It’s OK to admit it. Moms and dads all over the world, take a deep breath and say it out loud: Parenthood is both demanding and disappointing. Yes, we love our children. Yes, we want to be the best parents we can. But, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that parenting isn’t at all what we expected.
A recent study reveals that most parents feel like they’re not as happy as they were before becoming parents. Of the 2,016 parents who were surveyed, only 30% said they were happier or had the same level of happiness as they did before having children. This is further proof that you’re not alone if parenting feels daunting. After all, studies show that 70% of parents agree with you!
Now that you’ve become comfortable admitting that you’re disappointed with your overall parenting experience, it’s time to explore another truth: parenting is way different from what you imagined!
The demands that are placed on parents these days are outrageous. The expectation of parents to perform perfectly every day is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.
This is what you can expect throughout your parenting journey. There will rarely be moments when you feel like you’re doing enough for your children. As a matter of fact, you’ll be lucky if you experience that feeling even once in life.
Having a baby is more complicated than ever before. From the time your baby is born, you’re hit with a borage of issues, like:
-If you are a mother, should you breastfeed your baby, or feed your child with the bottle? Obviously, breastfeeding is the best choice, but you won’t have time to breastfeed due to your demanding work schedule. So, you’re probably going to be ridiculed for being a “bad mother”—be prepared.
-Should you circumcise your child or not? Of course, it’s more visually appealing to circumcise your baby boy, but studies have shown that the process can be psychologically damaging. So, you’re a terrible parent no matter what you decide.
-To co-sleep or not to co-sleep? If you’re like me, you’d do just about anything to get a good night’s sleep. However, being sleep-deprived is a small price to pay if it means your child is comfortable and safe, right?
-How much time should you spend with your newborn? In order to be a good parent, you need to stare at your baby for several hours each day, thinking positive and warm thoughts to enhance your child’s self-esteem. Sure, you don’t have enough time in a day to shave your legs, but hey, you’ve got all the time in the world when it comes to staring lovingly at your child. After all, anything less would make you an unfit parent, right?
If that’s not enough, don’t forget:
-You’ve got to teach your baby sign language by the time he/she is three months. This is the type of advanced communication that will help your child to get ahead in life. If you don’t do this, your baby may struggle in school, fail to develop socially and be average at best.
-Your child must know how to read at nine months. Children’s books are slightly impressive, but if you really want your little one to have a chance at success in life, you’ll introduce him/her to books that are considered artistic treasures. After all, your baby is never too young to recite poetry from Maya Angelou or memorize a passage from a Charles Dickens novel. Also, you’ve got to read to your child for at least 20 minutes each day in order to be considered an acceptable guardian.
-By the time your child is 24 months, he/she should be potty-trained. It doesn’t matter that you work 50 hours a week. It’s not important that your time throws a tantrum each time you put him/her on the potty. Just make sure that you’ve met this goal by the 24-month mark.
-Your child should be in preschool by 36 months. If you don’t get your child into preschool by this time, he/she won’t have the social or academic skills to get ahead in life.
-Keep your smartphone handy at all times. This way, you can capture every moment of your baby’s magical childhood, while staying present and enjoying the moment with your child. You’ve also got to post pictures of your little one at an annoying rate so that your friends and family can tell you how adorable your child is. It’s also imperative that you post your child’s “milestones” on social media. For instance, don’t forget to tell everyone on your friend list about your toddler’s first solid poop. People love that.
-Finally, don’t forget to you absolutely have to purchase onesies with attachments that allow you to showcase your baby’s monthly “birthday.” Annual birthday photoshoots aren’t quite obnoxious enough these days, so make sure you take a new onesie picture of your child every 30 days and share it with everyone you know.
By now, you’ve likely figured out that the expectations put on women to be great wives, perfect moms, and successful professionals are completely ridiculous.
When I made the decision to have children, I based my perception of parenthood on my parents’ experience. However, I had to realize that a whole lot has changed in the world since I was a child.
After all, our parents didn’t experience the pressure of giving us all that life had to offer by the time we were toddlers. They weren’t inundated with scientific studies that confirmed that all their parenting methods were scarring their children for life.
The bottom line is the borage of expectations we experience daily as parents take away the joy of raising children and the beautiful moments that come with it.
What happened to the simple pleasures of parenting, like having family game nights once a week, camping out, or just letting our kids play outside with the other children in the neighborhood until the street lights came on?
Is there anything we can do to reclaim this type of parenthood?
Why, yes there is! We can start ignoring the societal standards that are being placed on parents—and get back to just being parents. Once we come to terms with the fact that we’re dysfunctional, and that our kids will develop just fine in spite of that, we won’t feel so guilty for our shortcomings.
When we finally let go of the strict expectations, we can start seeing the world with innocence, fascination, and wonder—the way our children do.
If you want to start experiencing the same type of happiness you had before having kids, you should take advice from previous generations and leave the modern expectations of your peers behind.
Try this simple experiment to start to enjoy parenting: let your kids experience childhood in its fullness for one week. Don’t worry about being the perfect parent. Listen to your instincts and use these indicators to guide your children. There’s a good chance you’ll discover what Adam Sandler’s character did in the movie Grown Ups: your kids will “unplug” from modern norms and just get back to kids’ play.
Rachel Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support, and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.