(Kveller via JTA) – I’m going to start with a confession: I am generally not a crier. I am a yeller whose operatic yawp can be heard for suburban blocks
However, parenthood has made me a crier. And by crying, I don’t necessarily mean with tears, even though that’s the most popular variety. When I say “crying,” I mean that feeling of your face crumpling up into unnatural shapes as you let down your proverbial hair. I mean when you feel that your emotions are collapsing one after the other, like a row of dominoes. I mean the sense that even though you are standing up, you have wrapped yourself up in a ball, wanting to find someone’s arms around you who can tell you with 100 percent, absolute certainty that Everything Is Going To Be OK.
But, alas, no one can really ever tell you that Everything Is Going To Be OK. So that’s why I prefer a different platitude: It’s All Right To Cry. And I’m not alone in my belief: There have been a spate of recent pieces about how its OK to cry at work. I’d like to up the ante and say, as a parent, it’s also OK to cry at life.
It’s OK to acknowledge that being a parent has entirely redefined your sense of self and the world. It’s very much all right to say that even though it may seem like you have your act together, there are moments – however frequent or infrequent – when you really, really do not.
I realize that crying makes us vulnerable. But I think it’s important. We cry – and cry in public – because it makes us more empathetic, more understanding and more human. As Rosey Grier famously sang on the “Free To Be You And Me” soundtrack: “It’s all right to cry – it might make you feel better.”
With that in mind, here’s a non-exhaustive list of the times and places I’ve shed tears since becoming a mom.
1. In my kitchen. I am not such a great cook, so the kitchen has been the scene of many disasters (and at least two visits from firefighters). But the time I allude to here is when my first son was not even 4 months old and I was in the kitchen “nook” of my 575-square-foot New York City apartment at 2:45 in the morning. I had just put the baby down. I was breastfeeding relentlessly because I had no idea what I was doing, and I assumed that anytime he cried he was probably hungry because, of course, I hadn’t talked to a lactation anyone, and of course I was convinced that I wasn’t producing enough milk, even though my kid weighed like 18 pounds. And did I mention I was feeding him all the time? So I was crying as I stood in my kitchen, staring at an old potholder. I was thinking about stabbing the potholder with a knife and whether that would make me feel better, or whether I was just supposed to accept that my life had now become nothing more than endlessly feeding a never-satisfied kid.
Then he started crying again, so we went off to cry together.
2. In the supermarket. We moved to the suburbs when I was pregnant with my second kid. It was winter, and I didn’t have friends, so I made constant trips to the supermarket. I cried as I put food in the cart because I was wondering why the reality of being married with a kid was so different from what I had imagined it would look like. As I perused the selection of frozen organic peas, I began to suspect that the reason it was so different from what I imagined was because I married the wrong person (years later, after I married the right person, I can now confirm this was the case). I bought endless groceries hoping I could make a dinner that would make us happy. (It didn’t work – see above.)
3. In the parking lot. Bringing us to the present day, this is a very convenient place to cry because you can stress out about almost anything – tuition, grades, how your child is losing friends because they’re doing drugs and he isn’t – all while you are waiting to schlep the kid. It is so efficient and convenient! It’s easy to make this a part of your routine – especially if you have a suburban teenager, in which case you may simply be crying over the fact that you’ve become less “first-tier confidant” and more “unpaid Uber driver.” Bonus: Your kids will likely not even notice you’ve been crying because they will be consumed by their own New Problems Of The Day. So easy.
4. In the ER. (This also includes On The Way To The ER, In The Waiting Room Of The ER, and finally/hopefully, On The Way Home From The ER.) These tears come from a sense of terror and helplessness that this child – the most important person in the world – is hurt or sick and you do not have the superpowers to heal them.
You are desperate and scared, and it’s particularly challenging because this is supposed to be Invisible Crying, so as to not let the kid know how upset you are at seeing blood all over her face/how pale he looks/how hard it is for him to breathe.
5. Sidewalk crying: My sidewalk crying mostly consists of tears of rage. These are usually prompted by straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back moments, like when the older sibling gratuitously drops the younger kid’s lollipop down a sewer grate. Or when, after walking through at least 10 blocks worth of wind and snow, you look down and realize your stroller passenger is only wearing one shoe. Or that moment when the 96th person in a single hour tells you, “Your baby should be wearing a hat.”
6. In the bathroom. Many varieties here. There’s the cathartic Shower Cry, where your self-pity echoes off the grungy tiles. There is the Take Deep Breaths And Collect Yourself Before You Go Back Out There To Screaming Children Cry. And, of course, there is the ultimate release of the Toilet Cry, where you marvel that, even here, you are multitasking.
7. In front of hundreds of people. These are tears of happiness, as this cry occurs at a graduation, a Bar or Bat mitzvah, a wedding or a performance. This generally means that you are overcome by how much you love the kid up on the stage or bimah – but it’s messy, nonetheless.
JORDANA HORN is a contributing editor to Kveller. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, the Forward and Tablet. She has appeared as a parenting expert on the “Today” show and “Fox and Friends.”
Kveller is a thriving community of women and parents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens. Visit Kveller.com.