Saying that parenting is difficult is much like saying that kale really doesn’t taste good unless doused n unhealthy stuff. It’s just a matter of fact.
Now, some people may feel guilty admitting it, but it doesn’t make that sentiment any less true or valid.
Of course, there are a zillion things that make child-rearing hard. From the expenses to the messes to the battles regarding everything from food to etiquette to driving – it’s simply not a walk in the park. (Which is yet ANOTHER thing that kids manage to ruin if they’re in one of their moods).
Jokes aside, I think the most difficult aspect of being a good parent has little to do with our interaction with our kids and must more to do with the internal battles we face with ourselves when deciding what MAKES us good parents.
Here’s the thing: Being a parent almost always comes with the caveat that you must give up SOMETHING. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, it can mean giving up your sense of independence. If you’re a hard-working parent, it can mean forgoing quality time with your little ones in order to provide a financially-stable, comfortable life. If you have certain passions or hobbies, having offspring can often impede time spent enjoying those things. Heck, sometimes giving up something can mean things as simple as sleep or your workout regiment.
I recently gave up my 9-to-5 job to start my own business and it’s exciting and stressful and time-consuming. It means spending every waking moment answering calls, finalizing details, attending to the website, doing marketing, writing blogs, replying to e-mails, and all the hundreds of other little things necessary to make a start-up successful.
But that also means being on my cell phone 24/7. It means having to sometimes skip family dinner or be on my computer as my son plays with his toys. It means having to tell him “mommy’s working” ad nauseum when he wants to play or resorting to throwing him in front of the television when I have a business call. As a result, it also leads to me breaking down in tears every so often because of the built-up, residual guilt.
I can’t explain to my toddler that I’m busting my butt for him. I can’t explain to him that I’m ignoring him to provide a better life for him in the future. It’s hard for me to justify that to myself and I’m a grown-up with a heightened sense of how the world works and what hard work entails. I’m perfectly aware I will never get these precious moments back with my little one and the sadness is deafening at times. The carnival of questions regarding my intentions and if I’m doing the right thing is one that never stops, and perhaps it never totally will.
What gives me peace of mind is knowing that, right now, out there, thousands of other parents are going through the same thing. Maybe not EXACTLY what I’m doing though, but something similar. Somewhere out there, there is a dad who works graveyard shifts to make ends meet that never gets to see his daughters. There is a neurosurgeon or lawyer who works such long and odd hours, he or she virtually misses all dinners and bedtime stories with the family. There is a stay-at-home mom who gave up a career she loved to selflessly devote her life to her baby. There’s a family out there in a warzone, trying to keep their kids alive in a religious battle they have no say or part in. There is a family who is going into extreme debt to cover the hospital bills of their chronically or terminally sick child. In other words, there are millions of parents dealing with millions of hurdles – all of which are very different than my own.
There are only two things that overwhelmingly unite all of us: Guilt that we’re not getting it right and the drive to keep doing it anyway because we have to. I believe most parents are just trying to navigate this crazy world as seamlessly as they can and make sure their kids are happy in the process.
So, if that means having to be on your computer doing business on family vacation or eating Ramen soup for a month to pay the electricity bill or for ballet classes, try and let go of the guilt that comes with those sacrifices. Try to remember what and for whom you’re doing all this for and stop being so hard on yourself.
Maybe you kids won’t understand right now the sacrifices you’ve made, but one day they will. One day they’ll thank you and appreciate that all of this was for their welfare. And, really, can you ask for anything more in an upstanding and good parent?