Parenting is harder than it looks, they said. I completely disagreed.
I thought, how could it be challenging spending your days with someone you love?
Then I had her. Sleepless nights where she would just stare at me, but never close her eyes.
My eyes heavy with fatigue, but my heart filled with contentment and love for this little being with 10 little toes and 10 little fingers.
That was over 11 years ago and still to this day I will put her to bed and she will stare at me with the same blue eyes and fight the good fight to fall asleep.
They weren’t wrong. Parenting is harder than it looks, but it’s also more rewarding than it looks, and it’s filled with so much potential for an adult to grow as a person.
We are raising our children, helping them grow into these tiny little humans and then evolve into adults and contributing members of society, but we so often don’t recognize the part they do in our development.
Being a parent has given me a purpose unlike anything I would have ever experienced as a single woman, and it’s due largely to a few missteps along the journey of parenthood. The loads of laughter, the tears that could fill rivers, and the endless amount of love we have for one another are just part of what keeps me going.
Mom guilt. I’m sure somewhere there is some real clinical diagnosis out there for it, but it is a REAL thing. I suffered postpartum depression after my third child. Being around my kids individually was wonderful, but when we were all together, my anxieties would creep in. Getting out of bed daily was a job in itself, and the work was HARD. The diapers, the bottles, the tantrums, the lack of peace, the lack of FREEDOM. I made so many poor choices and I never even realized that I was suffering with depression until I struggled wanting to go home from work.
I have a distinct memory of when things shifted for me: my daughter, 6 years old at the time, came in to get me. She explained to me that she made her breakfast and her two brothers’ bottles, but I had to get up, or we’d be late for school. My 6 year old was pushed to be independent too quickly – making her breakfast and waking ME, her mom, up for school. I cried the entire day at what I thought was me failing my kids.
It turned out to be the exact moment I needed to shift the space I was in and create a new space for my family to lean in to.
I went to a therapist, and the first question she asked me was, “why are you here?”
What a loaded question, right?
With my answer, she smiled and looked at me said, “Understand there is hope for you. You’ve done nothing that cannot be undone.” This peace I wasn’t expecting overcame me. I spent a lot of time those next few years talking through tear-filled eyes and a heavy heart, but always with hope.
And through a series of “a-ha! moments,” I was enlightened to the reward I was given.
I was a mom to three young children who relied on me to raise them, and the only way to do that was to continually push myself to grow. I took this little golden nugget of knowledge and did everything I could do. I misstepped along the way (still do), but I read every book, listened to every podcast, and surrounded myself with people who lived intentionally and with purpose. And the biggest of the changes is the way I spoke to myself. I no longer spoke to myself in terms of mistake and punishment, but from a position of grace and kindness.
The catch 22 of parenting: why is it that as parents we are trying to raise our children with a positive self-image, a life of gratitude, and the will to keep learning and growing, but we struggle with taking ownership of our own failures in the personal growth department? Being a mom made me recognize that while they are growing, that does NOT mean we can stop growing.
When kids see a certain behavior, it will be mirrored right back. You must continue to grow as a person, because your child will pick up on the behavior you model. Continue to offer yourself grace, kindness, and forgiveness and continue to invest in yourself, because you will teach your child to do the same.
Do the hard things, because the steps are simple. The process is never easy, but the reward is great.
They were right, of course: parenting is hard. But let’s talk less about the hard work and more about the reward.