Parenthood isn’t the easier job
Very few of us have formal education in parenting. Our main instruction came from the universal course called “Watching our parents 201”. Our parents, in turn, completed their parental training titled—“Watching their parents 101”. Parental strengths and shortcomings pass from generation to generation. Given our lack of family education and support, it’s amazing we do so well!
Today’s moms and dads rely on the internet, which is replete with blogs, advice, and bulletin boards, where parents can learn from the experts and post their unique experiences. It can be overwhelming. Google “Parenting Advice” and a mere 2.8 million results pop up! Where do we start? How do we know what’s accurate? How can we evaluate whether advice is simply made-up or a theory based on sound, empirical evidence? And are there any actual facts? Will today’s facts become tomorrow’s mistakes?
Way back when, in the 1980’s, our pediatrician, who had no kids of his own, told us never to let our baby cry. Armed with this treasure, we found ourselves in our first parental crisis. Our newborn daughter thought that sleeping during the day and staying up all night was a great idea! One evening, after a week of all-nighters, rocking our wide-awake daughter, we realized that we would never make it staying up all night. We decided to let her cry herself to sleep. It was either that or fall apart from sleep deprivation. Huddled in our room, we listened to her shriek for seven minutes before falling into a deep sleep.
I had the pleasure of helping my oldest daughter “sleep train” her baby—I stayed in the room with our granddaughter while she cried for forty-five minutes before falling back asleep in the middle of the night. It was a déjà vu experience.
To make matters more complicated, conventions change from generation to generation, as the pendulum of child-rearing theories swings back and forth. My daughters tell me that my wife and I were totally ignorant about child development (although we are both child psychologists!). It must be a miracle that they survived our total lack of knowledge.
It’s hard for parents to evaluate their parental performance. When our children are doing well, we pat ourselves on the back. But when they’re having a hard time, we’re convinced we did something wrong.
Guilt is endemic to parenthood too. When one of my daughters was 4, her pre-school teacher told me she was “a little shy”. My heart sank, and my parental life passed before my eyes. It must have been my fault. It must have been because we moved when she was a year old. Or maybe it was because we didn’t move when we should have?
Self-doubt is the great challenge of parenthood. Insecurity is to parenthood as leaves are to trees. Let’s face it, putting parental wisdom into practice isn’t easy. Everything disintegrates around 8 p.m. Tired after work, exhausted after making and cleaning up dinner, stumbling after putting in the laundry, our parental patience goes out the window.
The energy crisis is not just at the gas pump. By the end of the week, the parental gas tank is close to empty. And what about single parents? My heart goes out to those moms and dads who struggle to find the inner resources and energy to nurture their kids.
In between regular periods of self-doubt, guilt, and fatigue, we feel moments of great joy, fulfillment, and pleasure.
How can we cope with the tough task of parenthood?
Be forgiving of yourself.
Parenting is a complicated and demanding task. It makes most paid jobs look easy in comparison.
When you feel exhausted, irritated or overwhelmed, take a timeout.
Even 10 minutes in the bathroom by yourself can feel like a mini-retreat!
Cultivate a long-term perspective.
Today’s crisis will probably just be a blip on the screen.
If you’re a single parent, ask for practical help from your friends and family.
You deserve all the help and support you can find.