The other day, someone sent me a rather angry email calling me out for complaining too much about parenthood. The email, while hurtful, also made me think.
Do I complain too much about parenting? Am I too quick to focus on the bad and overlook the good? Or maybe parenting is really not that hard and I really am a horrible, selfish person?
I’m not sure, so I decided to round up what I think are the hardest parts about parenting–and you tell me. Would you agree or do I have it all wrong?
There’s no way to know if you’re doing a good job.
With so many different types of parenting out there in the world, not to mention different upbringings, cultural beliefs, and personalities, no two–or single–parents raise their children in the same way. And honestly, what works for one child may not work for the next, even in the same family. So there’s no real way to know if you’re doing what’s best for your child–there’s no “do X,Y,Z and then you will raise a happy and healthy kid, yay!” You just have to keep trusting your instincts, growing and learning, and hope for the best.
Just when you think you’re getting the hang of things …
A new phase of parenting begins. For example, just when I started to feel like I’ve mastered the world of newborns and toddlers, my oldest started school. What the what? A whole new world. And now that I’m feeling recovered from giving birth and getting into a routine with the baby, my two-year-old is acting in out a way I’ve never encountered. And someday, when my husband and I will finally feel like we’ve mastered the world with four young kids, they will turn into preteens–and we’ll have no clue what we’re doing all over again.
Newborns don’t give you a lot back.
I love the newborn phase, I really do. Even though, I generally feel like an oversized blob who will never wear real clothes again, there’s nothing I’ve loved more than soaking up every minute of cuddling with my babies. But, I’ll say that when my babies have hit around six or seven weeks and given me those first “real” smiles, my heart has soared–and I realized just how hard it can be to give and give and give as a parent without knowing if they love you back. It’s a lesson in realizing that all it takes is one smile and I’m good to go. (Filing away that reminder of when they loved me so much, in my back pocket, for the teen years.)
It’s never what you think it’s going to be.
A good rule of thumb as a parent is to pretty much expect your kids to act the opposite of what you plan on. Going out to dinner and hoping they will behave? They will more than likely pick that night to throw the world’s biggest tantrum. Have an important conference call and think you can sneak away for 10 minutes? It will be the only time in their lives when the TV will fail to entice them. It’s just the way it goes, my friends.
This one ranks as one of the top offenders, because it really is so hard to deal with. Every parent has felt some sort of parenting guilt, whether you’ve made the mistake of missing your daughter’s letter to Santa in her stocking (sob), hearing a little cry of “Please don’t go to work, Mama!”, or escaping to dinner with your spouse only to spend the whole time missing the kids. Parenting guilt is just part of the game and it can be tough to learn how to live with it–without letting it overwhelm you.
The loss of identity.
Of course, parenting brings us an entirely new side to our identity, but even now, after four kids and six years in the parenting trenches, every now and then I find myself struggling with the question of “who am I?!” It’s hard, as a mother, especially, because we’re expected to settle naturally and gracefully into our roles as mothers and yet not to be too entirely defined by it. A “good” mom these days still takes time for herself and remembers to exercise and go on date nights and doesn’t let having kids ruin all her fun. But let’s face it–doing all of that for ourselves takes work too, so finding time to figure out who we are–with, and without kids–isn’t always easy, either.
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