As an expecting mother, no one tells you about the frustrating and tiring aspects of parenting. Moms talk about how wonderful and rewarding parenting is, how they wouldn't change it for the world. Well, the secret is out. I am here to tell you, parenting is tiring, overwhelming, emotional, and crazy-making. I am the mother of 2 children, a boy who is almost 3 years old and a little girl who is almost 10 months old. My husband will verify that the most commonly occurring phrase he hears out of my mouth is “I’m tired”.
Some of the facts of my current life; my husband and I both work full-time, he also goes to school full-time and I have my practice part-time. Our lives are busy! We have loving and caring family around, which certainly helps to give a reprieve at times, but life is pretty constant. I never get to sleep in anymore, my husband and I rarely go on dates, I spend most of my waking hours either at my 9-5 job or my “it-never-ends” job (parenting). I spend a majority of my time changing diapers, doing laundry, planning meals, cooking meals, or cleaning up after meals. Most of my shopping is done either on-line or at 8:30pm after the kids are in bed, it is simply easier to not involve them. My husband helps, but let's be honest, kids at this age really only (or mostly) want "mommy".
This lifestyle (parenthood) is hugely different from my carefree days of being single, dating, or even married. In retrospect, the freedom I had without children was liberating and too often taken for granted. I look back on my "child-free" life with longing and fondness at times. Those times usually occur when I am waking up at 6:00am on a Saturday to change poopy diaper or when I want to take a nap but can't because my children have decided that they do not want to take a nap.
Taking all of the aforementioned facts into account, I have been thinking a lot lately that parenting really is not for me. Does this make me selfish? No, actually it doesn’t.
But before you gasp or judge me, let me explain. It isn’t that I don’t want to be a parent or that I would change my life. I have simply come to understand and am now learning to accept the fact that I do not parent for me, I parent for my children. Yes, this is an obvious fact, and one I knew intellectually. However, putting that knowledge into practice and the acceptance that comes with it is much more difficult.
No, you shouldn’t lose who you are as an individual, but yes, you should get rid of some parts of yourself. The selfish parts, the parts that hold you back from giving your all as a parent. For me it is independence and stubbornness, among other things I’m sure. Not only can I no longer be independent, I now have 2 little people who depend on me. I can’t be as stubborn as I was previously, because toddlerhood and stubbornness are like a horrible chemical reaction that will mostly likely end in an explosion of epic proportion. I often repeat to myself “pick your battles” when thinking about telling my toddler “no” for the 100th time that day.
Yes, I get frustrated when I am sleep deprived and have to work all day. However, nothing compares to how it feels when my son runs to me and hugs my legs when I pick him up after that long day at work. No, I don’t enjoy doing laundry but I do love pulling out cute little pink socks with ruffles. You see, those so-called “bad” days do happen but they don’t make an imprint on your heart the way the precious days and moments do.
I now understand why parents do not tell newly expecting mothers the difficulties involved in parenting. Quite simply, it’s because the challenges aren’t the important part. I don’t remember an exact evening that I woke up 3 or 4 times and change 5 or 6 diapers. I know it happened, but I can’t tell you the date. However, I can tell you the exact date my son said “mamma” for the first time or stood unassisted. I can’t recall a specific day when I felt overwhelmed by being an employee, wife and mother. But I can tell you about a time when I worked all day came home and had both kids sitting on my lap watching the video “Happy” on my phone while screaming and laughing at each other.
I don’t parent for me; I parent for the sake of my children. I parent because I was called by God to be a parent. I was chosen for this job and my children were gifted to me by God. They are on loan to me and I have to be the best parent I can be for their sake, not because I want to or have to, but because they need me. Someday I will not be there to tell them what is right or wrong. They will rely on what I taught them previously, how I guided them and supported them. They will recall the lessons that were given to them along the way, the teaching moments, the encouragements and corrections. I can’t teach those things or provide that loving protection if I am selfish. So I pray, “God don’t let my parenting be about me. Let my parenting be about showing Your love, through me, to my children.” Parenting is not for me, it’s for my children, it’s for You.