Paradoxes of parenthood: Louie CK as guru

How this guy empowered me to embrace the paradoxes of parenthood


Early in my mom years, I heard the well-known bit from Louis CK about the many paradoxes of parenthood. He explained that , even though he loves his kids intensely, being a parent is sometimes boring, and often absurd. It has the potential to turn your brain inside out. It reveals your own limitations. It humbles you like nothing else. Every day, you bear witness to your own imperfections, ways of being that are so unlike the ideal parent you thought you’d be.

Like most of us, Louie had notions of how he would be different (and better) than the people he saw around him. Before he became a dad, he would judge other parents about what he thought were the wrong ways of parenting. Simultaneously, he smugly assured himself that when he became a parent, he would be better. He would patiently answer all his kid’s questions.  He would be there to meet his children’s curiosity and let it flourish. But he wasn’t that person and now he was reckoning with the reality of who he was becoming. 

Suddenly he understood those he judged.

It’s unlikely that Louie meant to become a parent mentor, but this went viral for a reason. People need to hear that they are not alone in the challenges of day-to-day experience of parenthood. Since having kids is what you’re supposed to do, how hard can it be. And yet, since there is no prior training, it can be hard as hell. Parenthood  evokes a whole host of contradictory emotions–deep love, vulnerability, helplessness, frustration, anger. It’s overwhelming and for many, these feelings are too hard to talk. When Louie says that sometimes kids can be a-holes, I laughed. Hard. I had never heard someone say it and I was feeling it. because no one really prepared me for feeling this way about my child.

Louie’s humor was opposite to the precious person I thought I would be (If I met my former self I would give her a smack down!). It allowed me to express myself honestly without thinking I was betraying children everywhere. Parenting is hard, and judging by Louie’s millions of views on Youtube, many agree.

Louie’s raw take on parenting gave me something I never thought I’d need prior to having children: permission to be as good as I could be that day. Prior to becoming a mom, I thought I would be an earth mama who was patient, creative, and screen-free. Turns out that in addition to those things, I am other things too. I am flawed. I make mistakes, many of them. I am irreverent even though I love  my kids and kids generally.

I have since heard Louie in interviews and when he describes the birth of his children, he gets so choked up he can’t talk. It’s clear from his work that he loves his kids fiercely, but that doesn’t insulate him from the rough stuff that parenting means; you can be successful in other aspects of life, you can love the shit out of them, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel inadequate.

I’m finding that the people I jive with the most are the ones who I can share this realization, that momming is hard work. With them, I don’t have to worry about judgement and I can explore questions like: What if no matter how hard I try, my children will still remember the times I messed up?

Good parenting isn’t about striving to be the person you thought you would be, and then beating yourself up a hundred times a day for not being her. Good parenting is showing up daily the best we can. But good parenting is also about learning to tolerate our imperfections, the parts of ourselves that aren’t at all ideal and letting them exist without suppressing them. In doing so, there is the potential for personal evolution that from the outside, I couldn’t have foreseen. Who knows, maybe parents willing to witness the ugly challenges of life also set their kids up to be more honest and accepting of the paradoxes inherent in personhood.

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