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Someone recently asked the question: What is the hardest thing about being a parent? So I thought it over.
Is it losing sleep? Seriously, you can’t even explain the sleep deprivation thing to your friends without kids because they just won’t get it. For those first few months you become a barely functioning zomboid, snapping at your spouse at 3 in the morning and arguing over who is going to get up the next time. Hey, has anyone else’s husband done that thing where you know he is awake and hearing the babe but pretends to be dead asleep because, after all, only mama can breastfeed. Darn it. Fortunately, this stage of the game usually gets better after the first year or so. So this can’t be the answer. Don’t count on sleeping in much for the next 8 years or so though.
How about nursing a sick kid and trying not to care when the child coughs and spews all over you, usually when you are wearing a favorite shirt? And you know you are going down hard next, yet you get no sick days. This works out awesomely when your kid bounces back in no time but there you are zapped of all energy for the next week or two. Oh and then there’s the fact that most of the medicines for small children have been taken off the shelves due to the FDA recommending that they not take any over-the-counter meds until they are 6. All you get to give them are children’s Tylenol and vaporub. Not exactly sleep enhancers. The grandparents talk about giving their kids a little whisky to help them sleep. I think sometimes ignorance really is bliss. But this, too, is fleeting so it couldn’t be the hardest part.
What about the clean up? Ever been scrubbing out the pants (or blankets, shoes, etc) your child poopsploded on and wondered if it’s even worth salvaging these or easier just to toss and get some new ones? If you’re a SAHM like me, there is that small matter of a budget, can’t buy clothes EVERY TIME this happens. But I have thought about it often. Even had awful thoughts about going to Wal-Mart (I hate Wal-Mart). As the child gets older, however, these incidents become less and less. Make it through the first 5 years and this will fade.
Adjusting your life. For a mom who works outside the house, it might mean part of you may feel guilty and/or wish to be home with the kids. For a SAHM, it means being isolated from most other adults until you work up the confidence to get out of the house and meet other moms or dads. In my case, I just didn’t realize what I was missing until I rediscovered having a bit of a social life after finally joining a moms group – thanks, Mommica! Of course, the game has changed because now you sit around talking about your kids and swapping mom notes because, well, what else is there to talk about when your job is to watch your child 24/7? This means less time, if any, with non-parents. Unless, of course, they truly don’t mind you talking about your kid A LOT. Some actually do want to hear all the cute things that Timmy did today. Well, at least they pretend they do which is good enough for me.
Sacrificing your time. And I’m not just talking about less time for hanging out with friends, I’m talking no time to shower or comb your hair when the child is younger and then less time for hobbies, talking on the phone, internet surfing or simply having time for yourself when they are older. Once the kid stops taking a nap then there he is demanding equal time on the computer and deliberately erasing your favorite shows on the DVR. Time to get more activities on the calendar. I would also add doing what’s best for your child rather than what you would like to do.
How about the frequent state of worry and self-doubt? Am I doing this right? Will not making my baby food from scratch affect this child’s health in the long-term? What about the times I’ve used Nick Jr. as a babysitter? What about those studies which say that this can negatively affect behavior FOR LIFE. Oh, he bumped his head pretty hard. Should I take him to the doctor today or would I be overreacting? Look at what happened to Natasha Richardson! What if there’s a big earthquake and I can’t get to him? What if there’s a war and he gets drafted? It’s just a constant string of what ifs that goes through your mind that you can never entirely block out. And there’s a heightened state of awareness. Before having a kid, I hardly paid attention to things like fire escape routes, for example. Now that I’m responsible for this other person, I find myself seeking out fire door locations, counting seats on airplanes, and studying emergency maps behind hotel doors. I now know that the fire truck’s ladders do not reach above the 7th floor. By God, I am not going to be the one whose family dies in the smoke because I can’t find my way out. Retailers and restaurant owners beware because if I see an emergency exit blocked (you’d be surprised how often this is the case – scary) then you are going to hear about it. A lot of the “what ifs” seem irrational and silly but there are some potential dangers that do warrant serious worry. Kids do get molested. Accidents do happen. Some will do drugs. Some will get cancer. Yikes. And take note that I am not a worrier by nature. I can only imagine how hard this is for someone who worried even before having kids. Now I’m getting closer to the answer.
In the end, my best answer for the question of what’s hardest about being a parent is dealing with the emotional kryptonite that comes with the job. The love you feel for your child (or children) is so strong that you suddenly have this huge weakness that you can’t do anything about. It’s like wearing your heart outside of your body. So difficult but so worth it.
Hey Mom, I finally understand. This one’s for you!