Parenting Sucks! (Or Is It Just Me?)

I could have written a flowery article about the joys of parenting. But those who know me would have known it was bullshit. Quintessential mom? Not me. How can I candy coat the fact I have absolutely no words of wisdom nor parenting advice that will wow you? As I write this, I seriously question if I should write my truth, my honesty. Should I admit I think parenting sucks?

I assume if you chose to open and read this article, you must kind of feel the way I do (even though you hate to admit it). Trust me, I know the guilt.

My Parenting Reality

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I feel the need to begin with the disclaimer that I love my son. I mean, truly love his guts. Nothing I admit in this article will change the fact that I will literally die for this kid. Though I love him so much it hurts, this article is not about my love for my kid. This article is about everything else.

There are parents who say parenting is so rewarding. If you are one of those parents, you should probably stop reading the rest of this dissertation now because my diatribe is not for you. You already have everything figured out. This article is for the rest of us boarding the struggle bus. If you are a momma dreaming about wine before noon, this article is for you. Keep reading.

Why Does Parenting Look So Easy?

Parenting sucks

When I began this parenting journey over 14 years ago, I was clueless. Talk about rose colored glasses. In my mind, it was going to be great. My husband and I had created a human that was going to be perfect, act just like me (of course), and who would complete us. We were going to be the picture-perfect family. Back then, I would have told you I was going to have more than just one child. I pictured walks in the park, trips to the library, tea parties….yada yada, you know those things perfect moms do.

Guess what? My husband and I were dead wrong. Instead, I received my husband’s mini me–a kid who did not sleep through the night until he was 10. A trip to the library was a battle between the concept of whispering and screaming. A walk in the park? Bullshit, let’s call it a chase in the park. There was no tea party unless you count the Long Island Iced Tea I longed for starting at noon.

Life was far from perfect. We were thrown into territory we had no clue how to navigate. The realization: parenting sucks.


RELATED ARTICLE: Can We Just Admit Good Moms Say Bad Words?


Can I Disembark The Parenting Roller Coaster?

Have you been overwhelmed, clueless, and tired all at the same time? You have had multiple sleepless nights, your kids are going crazy, and you literally feel as if you could run away and never come back? I have been there. I seriously can remember a time where I locked myself in my closet and sat on the floor taking deep breaths. The reason was two fold. I needed a break because I felt I may snap and I needed to pray. Pray for my sanity, pray for some peace, and more importantly pray that I would eventually leave that closet and go back to my son.

So what can I tell you that you do not already know? Quite literally–very little. But this is what I have learned by riding this roller coaster called motherhood and I feel it necessary to share it with you.

You are not alone

When I talk to my friends and family, no one admits that parenting sucks. No one says there are bad days. In fact, from my experience, the vast majority seem to love it. Talk about feeling even more guilty for thinking this shit show called child rearing is anything less than magical!

The truth is, I am not alone, and neither are you. Whether or not parents want to admit it, there is research that proves many of us feel overwhelmed.

–In an article on Reuters.com (dated 2011), they cite a study by ForbesWomen as well as a website called Bump.com. “This study said 92 percent of working moms and 89 percent of stay-at-home moms feel overwhelmed by work, home and parenting responsibilities”. This article goes on to say, “Much of this self-inflicted grief is encouraged by social media images of a super working mom who looks glamorous while cooking, washing, babysitting and holding down a full-time job.” (1)

–In a more recent article by Today.com dated May 2021, “83% of moms feel burnt out by pandemic parenting. More than two-thirds of moms (69%) reported feeling overwhelmed, according to an online, unscientific survey of more than 1,200 moms, and 64% shared that the past year has been extremely hard.” (5).

As you can see, nothing much has changed in the almost 10 years between these two articles. Parenting sucks! Maybe, just maybe, this will make you feel better. As for me, I feel comforted knowing my circus is just as overwhelming as yours.

There are no perfect parents.

We all strive to be perfect. But what is the definition of perfect? Whatever your definition of perfect is, rest assured you will fall short.

Research shows an “estimated 3.5 million people in the United States are suffering from parental burnout” (2). This is not just being tired or stressed because of the demands of parenthood. Parental burnout is defined as “exhaustion so intense that it leads to one doubting their parenting abilities and checking out emotionally.” This type of exhaustion leads to neglect. Guess what? Perfectionists are most likely to suffer from parental burnout (2).

From one perfectionist to another, this parenting thing is a “fly by the seat of your pants situation” every single day. It is going to drive you nuts. You will question whether you are getting it right and most of the time you will not know.

The good news is there is no such thing as perfect parents even though we all so desperately strive to be one. Instead, I urge you to embrace chaos and try every single day to be better than what you were yesterday. It is okay to admit your shortcomings. After years of falling short of the expectations of the perfect parenting journey in my head, I am now happier because I can be real, honest, and simply pray for the peace to accept what I truly am.

Forgive yourself.

forgive

We are not perfect; therefore, we are going to make many mistakes. In an article by The Center of Parenting Education, the author states, “Recognize mistakes, make amends if needed, then forgive yourself (3).  The article does not say to feel guilty. It does not say to give in to your child because it is easier. Instead, it says simply to recognize the mistake, forgive yourself, and move on. Easier said than done, right?

I confess right here, right now that I have lost my shit when my son did not deserve it. The mistakes I have made are countless. I have spent hours dwelling on my faults. Where did that get me? Simply it only led to a self-inflicted guilt trip in which I then spent the next three hours giving my son everything I thought he wanted so he would forget what happened. Yep, mother of year!

So what can we do when we screw it up? The best way to handle it is move on. “Do what your children need in the present rather than trying to undo what you think may have been mistakes years (or days) before (3)”.

Show up.

I gave up my full-time career to be more available for my son. I certainly did not do it for accolades and many times I wondered if spending more time with him was instead detrimental. If I can be honest (which obviously I have been) there was a period of time, when my son was younger, that I resented the fact I had given up my career in exchange for this thankless job of parenting.

I would be remiss to not mention how incredibly blessed I am that I am able to work part-time and be home more with my kid. I know without a doubt that a lot of people cannot give up their career to be more present.

So, what can we do if we are busy? The answer is clear. Simply show up. Put down your phone and talk to your kids. Have a family dinner in which you can talk about your day. “The more time teens spend with both their parents together in family time, such as during meals, the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky or illegal behavior” (4).

Showing up matters. O.A. Battista said, “The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.”

A child’s love is unending.

Happy boy

God has a sense of humor because though I have zero patience, I was blessed with a child who tests my patience daily. I have lost my shit. I mean like really lost my shit. Screaming at the top of my lungs like a banshee because it seemed that was the only thing my son would listen to. And even after all that, my son loves me. My son does not see the imperfect mom I see. Instead, he sees me as the greatest cook on the planet. Most importantly, my son sees me try every single day.

Now that my son is a teenager, I asked him what he remembers about his younger childhood. Racked with guilt over the time when I was a bad person, I waited with bated breath for his response. He does not remember when I lost my shit. What he does remember is things like trips to Disney, taking care of him when he was sick, and how I brought tadpoles to his classroom even though I absolutely hate frogs.

He loves me unconditionally and your kids do, too.

Count your blessings.

count your blessings

Today I listened to a sermon on YouTube by Grace City Church in Lakeland, Florida. The pastor said to spend 15 minutes just being grateful for everything you have. He went on to say that what you are complaining about, other people are praying for. This really hit home.

Though you may feel unappreciated as a parent, there are people crying out in prayer begging to be a mother or father. Though your kids are not listening to you today, there is a parent wishing she could counsel her child just once more.

Parenting can be hard work. It can be really f*cking hard. Suck it up, buttercup. Life is hard sometimes. Be grateful for the tough times because they will lead to beautiful moments. Count your blessings. Being a parent really is the best job.

Parenting sucks. So what?

Parenting sucks. I admit it. I am sure you can admit it, too. So what? Little people are counting on you. At the end of the day, all we can do is the best we can do. We made a choice to become parents. We decided to bring life into this world. And because of that decision, we also made the conscience choice to put our children’s needs above our own.

Some days we will fail, but many more days we will succeed. The important thing is our children will grow up to be productive members of society. And, if we are really lucky, they will become parents. They, too, will question if they are doing a good job and will hopefully reminiscence on the childhood you tried so very hard to make perfectly flawed and smile!

References:

(1) Chang, R. (2011, June 15). Moms feel overwhelmed by responsibilities: Poll. Reuters. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-work-mothers-idUSTRE75E45K20110615.

(2) Freier, A. (2019, October 22). The quest to become perfect parents is making us bad parents. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://forge.medium.com/exhausted-parental-burnout-could-affect-the-health-of-your-child-too-86ed2375b972

(3) Nicholson, P. (n.d.). The perfect parent myth. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/focus-parents/myth-perfect-parent/

(4) Schulte, B. (2015, March 28). Making Time for kids? study says quality trumps quantity. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/making-time-for-kids-study-says-quality-trumps-quantity/2015/03/28/10813192-d378-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html.

(5) TodayShow. (2021, May 3). We are not ok: Pandemic survey finds moms are burnt out, overwhelmed. TODAY.com. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.today.com/parents/today-survey-pandemic-parenting-finds-moms-are-burnt-out-t217123.

About the Author:

Photo of the author, Chris Shea, and her family

Hi! I’m Chris. I’m a mother, wife, college professor by trade and micro-influencer by hobby. I am a bargain hunter, jack of all trades, and master of chaos.

Thank you for reading my random thoughts on travel, my stories of life as an under appreciated mother of a teenager, and my easy recipes that have won no awards but instead my family’s love and adoration (which is WAY better, right?).

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