You may have seen the Washington Post article about how a study finds that parenthood is harder on people than divorce, or even losing a loved one.
I’ve seen a few homeschooling and parenting pages scoffing at this article, and even calling it agenda-driven. Maybe it is, but for moms like me, it’s a breath of fresh air.
It means that I’m not the only one that finds this hard.
I’m not the only one that wonders how the human race has continued this long when parenting is such hard work.
I’m not the only one that wishes that I didn’t wish away the young years because the sleepless nights get to me after a while. It’s been nearly five years of having littles in the house again, and I think I could count my full night’s sleep on my fingers.
It’s not that I don’t love being a mother, and that I don’t find absolute joy in watching them grow and learn. But, if I were to answer that survey before and after having my set of young kids, I would have definitely answered that I’m less happy, all things considered, than before I had them.
Let me explain before anyone jumps down my throat.
Why are we less happy?
In one word: guilt.
Guilt for yelling
Guilt for not listening
Guilt for letting them watch too much TV
Guilt for not playing outside enough
Guilt for not being able to get the things they want
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
And to slightly expand on that? The nagging question, “Am I doing enough?”
Am I saying “I love you” enough?
Am I hugging them enough?
Am I showing enough discipline so they can navigate the “real world?”
Am I teaching them good enough eating habits?
Am I giving them enough space for their own explorations?
Am I giving them enough opportunities to find passions?
The nagging question and the guilt weigh on me. Day after day, week after sleepless week.
Never mind the isolation and the fact that at-home parents aren’t highly respected in our culture.
And then there’s all the Facebook Pages, articles, and other media that tells me that parenting is the most rewarding and happiest thing they’ve ever experienced.
I follow these Facebook Pages because I want the positive reminder, and I want to be lifted up in my parenting journey instead of being dragged down with people complaining about parenting, but I wish we were a bit more open about the struggles.
Why does it have to be struggle-less joy, or Debbie Downer suffering?
Sure, everyone says, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” but at this point, that’s so cliche that it barely registers. We all just hear the joy others are experiencing and wondering if we’re the only ones that experience the struggles mixed with the joy.
All I want is the reality of motherhood to be known.
Your child’s first steps will erase the extreme fatigue you feel from the last week of them teething, but just for a few minutes, maybe an hour. You still need the coffee.
Your child running up to you with their name proudly written on a piece of paper for the first time will remove the frustration of them throwing their food on the floor, but it doesn’t clean it up. You still need to mop.
Your child wrapping their arms around you and saying, “I love you, Mom!” will remove the pain of cracked nipples from a newborn, for a moment. You still need the lanolin.
There are moms that find joy in all the daily tasks and chores as well, and I wish I was more like them. Still, I have to believe there are many more moms that are like me.
We get through each day trying to educate and play with our children, always putting them first. At the end of the day, we love the quiet after bed time because in the end, it was hard work to put the children first.
Now, if someone presented a survey on whether I am more fulfilled before or after children, that would be another question entirely.
Happiness is fleeting. It is not the goal.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” perfectly encapsulates parenthood. So while I grumble about lack of sleep or not being able to complete two consecutive thoughts without interruption, I recognize this season in life requires that I humble myself. They need me, so I need to be there for them.
Sometimes I happy about that, and sometimes I’m not.
I’ll have time for activities that make me happy when they are older and I have more alone time. Until then, I soak them up – whatever mood I happen to be in.