Let me preface this post by saying this – I love my kids and being their mother is not something I take lightly. They are healthy, happy and well taken care of. Please remember this point as you read the rest of this post.
Today I woke up tired. I have woken up tired every day for the past three years. Prior to my youngest daughter’s birth, I had it pretty easy. My oldest daughter was a dream baby. Even though I was a young, single mother at 18, I was given the easiest baby and child to raise. I don’t know how it happened and I just expected all of my children to be the same.
I was such an idiot.
When she was young my oldest also spent every second weekend at her other parents’ house – which has now morphed into she can come and go between homes as she pleases. During those early years, I had freedom every other weekend, the endless support of my parents who saw my need to educate myself, to work and socialize, and I also had friends who were able to be with me when I wanted. Not only was that every other weekend a physical break, but there were several other people around me to share the worry that comes with raising a child and being a mother – her dad, his girlfriend (now wife), several sets of grandparents etc. That every other weekend was a time for me to retreat and recharge. I had no idea how much I would sometimes miss that feeling.
I knew that having another child in my 30’s – when I was married, settled and everyone around me was also doing the same – was going to be completely different because I am not stupid.
I knew my friends would have less time for us and vise verse. I knew this was going to be a 24/7 change for every aspect of our lives.
I remember discussing having another child with my husband and trying to emphasize how our lives would truly never be the same. We had been living together for seven years and enjoying our lives and the freedom being half-time parents gave us. We were able to focus on one set of things at a time – be it our jobs and finances, our physical and mental health, or hobbies and projects or just ourselves – just our own selfish selves.
What no one told me was that even while loving your kids unconditionally, sometimes you don’t want to be their everything. Sometimes you get tired of having to repeat yourself 14 times. Sometimes you just need an hour to yourself – and when it doesn’t come, you become a version of yourself you don’t like. Once in a while, you even worry that you made a mistake and maybe you aren’t a great parent at all. You worry. You worry a lot.
It is during these times of doubt that I don’t love being the mother to my kids. It is during these times of fragility that I miss the semi-carefree life I once had.
It is also completely normal. Worry is normal and being sick of worry is normal too.
Life changes so drastically and so quickly when we are full time parents. We say goodbye to spontaneity, we sacrifice our own comforts on a daily basis and we give so much of ourselves to make these little people balanced, happy and comfortable.
Sometimes I want to stay in bed and not worry about meals and if I fed my toddler enough nutrients and calories, or if the house (or child) is clean, whether I am socializing my kids enough, if I am providing the proper form of discipline and enough of it, if my kids are learning or behind the 8-ball, or have I taken my youngest outside enough, or if my teenager needing me more at this moment, if there is lead in any of the toys my toddler plays with, if we start getting ready to leave the house now – we might make it to the school on time…
Parenting is a lot of worry and yes, in between those moments of worry there is laughter, love and the happiest moments of our lives – I just wish that sometimes the worry could take a backseat and shut up.
I know this time is short in comparison to life. We have just one year with a baby, two or three years with a toddler, six or seven years with our children and then we get to experience the joys of the pre-teen, teenagedom and then… after all the hard work we put in to making sure we haven’t messed up another generation, they are on their own.
What is most difficult for parents is the transition periods.
We learn to take care of those squishy newborns and finally have a grasp on keeping them alive when all of a sudden those little joy bundles go and change the game. Their network changes and they are off – walking and learning new things and then we have a whole new range of worry and expectations shoved upon us.
Not too long after that those kids learn their mother-tongues. This is when worrying about the impact of our words becomes so important. We try to stop swearing (good-luck), we try maintaining a clear pattern of speech so we are teaching our kids to effectively communicate. We worry about their learning abilities and if they will be behind other kids. We impose so many requirements on our kids at this age – it is pretty damn ridiculous.
Then along comes school. Elementary school is not even slightly preparatory for middle or high school, but here goes. At the elementary age we worry most about our kids fitting in with their peers. Do they have enough friends? Do teachers like them? Am I providing the parenting my kid needs so they turn out “normal?” – Then middle school and high school comes along and we flip flop and begin worrying about the fact that our kids are not embracing their individuality. We just spent sixish years trying to get our kids to fit in by having class birthdays, buying them the right clothes and putting them into the popular extra curricular activities, only to turn around and tell them that being different is a virtue. By this time we are also worrying about the dangers of adult life. Drugs, alcohol, sexual encounters are coming… I am the mother of girls and here is where I hate having to differentiate, but living in a world that applauds men for their sexual conquests and demeans women for the same gets a little tricky. *insert the most massive eyeroll here*
At this point, I worry most that I haven’t prepared my oldest for disappointment. Of all the things about adulthood that have surprised me, it is the idea of some sort of adult-utopia exists that has disappointed me the most. Our society is pretty cut throat – and even though I would cut throats for my kids (see what I did there?) – our children need to be taught early on that when they are disqualified and feel the sting of disappointment, that they do not quit. I worry that teaching our kids that everyone is equal is creating a false reality, because there will be people in their lives who are given opportunities based on factors that are out of their control and that is not equal.
Mother is a truth teller – and while I believe in my babies, I also know the world might not. So, the slow pilgrimage from pinning their crayon drawings to the fridge to explaining that even though they have the qualifications for a job they want, they may not get it – it is a striking blow.
We are constantly teetering on the totter. One end is worry, the other is pride. One end is sleepless nights, the other is indulgence. One end is frustration, the other end is perseverance… and the list goes on.
No, I don’t always love being Mom, but I do it anyway – because that’s what Moms do. We fight and claw our way through the short time we have to make sure our littles are well-adjusted, capable of succeeding through failure and being happy through life’s up and downs.
Then when those babes of ours are on their own, we wish we could do it all over again – worry and all.
What has been your biggest struggle when it comes to parenting? What have you learned the most about yourself?
If you like this post, you might like this one too: When Life Isn’t So Romantic: Life With Babies.
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