The Horney Village
When parental ‘chutzpah’ meets reality
By Jessie Horney
My oldest child is 5 years old, so in terms of parenting advice, I’m your basic punch line. My friends and I talk about raising our children every time we’re together, but most of us are early on in the journey, babes in the woods with nothing but our flashlights and instincts to guide us. And by instincts I mean parenting books, research articles, and stories we heard from other people. I laugh when someone asks me for advice because I know I’m about 40 years away from having any real perspective on all of this, but I also love to engage in the fray with other parents.
There’s just no way to prepare someone for parenthood. It’s like explaining what it will feel like to survive a plane crash (grateful, but mangled). At baby showers they make you go around the circle and share advice for the new mom; find out you’re pregnant and suddenly aunts have opinions, grandparents have opinions, siblings have opinions; you turn on podcasts, read parenting blogs, and think you’re gathering up everything you need to raise a child. Even during those first few years with your first child, you might think you’re nailing it. You ask yourself, “Why did everyone warn me about this? Parenting is easy.” And then maybe you even have a second baby, and for the first few months you ask yourself, “Why do people complain about their kids? Glad I know what I’m doing!”
But I have a theory about all that parental chutzpah, that unrelenting smugness of new parents. It’s all gonna end. Whether it’s our first child that breaks us, or our second (nobody makes it to the third fully intact), our ideals will crack just like the precious organic toys we bought for our precious organic offspring who are now throwing those precious toys across the room. And there is a deep, wicked part of me that loves when parents finally have to parent, when they finally have to drag a crying child out of a store or admit publicly that their kid will only eat chicken nuggets, not all those green smoothies and avocado rolls they pinned and planned and Instagrammed.
It’s not that I’m rejoicing in their pain or laughing from afar. It’s that I’m thankful for the chance to actually connect. Because it is impossible to raise children with people who won’t be honest about raising children. And honestly, we all did it. We all said we wouldn’t have a house full of toys, and that our kids would never talk to us like that, and that our babies would sleep because we would create the perfect sleeping environment, and our kids would work around our schedules, and oh my gosh, remember how dumb we were? Now that we know, let’s be fair to each other.
There’s a lot of talk lately about missing the “village,” about the loneliness of modern parents. Parenthood today isn’t a support group, it’s a beauty pageant, complete with swimsuit and talent competitions. But in all that striving to outdistance one another, we overlook the final result: distance. We are far apart, and we are lonely. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, like our digital lives replacing personal relationships, or playing in our fenced backyards instead of out front with our neighbors, or the image we work so hard to keep up; most of our loneliness is self-induced. We know that if we let people too close, they’ll know the truth, which is, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Yes, the village is helpful, but the village is also observant.
I started writing my blog after my daughter was born to create an honest online space. My blog title, “Horney Mom Tells All,” wasn’t just a joke — it was true. I write about everything (while trying to maintain some privacy for my children) and I am continually surprised at the response to that kind of transparency. When I write about being seen in my underwear at Albertsons or the fact that the baby’s first sentence was “That’s mean, Mama,” people aren’t just laughing — they’re relieved. When I write heartfelt posts about the dichotomy of mourning my kids’ swiftly passing childhood but also anxiously awaiting the day they stop spilling water at every meal, the halls of the internet echo with a loud “Me too!”
I believe in the village, in person and in print. But I also know what it requires. I write not just for the sake of catharsis, but for the sake of community. I won’t lie to you. I’ll let you know that nighttime at our house looks like a version of the shell game, where I wake up and have no idea who is in what bed in any room by morning. I’ll also tell you that I’ve never been more myself than I am now, joyfully struggling through this season of young motherhood with my three beautiful kids. If I could make a line of greeting cards for new parents, I would make one that said on the outside, “Congratulations on a lifetime of heartache!” And then on the inside, “This will be the bravest love you’ve ever known.”
I’m new to this magazine — that’s my family on the cover — and I’m excited for this small space each month to share about life in a way that makes you laugh, cry, and look around whatever waiting room you’re in (where you are assuredly only reading this because your phone battery is low), and want to shout out to the strangers around you, “Me too!” (And then have to explain that you don’t mean the other “Me too” — the one with the hashtag. Good luck with that.)
See you around!
Jessie Horney is a freelance writer. Find her at www.horneymomtellsall.com.