Sometimes I hate parenting. I do. Yes, becoming a parent is one of the best things that ever happened to me. My kids can be adorable, fun, creative, cuddly, and sweet when they want to be. They are the source of many interesting conversations. It’s a joy to watch them grow, learn, and become fully realized humans. However, parenting is not always all sweetness and light. Sometimes it just plain stinks.
One day kids are perfect angels eating their vegetables, using the toilet every time they have to go, coloring on paper instead of walls, turning in all of their homework, making their beds, and getting home before curfew (circumstances and age of children vary here)… The next they are torturing you in a million ways, like leaving socks everywhere, not locking the dogs out of the kitchen, changing the radio station in the car when you have a headache, leaving every single light on in the house overnight (bet you did not think that was possible), along with other secret tiny ways teenagers can torture their parents. Not that I am bitter or anything.
A couple of weeks ago I was having one of those days, so I posted on Facebook “I hate parenting (blank)… Please comment with your input!” As you can imagine, I got all kinds of answers. Some are amusing, and some are poignant. The one that struck me that day was my friend who wrote, “The relentless responsibility.” That is what drove me to post the question. I was feeling like parenting is never-ending: day in and day out with no thanks and no end in sight…yes, relentless.
Not until I was about 10 or so months into the commitment of being a parent did I realize just how all-encompassing it is. Another friend said, “I love being a parent, but it is exhausting! It’s a 24/7 job with no real time off. People without children don’t understand.” Yet anther friend echoed that sentiment: “All of the things, all of the time. Being a parent is amazing. Parenting itself, 24/7, sucks.”
The times I am parenting mostly on my own, when my amazing partner is out of town for work, is one time when the responsibility can really get me down. I relate to my friend who said, “Parenting with a traveling hubs…the worst.” It is the worst, because you are handling every single thing that happens when you are used to doing so with the support of a partner. I did it once for a whole year. I am amazed sometimes. It makes me admire all of my friends who are single parents and do it on their own all of the time.
One of my friends with younger children wrote, “We need more parents per kid, say four!” with another friend responding, “A village, if you will.” I absolutely agree; I wish I had a group around me every minute supporting my quest to make my kids fabulous adults. I love it when a fellow mom reinforces my rules or backs up something I say. I don’t feel quite as alone on this journey.
My girl McKenze wrote, “When we have incompatible desires,” which made me laugh. When I told her her response was quite diplomatic, she told me she meant it. She told me she read it recently in a parenting book. “I keep repeating [those words] to myself. We both have a desire. I am the whole-brained person who can see both. My children need me to step up and stop reacting like a child!” This made me laugh even more because, ever since my children were toddlers, I have chanted “I love my children, I love my children” repeatedly when they are driving me crazy just to remind myself to stay calm and be an adult.
In response to several comments in the thread, Amanda said, “This [as in everything everyone said before her], plus needing to manage a household, a spouse, and myself. When can I have a meltdown?” Having to parent, do all the other real life adult things, and keep it together all of the time is what makes being Mom (or Dad, for that matter) super draining sometimes.
My friends had some other things to say about when they hate parenting. The evening is the least favorite time for some. Ashley, who is a mom to three very young ones, said, “After 6:00 P.M. At a restaurant. After 6:00 P.M. and at a restaurant is the worst.” This was pretty much echoed by Erin, who said, “Between the hours of 5:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M. The witching hours.”
Michelle, a mom of twin preschoolers, said, “When both need your undivided attention at the same time.” I can’t imagine. Any parent of multiples deserves so much respect!
Self-inflicted parenting pain is also not a favorite: “Hangry, tired children,” Catherine admitted are “easily avoidable, but easily the most frustrating.”
Also parents hate dealing with everyday nuisances, like poop. Just when you think you have it all down, you find yourself struggling with issues like my friend Catherine described: “Wiping butts. Dried poop. After being potty trained. All of the aforementioned.” And my least favorite task when my kids were younger: homework! “Seriously,” said Sue. “I think I would have liked to have more kids if I never would have to help with homework or tell them 500 times to do their homework.”
Parenting through our human weakness gets us all down, too. Brooke, who has a toddler, said she hates parenting most “when [she is] tired.” Even as the parent of teens, I can relate, as my kids seem to explode and push my buttons more easily when I’m exhausted. Adding to a previous comment, Erin said, “I hate parenting when I’m sick. Is there anything in this world worse? I think not.”
Apparently several of my friends are living with “small wannabe dictators.” One of them commented how they hated “bossy toddlers,” which led to a list of examples from different people:
- “Get my cereal. I want my vitamins. Where is my milk?! Yo! Kid! I have not had coffee yet, so you better watch it! This happens daily.”
- “OMG! This! M is so demanding during breakfast. And S is…well…a toddler. I’m often up five times before I’m halfway through my breakfast!”
- “You nailed it! ‘Mama, I need a sammich. I want milk. No nurse the baby. Get UP!’”
But it is no better when they are older. As Christine commented, she hates parenting “moody teenage girls.”
Parents also hate when they feel like they’re ineffective or fighting a losing battle. “I hate how it changes,” wrote Taylor. “As soon as I think I’ve got it figured out and expect smooth sailing for a while, something happens and I have to figure out a new approach. I also hate how [parenting] makes me waffle between extremes. I can start the day feeling good about my discipline method. By that night, I’m worrying I was too harsh. (Or, conversely, I can let something go in the moment and then worry later about my failure to address it.) It’s a constant battle of less vs. more, and I hate how the guilt hovers no matter which end I fall on on any given day.”
And to remind us that parts of parenthood are hard even when our kids have left the house, friends who have children college aged and beyond shared some thoughts:
- “They leave you when you can finally get along with them, but you worry about how they are and if someone is hurting them (physically and emotionally) every day.”
- “My precious daughter is 27. She is living her life as she should, and I am peripheral. I miss having her as part of my life. My house is too quiet.”
- “I miss my daughter who moved away! Yes, I have six other kids, but I miss my daughter being a few minutes’ drive from my house. Grown kids moving away is AWFUL! “
Blanca, who is still in the parenting trenches, explained parenting nicely: “It’s the hardest job you will ever have in your life and yet the one you never receive any formal education on,” she said. “This is stolen from my dad… Now [that I am a parent], I get him!”
Parents who went before us, including ours, probably hated parts of parenting for all of the same reasons we do now. When faced with certain parenting situations, I think back to my childhood in an effort to parse out what I should do. How did I feel when my dad did that? Or, now I know how my mom felt when I did this. Knowing that someone else survived parenting immature, unpredictable humans makes me know I will survive it too.
These parting words from Erin sum up what I have to say about parenting: “I think there’s such a great trust that comes with parenting. Trust your judgment. Trust that all you do—painful at times and joyful too—is taking root. And finally, trust to let go slowly as our children grow. Scary, yes. Is parenting hard at times? Yes. But it can be also the most rewarding, fulfilling, most gratifying job ever.”