The Challenges & Feelings of Parenthood (That Aren’t Always Talked About)

I am 9 years and 4 kids into my journey of parenthood and the only thing I know for certain is that IT IS HARD!

I’ve finally accepted that it may never become easy, just different, some points will be even harder than they are now. Some parts better.   It will be an ongoing lifelong learning process.

parenthoodThis is the only picture I could find with all 4 kids. Seriously, can’t you just smile & look at the camera for one picture with Mom?!! 

A few weeks ago I saw an old friend who is 18 months and 1 toddler into her journey. She commented on how she wasn’t prepared for how hard parenthood could be and how alone she felt.

There isn’t much I know, but I do know that SHE IS NOT ALONE! Often we don’t talk about the challenging parts of parenthood. Just look on Facebook and it seems like everyone has perfect kids and are the best, loving parents ever. I am guilty, as well. I don’t want to publicly admit that sometimes I am not a great mom and may not have it together, after all.

My sister, who also has 4, and I joke about how our friends always comment “I don’t know how you do it!” We laugh and think, if they only knew! And how one day we were going to post a picture on Facebook of Starbucks and wine and say “THIS IS HOW YOU SURVIVE 4 KIDS!” :)

I know we aren’t the only ones who admit to the challenges of parenting. The many challenges.

The sleep deprivation and exhaustion that comes with an infant. Well, really everything that goes along with being a parent for the first time.

The constant demands of little kids. It seems they always want or need something!

Figuring out discipline, food, education and activities. There are so many different recommendations and parenting styles, it can be overwhelming!

Staying at home, working from home, going back to work, full-time, part-time, trying to figure out the best situation for your family.

Figuring out childcare or date nights or how much you can afford to get away when you have to pay $20/hour for a sitter.

The whining and fighting and sibling rivalry. That is enough to put you over the edge!

Providing for your kids, without spoiling or entitling.

The logistics of multiple children and multiple car seats and laundry and food and activities and constant chauffeur mode and homework and expenses.

Hoping there won’t be a tantrum or meltdown at the store.

The list really is endless.

And in reality, these things are talked about and blogged about and written about in books.

But, what isn’t discussed as often is the myriad of feelings that appear the minute you become a parent. At least, that is something that I wasn’t prepared for and something that is a constant struggle.

The extreme love when first meeting your baby. Or NOT feeling a connection when you meet your baby.

The not-so-pleasant feelings that you experience – irritation, anger, impatience, frustration. 

And how guilty you feel for having those feelings. Guilt when you know you make the wrong decision. Guilt for going back to work or not going back to work. Guilt for yelling. Guilt for being gone too much or being home too much. Guilt for leaving for dinner with friends or date nights. Guilt for feeding your kids unhealthy foods or letting them watch too much TV or playing on the iPad too long or telling them they can skip brushing their teeth if they promise to go right to sleep.  There are so many things parents can feel guilty about. Guilt galore!

The lack of confidence that goes along with parenting.  You can follow your intuition, but second-guessing your decisions seems to happen often.   Do you ever really know if you are making the right decision?

Embarrassment during a tantrum or being on the spot having to discipline your child in front of others.

Being judged by family, other parents, and strangers on your parenting. You can be confident in your parenting, but it still doesn’t feel good if you think you are being judged.

Feeling inadequate if you compare yourself to other parents. The ones who seem to have it all together – or even the ones who don’t, but have one thing that is better.

The boredom that can go along with being a stay-at-home-mom. It’s not the boredom of not having anything to do, because the to-do list is never-ending whether you work or stay at home, but only taking care of the house and kids can be mind numbing! At least if you don’t make time for your own interests. Since Gracie was born this is the first time that I have ever been at home full-time, at least without part-time work, and definitely struggle with this and of course, feel guilty for it, since I know it is a blessing many parents would love to have!

Having the “grass is greener” feeling. When they are little, you want them to grow up; when they grow up, you want them to be little again. When you stay at home, you wish you were at work; when you work, you wish you were at home. It’s sometimes hard to enjoy the moment – whatever moment that may be.

Being overwhelmed with the amount of things that need to be done. The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the errands, the bills, work outside the home, balancing friends and family and volunteering and having time for yourself. Not to mention being completely responsible for these little people who will turn into big people who you will continue to worry about.

It seems the worry that goes along with being a parent, never ends. I watch my dad worrying about his 3 grown daughters constantly. As much as we tell him not to, he worries. He gets it from his father, who on his deathbed a few months ago, apologized for leaving him. He is probably still worrying about my dad!

The multitude of feelings when your 5-year old tells you “I hate you! You are not like a mom, you are like a robber! Mean!”

Or even worse, when among the many things to focus on and worry about, you decide the most important thing is that your kids feel unconditional love, and then you hear from them – “You don’t even love me!”

That is crushing. It is also part of parenthood.

It’s remembering that YOU ARE THE PARENT! You are the role model. You will feel so many things every day – many positive, but also negative. You may even feel like you are going crazy.

But, the important thing is to control your own feelings, so you can help your children understand their feelings. I know my daughter doesn’t hate me, but the feelings of hate when I made her turn off the TV were real to her.

Then there are the positive feelings. The love & happiness when your 4-year old tells you she loves you “A million billion thousand thirteen nineteen twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three.” And the relief when she says, “Mommy I love you even when I say mean words to you.”

The pride. Awe. Wonder. Amazement. Contentment. Peace. Joy. Did I say love and happiness?!

There are so many positive feelings that come along with parenthood, but those are easy. It’s the negative feelings that are hard.

A few months after my 4th was born and on the day my sister had her 4th, I wrote this post of becoming a less stressed parent. It was in response to a study that said parents with 3 kids were the most stressed and parents with 4 or more were less stressed.

I said…

I am only 3 months in to being a mom of 4, although it is very busy, I am enjoying motherhood more now. In a way, I do feel less stressed.

Maybe it’s because I finally realize that all that truly matters is that my kids are loved unconditionally.  I don’t need to be a perfect mom. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to parenthood anyway.

And no matter how many kids we have, all we can do is love them with all of our heart, try our best each day, forgive ourselves for those horrible days that we have, and never feel guilty for taking care of ourselves.

I think those are important things to remember, but it doesn’t prevent the myriad of feelings and challenges and overwhelm that go along with being a parent. And 8 months later, amongst all those feelings and a husband who will pretty much be gone until April, I need that reminder. In fact, I have decided that it is okay if you need to remind yourself to be positive every minute of every day if you are struggling as a parent.

I heard this psychologist talk last week about editing your life stories to create happier endings. The part that stood out the most was an intervention he did with college freshman who thought “I am bad at school”, which typically leads to a self-defeating cycle that keeps them struggling.

When he told them, “Everyone fails at first,” and gave them stories of others who had struggled with grades first, but then improved, they were more likely to stay in school.

I am sharing all of these challenges and negative feelings about parenthood not to complain, (well, maybe to vent a little!), but mainly because I want other parents (and parents-to-be) to know that no matter what stage of parenthood you are in, whatever feelings & challenges you are experiencing, it IS hard and YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I know every stage of parenthood will bring its own set of challenges, but maybe if we are prepared that it will be hard and that we will experience a range of feelings and that we are not alone, and more importantly, that there are positive ways to handle the feelings and experiences of parenthood, it will be a little easier.

I have a long way to go in my journey of parenthood and I want to be prepared! Little kids are demanding and exhausting, but nothing scares me more than thinking about when they are off on their own, making their own decisions and choices and I will truly find out if I made the right choices as a parent or not.

I would love to hear what is most challenging for you about parenthood, especially those with older kids.

I think it is really important to be prepared, to acknowledge, and to accept the challenges and feelings that go along with parenthood, but even more important to not focus on them. Instead to face parenthood positively and with love. Focusing on how hard parenting is gets in the way of being a positive and loving parent.

So, to follow-up with this post, I will be sharing positive parenting survival tips and need your input! No matter what stage of parenthood you are in, what have you learned? What has helped you the most?

Thanks for your comments and input!! If you don’t want to leave a comment below or on my Facebook page, email me: lovewelllivewell@gmail.com

Love,

Molly

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