In 2001, I remember being in the throws of new motherhood and thinking to myself, “No one tells you how hard this is.”
Of course back then, I was referring to being tired, dirty (showering didn’t always happen before 5 p.m.), living in disorganized chaos with a mountain of laundry always looming and a general feeling that I had lost a previous sense of freedom.
How I long for that easy kind of “hard.”
Over the past year, I’ve found that the complexity of being a parent seems to increase with every passing birthday. My friend Jen always says, “Having babies is easy; it’s raising ‘em that’s hard!”
I pride myself in being someone who never claims to have all the answers and isn’t afraid to ask for help, and as my children get older I look in awe at successful parents of kids older than 11 years old.
Close friends of ours have three wonderful kids, the oldest of which is a star athlete and great student in his freshman year in college. Their middle daughter, a high school student, does her homework while she babysits for our children and their youngest daughter, currently at, is so grounded and kind that sometimes I think she should be taking care of ME.
I have often asked them (both working parents, I might add) how they managed to navigate their way through the parenting gauntlet so successfully. Is there is a magic bullet that seems to make them handle it all while keeping their sanity? If so, where can I find it?
They have said that while they have great kids and a solid relationship, it isn’t easy and never has been. And my guess is that they probably had parenting mentors of their own when their kids were younger. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “It takes a village.”
When I held that newborn baby boy (who, at 10 1/2 years old, is now up to my shoulder), I never thought about the unplanned trips to the emergency room for stitches. I had no idea the pain I would feel for him when he would strike out at his first up at bat. Or how I would lay awake at night, fearing that he would see his new sibling as a replacement for him.
Concerned more about diaper rash than instilling confidence and a sense of right and wrong, I look back and wonder how I ever thought THAT was hard. I never saw the math and reading homework coming. I couldn’t comprehend how my heart would break when I had to skip a parent/teacher conference because I had a meeting at work. And my own sadness that came with having to dole out a punishment.
As parents, we constantly question the job that we are doing. I often wonder if my parents had it easier than I do, as it was “a simpler time.” Of course that’s not true; they had their own set of hurdles to clear and probably wondered if they were doing a good job raising my sisters and me.
In any case, I suppose that the best we can do is to accept the fact that we aren’t perfect. We will try to make up for each parental “mistake” by showing our kids that we love and support them and that no one, not even their parents, has all the answers. If there is a magic bullet, I certainly haven’t found it yet.
But if my parenting mentors from down the street have it hidden somewhere, I promise to share.