Being a Parent is Really, Really Hard
My favourite person in the world, Julie Williams and I parent five kids between 9 and 15. We both work full-time, so it’s full on. Often enough, a woman grabs a coffee with her to get advice. They may be struggling with their one or two children, and assume that she, with so many in tow, has the mom thing sussed. She always gives them the same speech. She recently published it on Mumspiration, an online portal of articles read by a 100000 moms. It’s here—though I share it also as a guest post right here:
This past week, I (Julie) met with a mom who was desperate for two things in particular: caffeine and hope.
Having recently had twins, and with another small toddler in tow, she’s a woman on the proverbial brink – fragile, disheveled, and so, so tired.
Of course, she loves her kids, and she’s well aware she’s meant to cherish this time – but right now, as she sits across the table with a watery smile and milk stains on her shirt, none of that has helped to make this season feel sweet, or even just bearable.
On the other side of the table, I sit. Feeling a different kind of burden… a strange pressure to ease her pressure.
She’s sought me out because I’m a mom too (twins included), and from her perspective, I seem to have not just survived but somehow thrived.
While she doesn’t say it so directly – she wants to know how I did it, what’s my secret? What’s the magic silver bullet she’s been missing?
For a brief moment, I consider telling her all the well-worn, handed-down advice I was given. But then I remember how none of it actually helped – despite how well-intentioned it might have been. So instead, I take a deep breath and tell her this:
If it feels really hard, you’re right. Mothering is magnificent, meaningful, and so, so hard. So much harder than we tend to anticipate it will be! That’s what really breaks us… the expectation that it should be easier than it really is.
Here’s some worthwhile wisdom from the book, The Road Less Travelled:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer so difficult.”
It will stay really hard, for a really long time.
I used to peg my hopes on milestones… when my babies turn 1, life will get easier… when they finish teething… finally wean… eventually sleep through… know how to swim… go to pre-school… help more around the house… start high school… THEN, life will get easier.
But friend, hope deferred makes the heart sick. Aren’t you sick of waiting for life to get easier? Instead, just embrace the messy middle.
There is still so much joy to be found here – in the chaotic construction zone of life – long before we’ve reached all the milestones, ticked off all the to-do’s, and finally arrived at that mythical soft life!
There are no golden children.
When I was a younger mom, I assumed that my kids would be like the ones in the textbooks. At least just one of them! Instead, each has delighted and disappointed me in innumerable ways.
Of course, I think my kids are the greatest kids that ever kidded, but they have also shocked, exasperated, outraged, and crushed me at times.
What did I really expect though? They’re people, and just like all people – they have strengths and weaknesses, they can have bad hair days, get grumpy, be selfish, push the boundaries, and lash out at times.
They are their own people too – not reflections of me or my good (or bad) parenting.
So when they get it wrong, as we all do, I’m learning that they need grace and space – not misdirected shame and rage from a parent who can’t see where they begin and their child ends. Which brings me to the next point…
There are no golden parents.
If you’re an A-type person, this is going to hurt the most. But it’s true for you too. None of us are getting out of this parenting gig with a 100% report card.
We will all have bad days and make parenting choices that we question later on.
We’re just as human as our kids, and ironically, having kids often brings out our childhood wounds and unresolved issues. You’re not the first mom to lie awake at night wracked with regret – and certainly won’t be the last.
So ditch the mom guilt – it’s a useless emotion. Rather – when you know better, do better.
Forgive yourself and your kids for being human, and hold onto the really good news below (finally)!
There is gold in the gaps…
While I no longer believe in fairy tales or textbook babies, I still believe in grace. In fact, I think it’s the most powerful thing we have access to. It can take our worst moments and deepest regrets and transform them into wondrous things.
It can take all the places we feel we lack as parents, all the gaps in our lives and kids’ lives – and fill them up with gold. How so? By showing both them and us that in the end, it’s really not about us.
While others will disappoint us (and we will disappoint them), we gain something from these gaps – even if it’s just an appreciation of each other’s humanness, that nobody is perfect.
So while all of us will make mistakes, grow weary, and lose hope at times – grace is there (always there) to guide us home, kiss us gently on the forehead, tuck us into a soft bed of sweet surrender, and assure us that we can start again tomorrow.