One of the biggest parts of parenting is the struggles that we go through in raising our little ones. Everyone will tell you to embrace and love every moment. They will tell you how unbelievably blessed you are; there are people who wish they could be parents, you should be thankful. There will be people who tell you that you’re ungrateful for complaining or even thinking about calling these difficult times hardships. We are incredibly blessed as parents; we all know that. But these times are also incredibly difficult, and no one tells you that it’s okay to feel that way.
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A friend of mine recently tweeted about how you can love your children one second, be so consumed with love you would take a bullet for them, and the next second, be completely overwhelmed, at the end of your rapidly fraying rope and ready to take the bullet to get away from them!!! These two very different feelings are not exclusive; you can feel both, simultaneously even. And people wonder why parents are so crazy; our hearts are capable of so much love, but our brains are only capable of handling so much. It’s okay to admit that you are overwhelmed and in need of a break. It’s okay to say that your children are getting on your nerves and driving you crazy!
A friendly reminder: you can love your kids so fiercely that you’d unquestionably take a bullet for them, and you can simultaneously feel overwhelmed by the challenging parts of parenting. You are only human. You are allowed to feel both. The two are not mutually exclusive.
This tweet resonated particularly deep within me because right now we are in the trenches of parenting! We are knee deep in the most challenging, frustrating phases, and some nights I am just done. I lose my temper, my patience is paper thin and I am just mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. I love my son incredibly; I would die for him, take his suffering and endure it for him if I could. But I am also allowed to feel completely overwhelmed by him and these days. It is possible to absolutely love your child while also needing a break from them. I think one of the hardest, most trying parts of parenting is the ridiculous amount of phases that our children go through. Parenting doesn’t really get any easier as you go along; it just changes. You make it through one phase and then you transition into another, which isn’t any easier than the previous phase. It’s just as difficult as the previous, but it’s different so it feels easier. Dealing with a toddler screaming, crying and having a meltdown over the cup they’ve asked you for ten times and then refuses over again cause they can’t make up their mind, isn’t really any easier than dealing with a toddler having a meltdown over having their diaper changed, or your toddler going limp every time you try to redirect them. Parenting doesn’t get any easier; it just changes. It’s a different phase, but it’s still a phase. Everyone will tell you, “Oh, it’s just a phase,” or “It’ll pass,” or my absolute favorite, “Someday, you’ll look back and you’ll laugh about this!” Haha, NO, Karen. I won’t look back and laugh about how I stood in the kitchen with a toddler crumpled at my feet, screaming and sobbing as I try to hand him the cup he’s asked for ten times and then refused as we go through another wave of meltdowns. I will not embrace this moment or cherish this memory. I will not look back on this and chuckle to myself about these unbelievably frustrating days and weeks and months. I may use it later to embarrass my son or tell him how he used to drive me crazy, but I will not look back fondly on this particular phase. No, I will not. Yes, this is just a phase and yes, it will pass, but it will pass and it will change into a different phase that is just as hard as this one is now. The next phase won’t be easier. It won’t make our days any more bearable when we are having a rough day. Being a parent doesn’t get any easier. If anything, it gets harder. And if you don’t think parenting is hard, Hunnie, you’re not doing it right!
My son is going through so many phases right now. We all know that 2 and a half years is a hard age. My son’s going through lots of changes. He’s finding his voice, or trying. He’s figuring out how he fits into this world. He’s trying to assert his dominance and fight for his independence and it’s a power struggle 99.9% of the time. But he’s also figuring out how to love, how to be kind and what he means to others. Last night, my son saw me crying and for the first time, he actually responded to my emotions, which never happens. He touched my arm and asked me, “What’s wrong? You okay?!” He’s learning to be compassionate and empathetic. He’s realizing who the important people are in his life and how to interact with them. He’s also trying to sort out the other people in his life that he comes in contact with every single day. He’s trying to figure out to transition from one role to another, which as parents and adults we have to do seamlessly, every single day.
Our toddler is going through a lot of changes and during those changes, we can clearly see how it affects him, and it affects us, too. The “mood swings,” if you’ll call them that, give me whiplash. One minute he is in a super sweet phase, totally loving and absolutely precious. He loves to cuddle and hug and kiss. He will tell you he loves you and asks how you’re doing. The next, a switch flips and he is throwing things, acting out, hitting, etc. And I’m left there still trying to get a hug while he’s pushing past me, ignoring any of my attempts to call him back to me. He refuses to make eye contact with and or acknowledge that you’re trying to have a conversation with him. I’m constantly trying to make a connection with him so that I can figure out what happened, what changed, or how he’s feeling.
These phases are also week-long phases. Some weeks are a breeze; we go through our mornings and evenings together and all is well. Some evenings seem so easy. We have hardly any tantrums, meltdowns or power struggles. We phase easily from one part of our evening into the next without any fuss. And we go through our bedtime routine so peacefully, and it leaves me feeling so at ease, calm and happy. Those weeks, I love being a parent. Those are my best weeks and nights as a parent. They’re followed up by a little cuddling before bed, possibly reading a book. I’ll bend down to give my son a kiss on the forehead and tell him I love him. Some nights he even says it back.
Then there are the not so simple weeks where everything is a nightmare. Everything is a power struggle and the envelope is constantly pushed, shoved, crinkled and whipped over the line! The line is so far gone, it’s completely unrecognizable. These weeks, my son completely hates me, it seems. He’s angry to see me when I walk into daycare to pick him up, no matter how absolutely delighted I am to see him. It doesn’t matter that I’ve missed him all day, thought about seeing him and looking forward to spending the evening with him. He runs to the far side of the room and refuses to go anywhere with me. He cries and fights and drops like dead-weight to the floor and kicks and screams. And the struggle continues into the rest of the night. Something as simple as trying to walk up the stairs or hand him his cup elicits a complete meltdown, complete with a crying heaping sob on the floor.
Our bedtime routine is a mess. It’s filled with yelling and crying out of frustration and desperation on my part, and crying on my son’s part because I’m just so exhausted and I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. These weeks leave me feeling helpless, completely mentally, physically and emotionally depleted. These phases make me feel like a terrible parent, like I’m doing everything wrong and nothing seems to be right. I feel like I can’t help my son work through his emotions and it leaves me feeling like a failure. These weeks, I find myself crawling into bed way too early, only to heave a great big sigh and fall into a fit of exhausted sobs from a long week of “fighting” and struggling. These days leave me feeling completely and utterly awful. I hate these days, and I feel so guilty for feeling that way.
I feel like I’m doing a terrible job as a parent and that my son doesn’t love me. I feel resentful that these are the hours that I get to spend with my son, while he’s at his most tired, cranky and awful, while someone else enjoys the absolute best hours of his day. Some days, I hate that he feels safe enough to let me see this side of him, the side that’s a complete and total mess. I try my hardest to show my son my absolute best because I want him to know how much I love him, how much I want to enjoy this time I have with him but meanwhile, he shows me his absolute worst. I know I should feel honored that he trusts me enough to show me this side of him, to completely fall apart and trust that I will still love him, but I don’t. I don’t enjoy these moments. I will not look back on these moments and remember how much I loved them. In fact, I will forget these moments. I will remember all the best moments and someday be blinded by my desire to have another and go through all of this again because I will remember, “It wasn’t that bad!”
And I go through phases, too. There are days that I absolutely love being a parent. There are also days where I resent my job and the bills I am responsible for paying because they keep me from being able to spend more quality time with my son. But then I spend an entire day with him when he’s home sick or on the weekends and I realize I could never spend every single day with him, day in and day out, because I’m usually out-of-my-mind crazy and tired of him after spending 5 or 6 hours with him all by myself, cooped up in the house on a bad weather or sick day when we can’t go outside. There are days and weeks where my son and I are perfectly in sync, on the same page and we get along so well. And then there are phases where we just don’t see eye-to-eye, and every disagreement is met with resistance and unwillingness to try and work through it. It just ends up in a complete meltdown over nothing. I do not love these moments, and that’s okay. It’s okay to admit that you don’t love every moment as a parent. It’s okay to not love every single second of being a parent. The weeks where I struggle as a parent does not mean that I love my son any less. If anything, it means that I love him more, because if I didn’t love him, I honestly wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t get stressed out or upset about not being able to communicate with him, understand him or help him work through everything he’s going through.
Honestly, if you’re loving every single second of being a parent, you aren’t doing it right. No one told me I would love every single second of parenting, but no one told me I would feel so crazy, going back and forth between these constant phases all the time. No one told me that one second my son would be an absolute angel and the next, a complete terror. I was told he would push his luck and try my patience, but I never expected it to be this hard. And yes, parenting is hard! I’m not afraid to admit that this is hard or that I struggle daily with parenting. I’m not afraid to admit that there are moments every single day that I love and there are plenty of moments that I absolutely hate. It’s called balance. It’s called being human, having a grasp on reality and admitting that things aren’t perfect. It’s perfectly healthy to admit that things aren’t Pinterest-Perfect all the time, because if we didn’t acknowledge that there were moments that we didn’t care for and constantly walked around saying how great parenting was and how we loved every single second of it, would it really be any different than if we were completely depressed and continuously told everyone we were fine? No, that would be viewed as being in denial, or lying and not wanting to face how we were actually feeling. Walking around and saying that every single moment of parenthood is a blessing and absolutely perfect and that we love every moment is a lie. And that’s unrealistic and it’s not healthy. So the next time someone tells you to cherish every moment, love every second and be grateful that you have a child to be love and parent, don’t be afraid to tell them that it’s okay to NOT love every single second of parenting, because it IS hard work.