This is hard.
Being a parent brings up a variety of emotions that I could never have anticipated. As a trained mental health professional, with my own experience in therapy, I felt fairly sure of my strengths and weaknesses before I became a mother. And yet, I was acutely aware that I didn’t really know anything about parenting, regardless of my child development knowledge and training.
Nothing can prepare you for the way your heart opens up, and your empathy and love grows for your child and for all children. I think of the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes when he realized what Christmas was really all about. When I became a mother, my heart, which had always been sensitive to begin with, felt raw and exposed. I was easily worried and felt vulnerable in a way that I never had before.
On the other hand, as my children grew from tender, snuggly babies and into themselves; finding their own voice and personality, the squishy babies were no longer 100% adorable. The tantrums of toddlerhood gave way to the defiance and challenging behavior of early childhood. Now with an 8 year old who is my oldest, I’m seeing the awkward and intense emotions of adolescence creeping in. She “back talks” and I find myself scolding and even yelling when I’m ignored. And my son is his own brand of challenging due to multiple, still as yet difficult to diagnose, negative behaviors which sometimes bring out the very worst in me.
Who am I? I never pictured yelling at my children or saying things like, “You’re making me crazy!” I’ve had very low moments where I’ve been brought to tears of frustration. I’ve been overwhelmed to the point of feeling that it’s all to much. Too unmanageable. Too chaotic. The house is a disaster. I’m late with a permission slip for a class trip. I never texted back that friend to set up a play date. I ran out of lunch meat and it’s 9 p.m. The list goes on and on.
There is never enough. Enough time, enough attention, enough money, enough help.
And yet, there are moments of connection. Reading stories together at night. Watching my two big kids hold hands as they walk down the street. Seeing the joy in the baby’s face and the way she lights up when the big kids are around her. My son telling me he loves me 30 times a day. “Mommy.” Yes. “I love you.” I love you too.
It is hard. So hard. And sometimes it is unmanageable. So we need to ask for help or we need to cut ourselves a break. We need to breathe in and out. And maybe when it’s too hard, we focus on those moments of connection and ignore the toy explosion or make peanut butter sandwiches another day, and have a dance party instead of cleaning up. It’s hard and that’s ok. Someday it won’t be this hard. Someday I will be on the phone with my children telling me how hard it is. And I will nod. Because I will know.