Remember that day? The moment in the bathroom with the pregnancy test, or at the doctor’s office for the confirming test. The moment the adoption papers were signed. The moment you found out you were going to become a parent. It was a rush of emotions, all those feelings of excitement and joy tangled up with a few random strands of anxiety.
Occasionally you’d understand there might be hard times. But mostly you imagined the wonderful things. The smiling faces, cute clothes, tiny baby shoes, restful nap times, and hilarious play dates … all with a sunshiny background.
What. Ever. Once the child arrived, you wised up pretty fast. Reality hit. The hard times became the norm. You figured out that parenting was hard, y’all.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am not complaining about being a parent. I am beyond thankful — every day — for my kids. I love that we get to be parents and watch these four once-little blessings grow into adults. But honestly, parenting turned out to be way different than I thought it would be when we started. I’ll bet it was the same for you, too. Here’s how …
Once you think you’ve got one problem figured out or one behavior conquered, kids change things up and you have to start all over again. It turns out kids are actually little people with their own minds making their own decisions. Who knew?
It’s hard to balance.
We want to give our kids fun things but not turn them into spoiled brats who think they are entitled to every new toy that comes out. We want them to have fun and be silly — we want them to be kids — but also teach them there is a time for respect and calmness. We want some peace and quiet. NOW.
It creates self-doubt.
You’ve asked all these questions and so have I: Am I a good mom? Am I buying the right food? Are they going to the right school? Are they in the right sports or music program? Did I raise my voice too much? Am I messing up my kids? These questions will always be there, because we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re making it up as we go along.
Wow. Don’t ever watch the news. It’s hard to know when to let them explore and learn on their own and when to be worried about their safety.
How does the responsibility of raising little human beings all day make me more tired than when I worked an 8-5 office job? Babies require almost non-stop care. Kids need supervision and lots of instruction. And whatever teens don’t require in supervision, they counteract with far more anxiety and worry. Do I look as tired as I feel? I hope not.
It’s an emotional roller coaster.
Some days are great. Some days are awful. Sometimes we love our kids more than anything. Some days we wonder why we wanted them in the first place.
It causes guilt.
Guilt over not being home enough. Guilt over spending more time with one child than another. Guilt over having only one child. Guilt over not really liking this baby who will not stop crying. Guilt over not feeling like a wife anymore because we are always in “mommy mode.” Guilt about writing that sentence in the previous paragraph about wondering why we wanted kids anyway.
It creates pressure.
Pressure to be the best parent. To buy the healthiest, most organic food. To have the smartest kids with the best grades. To have the best athlete … because of course they started playing as a three-year-old. To give the best birthday parties. (OMG don’t get me started on this crazy-making Pinterest topic.)
It makes us competitive.
Mommies can be mean. There are very few “we are all moms so let’s be supportive of each other” clubs. Instead, there’s resentment, ugliness, judgment, and competition. I did not expect that.
Yes, parenting is tougher than we thought. But even though there are days when we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, these days generally don’t outnumber the good days. They don’t replace the laughter and joy of raising children. They don’t make us want to turn back the clock and make different choices. They just force us to be honest and admit, “This is a bigger challenge than I expected.”
Parenting is hard enough already. Let’s quit making it harder. As parents, let’s support each other. Let’s extend a little more grace. Let’s go a little easier on ourselves — and other parents — as we navigate these choppy parenting waters.
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