating for me and I find myself being unfairly passive aggressive towards them. Yesterday we had birthday dinner for my brother-in-law at an expensive Italian restaurant the size of a living room. The children were invited of course (Judgment #1: some restaurants are not acceptable for children). My 4-year-old nephew has an obsession for Coca Cola and I refuse to ever let him have any of mine (Judgment #2: children should have limited access to sweets) but his parents and grandparents are happy to give him as much as he wants. The kids are “free range eaters” meaning they spend dinner time running circles around the table while their mother spoon feeds them each lap (Judgment #3: meal time is an opportunity for structure and role modelling manners). I could feel the eyes of the other diners upon us. My eldest nephew lost a quarter I gave him under another diner’s table and burst into tears when I declined giving him another one (Judgment #4: children learn from natural consequences.) Grandpa immediately interrupted the other diners’ expensive meal to have them search under the table for the quarter. I stewed in my toxic frustration throughout the meal and could not get out of there soon enough. My bitchy face of judgment and resentment felt impossible to hide. On the way home (830pm), my sister-in-law texted me a photo of the children drinking their slurpees (Judgment #5: see Judgment #2.) Don’t worry! The irony of anonymously voicing my scathing judgements but then condemning my thoughts like some insightful saint in a posting is not lost on me. Being judgemental is exhausting!!
Back at home with my husband, I erupted in frustration. “If I was lucky enough to have three children, I would never **insert judgement here, and repeat until rage has subsided**” After adequate amounts of validation and empathy, my brilliant husband reflected that our infertility contributes to our difficulty in understanding and accepting other parenting styles. My monologue of bitchiness was immediately silenced. He is absolutely right. I have not yet been blessed with the opportunity to parent and my vision of this experience is highly idealistic. Many parenting fails will be in my future and I would be mortified to be judged in the same way I have been evaluating my in-laws. They are entitled to parent however they see fit (even if I don’t agree….gasp!!!).
I am trying to find some middle ground with this new insight – I am entitled to my feelings around infertility and the loss of not being a parent. BUT, I am not entitled to punish others for my loss. I know this will be a work in progress for me and will involve setting boundaries. I know the environments where my interactions with the kids are joyful and fulfilling and I am very much aware of settings where I leave feeling overwhelmed and drained. I would much rather feel guilty for saying “no” than participating and seething with resentment after.
A few weeks ago, I let my husband know that I had been blogging for the past few months and forwarded him the link. He was very supportive. He suggested that I should write on the topic of being a non-parent who is a parenting judger! Hubby and I would love to hear from others about their experiences interacting with parents and whether you feel your infertility journey impacts those relationships. How have you coped? Any helpful nuggets of wisdom for us?