What do you think makes parenting so hard?
Is it the sleepness nights? The constant physical demands – changing nappies, making food and drink, the housework, the laundry? The financial implications? Separation anxiety and growth and developmental spurts? Tackling toddler tantrums? Coping with teen moodiness?
I don’t think it’s any of those.
You know what is the hardest part of parenting? Recognising your own flaws, realising your upbringing was less than perfect, noticing how you lack patience and becoming aware of how quickly you snap and descend into yelling.
Parenting is like twenty years of counselling fast forwarded into twenty minutes. The issues that could be gently explored in the safe hands of a compassionate therapist over many years are all thrown to the surface in a matter of days and you’re left to deal with them all alone. Nobody to hold your hand or help you to make sense of the mess in your head, no wise words or reassurances – just the stark realisation that perhaps you are too selfish, too impatient, too impulsive. The realisation that you are the result of your upbringing and the many years of conditioning feel almost impossible to break. The realisation that unless you work on yourself extensively that you will pass on the flaws you despise the most to your own children. That’s harsh.
It’s not all bad though, if you allow it to, parenting can open up a window to your soul and provide the inspiration and ambition you need to become a much better person. Parenting is like a spotlight on our dark areas, those we would rather pretend we didn’t have. It is a call to action for our hopes and dreams, a chance to conquer our fears and put right our actions of the past. If you allow it to, becoming a parent can transform your life, giving you the chance to raise children who may just transform the lives of others.
This introspection is so very tiring though. It would be so much easier to yell, so much easier to lash out in the way our parents may have lashed out to us. So much easier to leave a baby to cry themselves to sleep, so much easier to send a child to their room without finding out why they are behaving in the way that they are. It often feels as if you have to spend every minute of every day being the bigger person and sometimes you simply don’t want to be the adult.
If you want to be the very best parent you can be though that’s exactly what you have to do, even what it feels like the last thing you really want to do. We spend too much time looking to ‘fix’ our children, but really it is we – as parents – who need to be fixed.
Parenting is not about trying to change our children, it should be all about trying to change ourselves, for that is always the key to raising happy, confident and kind children.
For more on working with your parental demons and changing who you are as a person, for the good of your children, see my Gentle Discipline book.
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