The Incredibly Difficult Thing About Being A Parent
I’ve no doubt that there are many different stages of being a parent as you and your child grow and age. As a mom of a baby and a toddler, I clearly do not yet have the experience and wisdom of every stage. I do however, have some perspective and an opinion of what is one of the biggest challenges to being a “new” parent.
The “new” parent
For me, being a “new” parent is hard. Two pregnancies, two deliveries, and a combined 3 years of “child rearing” have been every bit of a humbling experience. I know, I know, and I’m “only at the beginning”. Everyone knows there are plenty of amazing moments of being a mom or dad. Those moments are high-lighted and shown all over the media. Those moments are easy to talk about, easy to share, easy to click “like” on Facebook. What about the flip side of that coin? Are we all saintly Mary Poppins parents; singing our way through our days, never without patience, joy, and a glowing smile? Heck no.
The post, postpartum
I think it’s time to draw attention to the stage beyond the allotted “postpartum” time frame, when you still have moments or days where you feel like anything but Mary Poppins. The stage that creeps up AFTER, you’ve mastered the diaper change on the moving target, AFTER you can get out of the house in under 30 minutes, and AFTER you’ve succeeded in finding that vegetable they’ll actually eat. Or maybe it comes even later, when like me, you loved having one baby so much you decided to have two. The timing is all relative. At some point you feel like you’re struggling, like you’re getting burned out, worn down, used up. You’re normal. You’re not “failing” at being a parent. For all the reasons to feel this way (and there are MANY) I believe the biggest one is that you’re in mourning. Say what now? Keep reading.
No one died, but there’s still a loss. At the risk of sounding dramatic; you’re mourning the loss of yourself. YOU are changing, the old you is fading away and being replaced by a new you, with new priorities, skill sets, and new ways to spend your weekends. Sure these changes can be positive (more patience, new values,and a whole bunch of tricks for distracting a toddler out of an epic tantrum) but your day-to-day life and hobbies change too. I really thought I was going to maintain all my hobbies with child-in-tow…rock climbing, kayaking, beach trips, camping. I even swore I would never drive an automatic or a minivan. Have you even seen a 4 month old rock climbing? Do you think a fidgety toddler will sit in a kayak? A crawling baby not try to eat all the sand at the beach? Or actually sleep in a tent when they don’t sleep through the night in their temperature-controlled comfy room? Forget about shifting gears, you need a hand free to guzzle coffee, hunt for a dropped pacifier and wow EVERY car should have sliding doors! For the all preparations I made for the arrival of our baby I wasn’t prepared for the changes in myself. So when I found myself thinking “wow parenting is harder than I thought” I took a look at myself, and I suddenly realized why. I loved my old self. With my minimal patience, lack of parenting skills, and different weekend “to-do” list, I was perfectly content with the way that I was. Even with new positive attributes, I find myself missing myself and my old life before I had any kids.
Stages of Grief
Sometimes identifying an issue, inspecting it, and understanding it, can be one of the best ways to dissolve it and be able to move on. Take a look at how these changes and resulting feelings can be applied to the stages of grief:
Denial-Having kids isn’t changing my life at all, I’ll still do all the things I used to do.
Bargaining-Maybe I shouldn’t have had kids? Maybe I’m not good at this?
Depression-Ugh I really miss [this hobby], [this time in college], sleeping in until [this time]. All my nice clothes have baby puke on them…
Anger-I’m stuck in this groundhog day routine of endless diapers! I REALLY need a vacation! Will this ever get any easier?
What you can do about it
Acceptance-Accepting changes in your life and yourself isn’t easy, even when those changes might be “for the better.” Reshaping yourself and embracing and accepting the “new you” may take some time.
- Be kind to yourself–It’s OK to feel all the things above, they don’t make you a bad parent, they make you human.
- Relate to others–Keep checking in to the Need to Relate section of this site and view and vote in the Honesty Polls, or subscribe and we’ll let you know when there’s new material. Speak out in the comments section and let others relate to you.
- Say it out loud-Don’t bottle up these emotions. Chances are your spouse misses his old life too and you can bond over the honesty.
- Make a bucket list-Sit down and make a list of all your life aspirations. The list will help to remind you of yourself when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all-things-kids, and give you great goals for your future (with kids AND after they turn 18).
- Try one of these 20 Ways to Recharge From Your Young Kids.
- Make changes but don’t give up or get lost- Postpone or downsize your hobbies. Don’t give up on them entirely because your hobbies, while maybe no longer defining you, are still something you love to do and can can be a great occasional “breath of fresh air”.
- Instead of a dinner date, have a date-day on the weekend and go for a hike.
- For a sport like rock climbing that you can’t commit to now, add it to a future bonding activity with your child when they’re older.
- Or keep it all to yourself but alleviate stress by giving yourself a future “start again” date.
- Get a magazine subscription to a favorite hobby to keep you mentally engaged even if you can’t physically go do that hobby
- Add hobbies and locations to your bucket list:List of beaches to visit some day…
- Find a new hobby that doesn’t take up much time or finances photography, scrapbooking, puzzles, etc.