Being a parent is not for the faint of heart, at all. Not even a little bit.
It’s a constant flip flop of your emotions, patience and energy. One day when the house is clean, and your kid remembers to say please and thank you and together you’ve cooked the perfect dinner, you’ll think: “This is so easy, I’ve got it all figured out, how could anyone complain about the challenges of having kids, what’s wrong with them?” Flash forward 24 hours and your kitchen is infested with ants, nobody is listening to you, and you are wondering if you can start the bedtime routine at 3pm. Answer: yes you can.
even the dog doesn't listen
They will test, push, frustrate and challenge you over and over and over again. They will put hair on your bare chest. They will not let up. They will break you.
Polite people don’t tell you this when you are contemplating having kids, or are already pregnant. They will tell you parenthood has its ‘ups and downs’ only to clarify, after the kid is already here, that children drive you insane like nothing else can.
It’s not about love. I love my son unlike any other human being on this planet. He grew in my body, has made my life infinitely better, and without a moment’s hesitation, I would give my life for his. Not even a question.
But that jaw-dropping ocean of love that you feel for your kid does not always smooth over the day to day absurdity that comes with being a parent. Being a mom or dad is the only thing you cannot walk away from (though, sadly, some people do). You can move to a new city, change jobs, remarry, and even have surgery to change your gender, but you can never ever go back to not being a parent. It just isn’t possible.
just like building something, parenting is a daily, long-term effort
Which means that for a good two decades (but really their entire life – or yours for that matter), you are pretty much wrapped up into every detail of their business (at least in the early stages). There are no breaks. None. Because even when they are at school for a few hours, you have to check your phone to make sure you don’t get the call that something has happened (no joke – the one and only time I turned off my phone when my son was at school, I missed the call that he needed to go to the ER for stitches).
Newborns eat every two hours (around the clock for the first 6 months), poop constantly and don’t sleep. Toddlers have to be watched every second so they don’t fall and kill themselves. Six year old boys have an entirely new set of requirements like dealing with them not sitting still and paying attention in elementary school (you mean this isn’t a running around free-for-all like preschool?).
You’re making breakfast, boxed lunches and getting them dressed at 7am; doing homework and a million other things at 3pm; and dishes, laundry and school paperwork at 10pm. In between you are also actually trying to have a life, and a marriage, and friendships, and volunteer, and an exercise routine, and healthy eating, oh, and pursue your passions and life purpose as well.
You are responsible for everything. Their health, education, happiness, physical and emotional development, socialization, playdate schedule, manners, dietary needs, creativity and overall well being. Everything. You don’t get weekends off, you don’t get nights off. Or mornings. When they are up sick at 3am five nights in a row, you don’t get to tell them to figure it out on their own. You don’t get to decide, “I don’t feel like being a parent this weekend, so I’m going to sleep in, ignore this little person in my house and do what I feel like doing.” Being a parent means that much of your time is spent doing what you don’t necessarily want to be doing. But you do it anyway, because you love them, and because it’s just part of the job.
And there’s a lot at stake – you are, after all, raising a human being with feelings and an emotional memory. Unlike other jobs (of which I’ve had many), it’s not the end of the world if there is a typo in meeting minutes, or if a plant in your landscape design dies, or if you are late. Those things may get you in trouble, but they are easily fixable and aren’t potentially fucking up the fragile, developing psyche of a child. Except for the rare occasion when we all lose our patience, on a day to day basis, you have to be calm, consistent, and clear all the time. You have to hold your ground when they melt down in the middle of a store and you have to stay patient when it takes them weeks, months or even years to grasp a concept that seems totally obvious and basic.
Having kids pushes you to your greatest limits and shows you what you are really made of. And even when my son is driving me crazy beyond belief (not listening for the 47th time that day), he gives me the opportunity to remember to enjoy things in the moment, because that’s all you’ve got. The love you have for your kid inspires compassion (and even humor, when possible) for the things that ‘need improvement.’ Children gift us with innocence, kindness and genuine love like no other.
We all find our way and we all work it out…eventually (at least I hope so!).
My son turns 7 next week and in spite of all the challenges that are inherent in the ‘job’ of being a parent, I love him more than I could ever say. I’m sure most people reading this would agree. We all love our kids like crazy, but it’s the job of raising them that makes us (sometimes) feel just a little bit crazy.
Happy holidays and happy parenting.
a slightly lop-sided family is still a happy family