The Parenting No One Sees…But All Parents Feel
If young single people knew what parenting really
entailed, they’d never have sex again.
If someone were to ask you, “Is having kids worth it?” You could sit down with them over a cup of coffee and tell them about all the joys you experienced parenting. How much their sweet faces and personalities warm your heart. You could describe the amazing exultation you had teaching your child to ride a bike and then watching their face as they mastered it. There’s no feeling like it. You could explain the satisfaction you got when you helped your child through a challenge and saw them victoriously bust through the other side of that hardship. And all of that would be true. But it would only be part of the story.
Your answer could be a little more raw and forthcoming. On more than one occasion, most parents would like to scream into a pillow and pour out their unfiltered hearts in a colorful display of questionable language and high volume spew!
Of course I think parenting life is full of joy. But it’s also the hardest job anyone could wish for. And it’s a different job every day. And kids are so expensive. Not to mention the lack of sleep they cause. The mental weight of it all is maddening. The endless to do lists, schedules to keep, things to remember, events to plan, tears to manage, birthday parties to attend, shuttling kids here and shuttling them there, and pretty much worrying about your kids 18 hours a day. Maybe not every day… but there are seasons.
The details of everyday parenting can also be mind crushing. Just think of all the questioning that goes on inside the mind of a parent… the part no one ever sees.
It’s not just the packing of school and work lunches, but remembering what everyone’s favorite food is and, if it’s Friday, that means it’s hot lunch day. Oh, and I can’t forget to ask if it’s my husband’s turn to bring a dish to share at the weekly staff meeting. Wait, do I even have what I need in the refrigerator to make those meals? Arrrggghhh, where’s that grocery list I started? Do I still have any fresh fruit? Are the veggies even edible? Oh, and is there cake mix and a jar of frosting in the pantry for the cupcakes I volunteered to make for the student of the month party in my son’s class? Wait! We have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow. Is there meat left in the garage freezer?
Gross! What’s that in the back of the refrigerator? It’s a bowl of something that resembles rice – but that’s not rice. That’s potatoes growing something green that looks like penicillin but smells like death! And I told my daughter to take those out a week ago. Might as well just pitch the tupperware container too. I can’t believe I’m throwing this away.
Turning around, I see a mountain of paperwork that’s taking over the kitchen counter and mud room. There are bills, grocery ads, and almost expired coupons kept in a pile for fear I might forget to use them. There are school papers, projects, and teacher letters along with an unopened thank you note from a friend. Staring at all this, I’m wondering when it will stop controlling me and I can start to control it. When will I have the time and, more importantly, the energy to organize and go thru this behemoth-sized pile of paper?
Fear paralyzes me as I avoid opening a bill in that pile because I have no idea how I’ll pay for it. Speaking of the mud room, there are winter boots still cluttering the room and we’ve had 60 degree weather for almost a month. I’ll have to add this to the never-ending, mental note to myself: *wash everyone’s coats and box them up until winter. Then I need to get the flip flops and sandals out of storage. Wait, the kids have probably outgrown their old shoes… which means, I need to add flip flops to the Walmart list… which I’m thinking is probably in that mountain of paperwork.
Speaking of Walmart, I can’t forget to pick up a birthday gift for my niece. She wants an original Wonder Woman T-shirt, size 8 in girls… but not the new Wonder Woman. It has to be the old school show or she’ll think I forgot and don’t love her. And I need to pick up a pack of 4 watt night light bulbs again. If I don’t, it will mean keeping the bathroom light on again tonight.
This is a taste of the parenting no one sees but is constantly happening. It can be all consuming and overpowering if we let it. And we haven’t even mentioned the emotional weight you carry for your kids. We wonder things like: Will my kids be kind to others? Will they mind their manners when I’m not around? Will they remember all I’ve taught them? Are they really strong enough to stand up to that ‘friend’ who is bullying them at recess? Have I taught them enough about special needs children so they’ll help them instead of stare? Do they have what it takes to get A’s and B’s in school… ok, at least C’s? Have I physically and mentally loved them enough so they don’t go looking for love in unhealthy relationships?
This mental list is usually longer than the physical one and can paralyze even the best of us. And this is just the invisible part of parenting. The emotional weight of the job. What about the visible area of parenting? The physical part others can see.
The day starts with that crazy alarm. Besides all the meals, it’s picking up the carpool kids and school drop off lines, soccer practices on Wednesday and Friday night… or is it Tuesday and Thursday? Then there’s the homework projects that require three separate stops looking for just the right color of card stock paper. Darn you Walmart! You’re supposed to carry YELLOW card stock!
After getting your kids to all their sporting practices, uniforms need to be washed for the weekend’s games. And don’t forget to prepare the snack. It better be good because last weekend’s snack was a work of art, complete with a personalized water bottle for their drink. These people have way too much time on their hands.
There are bed sheets to wash and a van to vacuum out. There’s toilet paper to stock, toothpaste to clean off the sinks, dogs to feed, poop to clean up in the backyard, and books to read to your kids, cause we all know good parents are supposed to read to their kids. Parenting and being a part of this family includes gathering receipts to get organized for taxes, mowing the yard, pulling the weeds, and getting the kids ready for bed at a reasonable time. We haven’t even mentioned all the time needed to help the kids process all the drama at school. Like I said, it’ll make you scream in a pillow.
Sometimes we focus on accomplishing the visible parenting. At other times, it’s all about the invisible. But most of the time, it feels like it’s both at the same time. And it can be so tiring. Be encouraged. You are not alone. Millions of parents are in the same boat.
Parenting is tough. Very tough. But it’s also amazingly joyful. And we are in this together. Seek community and support. Get help. Don’t try to be a super-parent and struggle by yourself. You’re of little help to anyone when you struggle alone.
We all have one thing in common; we desperately love our kids and want the very best for them. That’s our calling as parents. And it’s a great motivation.
Parenting is the hardest job anyone can do and it’s different everyday! To all you parents out there, we salute your stamina and are here for you! You got this.
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