Surely not one of us reading this set out thinking that parenting would be a breeze? We hear about sleep deprivation from the moment we announce that we are becoming parents. We know they'll be allowances. Even when we vow that parenting won't change us, we know, inside, that there has to be some.
But when they come, those changes can knock us off our feet. Emotions bowl us over. Assaults take place on our senses, our space, our sensibilities. Identities get as blurred as our sticky-fingered windows and our ideas can feel as muddled as the toy cupboard.
The daily grind of handling another little person or people without guidance, really, and without training, certainly, is endless, with even those who are trained as childcarers, psychologists or playworkers, claiming regularly that they feel under-equipped when they become actual parents.
So although we expected to change, expected some difficulties, it is not unusual for parents to feel like they are reaching their last limit. A lot. And when that happens, we become the parents we never bet on becoming. We yell, we complain, we silently rage. We loudly rage, we sigh, we hunch, we cry.
Oh, how we cry.
And most of us do this because parenting is way, way, way harder than we ever expected it to be. In a recent live call-in, Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn and Catherine Fischer of Hand in Hand Parenting discussed why parenting feels so overwhelming. They uncovered these 20 reasons why parenting often feels so much harder than we imagined.
Why Parenting is So Much Harder Than We Imagined
The Gap: The gap between what we imagine parenting to be and what parenting actually is can be huge. Huge, and disconcerting.
Mis-made Plans: Planning goes out of the window on a regular basis when it comes to parenting, and it starts early. How many of us got the labor we intended on? How many of our infant babies looked or acted how we'd imagined?
Is This Even my Child? You imagine him gurgling in your arms and falling to sleep. But he cries and cries and cries. You hoped she'd inherit your partner's easy-going disposition and your infectious giggle. You got a firecracker with a mean-sounding howl. You're an extrovert, they are introverted. Or, you're an introvert and they are extroverted. When our children react so differently from us in situations we can feel we fail at supporting them in the way they need.
Wow! She is so my Child! And vice versa, sometimes your child feels so familiar to you, or experiences so similar to yours that you find yourself triggered from upsetting times you thought you'd left behind in childhood. You can be all fired up emotionally, and sometimes you don't even know why…
Unforeseen Changes: Many times circumstances that we can't anticipate and have no control of affects us and our children and throws us off kilter. Life is a big fan of throwing curveballs.
Who's Right? From well-meaning members of the family to social media and sometimes even strangers we meet in the park, parents receive steady streams of conflicting information about raising children. And it leaves us baffled.
Yes. The Exhaustion: We knew we'd be tired. We hoped it'd be our baby sleeping through the night at two weeks, but five years on it's still a miracle if we get a whole night's undisturbed sleep. It's hard to function well when exhausted and it's hard to not be exhausted. Few non-parents get that.
Back to Work Hustle: So many of us return to work soon after having a baby that our bodies have barely recovered, let alone our frazzled minds. And then we have to divide our time between the needs of those we work with and a growing family at home.
Around the Clock Care: Those of us that do stay home find it a full-time job that never stops. (See exhaustion from earlier)
Who Cares? Few allowances are given for parents, whether we are at home or at work. We're all too busy leaning into whatever life throws at us. And it's lots!
Stress Effects: We worry a whole lot: Development, food, social graces, behavior, daycare decisions, school, homework, friends, limits. Stressors like these are a huge drain on energy.
Call Me Confused: A parent's day is peppered with requests, refusals, even orders fired at us from the little humans in our lives. Need to think? Very few places offer refuge. Who knew the door handle on a bathroom could jangle so loudly?
Good Call/Bad Call: Even a simple request to watch TV can send questions ricocheting through our minds: How much is too much? I watched TV and I did ok. No. I wasted my life watching TV. Current guidelines say TV could ruin our kids' concentration. Is this show even appropriate? Ditto snack food, gunplay, potty words and more. The back and forth is annoying even to us. And then they ask for the iPad…
Say What? Tantrums. Rudeness. Refusing to say sorry. Manners. Kicking and biting. Behaviors like these can have us questioning how we respond as parents. We hear our parents voices in our heads, we think how our friend might react, or that cool mom at the store who seemed to have it all so together. What would she say?
Say What? One More Time: We make a call on behavior and we give the limit, and things get worse. We are left wondering what we did wrong and if all we are ever going to do as parents is fail!
Avoiding Pain Points: We'd love to ask that cool mom at the store how she handles a tantrum. But that would mean we admit not knowing what to do ourselves. (Do her kids even have tantrums, we may wonder. They do!) It can make us cringe bringing up the pain points in our parenting, especially when other parents act like life is a breeze.
Dream Lives Bring Us Down: Social media images showing us preened got-it-together parents and their always adorable kids can negatively affect how we view our own family even when we recognize it as an edited version of perfection.
Living in Isolation: Many of us feel physically and emotionally isolated, with very few like-minded people to share with and learn from.
Hanging in the Balance: Work, rest, and play sounds like a simple concept. Until we make a stab at that kind balance and it falls flat. Again and again.
Endless Guilt: If we leave and go to work, or if we stay at home: Guilt. If we wash up and don't play, if we play and don't wash up: Guilt. Everywhere we look, there's guilt. Sometimes it feels like there's no way for us to do this parenting thing right.
That's 20 reasons why parenting feels so much harder than we thought it would. So how can we move forward?
The first thing to recognize is that it's not your fault. “It's a result of how the world treats parents,” says Catherine Fischer.
“We often feel like it's our fault, or we blame our children for making things difficult, we don't take into account the unrealistic demands that are placed on us as parents,” she says.
Every parent faces exhaustion, confusion, isolation, and guilt and knowing that you aren't alone can be reassuring. You can listen to Ravid and Catherine's re-play to get more strategies for times when parenting feels tough.
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