Our Story Begins:
The Mommy Montage.. A Dad’s Perspective
I read an article recently published in the Atlantic that had me more than little conflicted.
The article, which has the best of messages, talks about the “mommy montage” and how not every parent sees raising their children as being a moment on “cloud nine.” The author, Jody Peltason, has, what I believe to be, a good message; that the bad memories make room in your synapses for the good memories, like first smiles and first steps.
But I have a different perspective than this, even. She’s correct about the fact that you put a “montage” of good memories together that eliminate the bad. What she doesn’t talk about is the unfortunate thought that seems to pervade the minds of non-parents: “It’s just so much work!”
Yes, kids are work. I never look at it that way. If I did, it would become work and I’d never understand what I had there in front of me.
I’m only 42. (Yes, 20 or 30-something parents… only!) My late-wife and I had our kids young . . . too young. At 24 I wasn’t ready to have a daughter, but we had her. That simple.
Want to know how much work that was?
Abbi, my oldest, was allergic to certain proteins. So breast milk, formula, soy formula, none of it worked. Abbi was like the little girl from The Exorcist; she would projectile vomit. My wife couldn’t handle the medical problems and she made me go into the room when they did an endoscope on Abbi’s gastrointestinal tract. I held the infant’s hand as they looked for bleeding in her colon. We had to make formula using pre-digested, expensive prescriptions and add oil, iron, and vitamins so her brain would continue to develop. I did it, it was a pain in the a**, but I loved her, unconditionally, and it was what I needed to do.
When my middle, Hannah, was born, my wife nearly died on the operating table. They’d used a drug to induce labor but it caused hyper-contractions and her uterus nearly burst during labor. They did a C-section and Andrea felt the scalpel cutting into her belly. After knocking her out, they operated; it looked like an episode of M*A*S*H with blood and organs everywhere.
Hannah was released from the hospital before Andrea. She contracted the virus RSV at two- weeks old, and her mom couldn’t get herself out of bed. I woke up to a baby who, from birth, fought with me. She had to have alburterol treatments to breathe and then eat and then go back to bed. In between, I’d lift her mother out of bed, take her to the bathroom and then bring her back. By the time I fell asleep, Hannah would cry and the whole thing would start over again.
Two years ago I told my children I thought their mom was getting better in the hospital. Just recently, I found a series of videos they’d made for her. They still tear me apart, so much so, I can’t even upload one of them for you to see here. When I collapsed in grief after seeing my wife pass away in front of my eyes I faced a bigger panic; telling those four children she wasn’t coming home.
I got home, gathered the four of them together, and watched the color drain from all four faces. Here I was, the guy who told them Mom was getting better, confirming their worst fears. She wasn’t ever walking through the door again, the last time they saw her was literally the last time they saw her.
Still, I looked at my kids and told them that we were all in the same place. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. I dealt with a broken arm; lack of a prom date; missing homework…all of it horrible amounts of work.
But ask me today what my greatest inspiration is and I’ll tell you those four kids.
Our entire lives are filled with these moments. Sure, it’s work. It’s a helluva lot of work! But I don’t call it work; I just do it. Sometimes I do it well. Sometimes I fail miserably, but I never, ever, tell those four that it’s too hard to do. It’s not their fault they have one parent. It’s not their fault if I fail.
It is mine.
What about you? Do you see parenting as work or as a part of life? Do you complain about how much work it is in front of your kids? Do you think about the message you’re sending them?
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.