You Don't Have to Love Being a Parent All The Time
It’s okay to not like being a parent sometimes! Parenting is hard. It can be stressful, overwhelming, gross, and even boring sometimes. In my office moms and dads are constantly articulating feelings of guilt when they are frustrated, angry, or annoyed with their children. This is nothing to feel guilty about. Our kids challenge us and test us and we wouldn’t be human if we loved this.
We see diaper commercials where babies are blissfully snuggling and cooing with their parents. These images create an impossible idealization of parenthood where children are calm and parents are in constant bliss. These moments do exist and they are amazing. What the commercials don’t show, however, is the crying before the cooing and the blow out diaper that comes after. Parents in these commercials don’t look tired, and they are not surrounded by a house that needs to be cleaned. Commercial parents are not living in reality.
In reality, babies will grow into toddlers who will test every ounce of patience their parents have. There will be tantrums over EVERYTHING. These toddlers will grow into children who will have to learn to manage making friends, homework, and bullies. These children will grow into teenagers who will once again test every ounce of their parents’ patience and who will often leave their parents feeling scared and worried. With all these difficult stages of parenthood how could anyone be expected to love it all the time?
When we put the unrealistic expectation on ourselves that we should love being a parent we are setting ourselves up to fail. NO ONE loves being a parent all the time. Give yourself a break and understand that it’s okay to wish your children away sometimes as long as you still take care of them. When speaking about parenthood a client asked me, “So this is it? This is really what parenting looks like?” The simple answer is yes, this is it. The better answer is that parenting often does not match the idealizations we had for it. However, while parenting can be beyond stressful, it can also be rewarding in ways we could never expect. When we learn to savor and celebrate those moments we learn to enjoy parenthood.
Think back to a special memory you have with your children. Maybe it was their first step, a family vacation, or that time they told you that you are the best mommy or daddy in the world. When we take the time to think about these moments we can’t help but smile. In these moments our hearts are so full of love and joy. It is in these moments we truly love being a parent and we truly love being with our children. These moments make parenting rewarding, fulfilling and so worth it. They don’t erase the rest of it, but they give us a reason to wake up everyday and look forward to the amazing memories we will make.
What can you do to manage the struggles between the bliss? First, remind yourself it’s okay to struggle. Take deep breaths when it gets hard and know that each tantrum is temporary. Second, make sure to ask for help. Whether it’s from your spouse, your family, or hired help make sure you find it somewhere. Parenthood is never ending and always exhausting, and sometimes you just need a break! Third,take care of yourself. Whether that means exercise, going to therapy, or going for coffee with your friends, you need to make time for YOU. It is in self-care that we regenerate our strength to go back into the parenting arena. Lastly, take time to celebrate the awesome moments. I like to keep a gratitude journal where I write down all the positives of the day. My husband loves to watch videos of our boys on his phone to remember the funny things they do. Whatever you do, take time to celebrate the great memories and remind yourself that it’s because of your strength, perseverance, and love these memories were made.