Recently, Yahoo Shine published a piece on an emerging trend: parents who hate parenting. When you get a moment, click on some of the links in the piece (I’ll reference a couple of them below). It’s a heck of a survey of recent articles and studies and blog posts regarding some of the difficulties of parenting.
Apparently, studies show folks without kids are much happier than folks with kids and that those of us who do have them are more prone to depression, stress, and empty pockets. One study even points out that parents idealize their roles almost because the data indicates that there is a much greater emotional and financial strain.
I’ll admit, I didn’t read the full article (I have kids to take care of for goodness sake). But what seems to be the conclusion of the study (thanks to this Time blog post for boiling it down for us): We glorify parenting to con ourselves into thinking having kids was actually a good idea.
I’m not all that surprised that various psychological studies come to that conclusion. And I love some of the points made by the Lylah M. Alphonso (the author of that Yahoo! post–and my apologies to her if anything after this sounds like I’m repeating those points).
With all that background out of the way, I’ll throw in my $.02. I’m no psychologist, and I’m not a fancy Time blogger, so take my two cents for what they’re worth. I’m just a dad.
If someone asked me: “Let’s pretend, Brett, that you admitted you hated being a parent. What would be your reasons?” I would answer as follows:
1. I’m Selfish: The absolute number one reason that there are moments that I get frustrated in parenting is my innate selfishness. There are moments when I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. This is no longer an option, especially with my children as young as they are.
People tell you that getting married will show you how selfish you are. Getting married has nothing on having babies. That really brings out the “ME” in me. Come to think of it, even the speaker at my church opened his sermon with this illustration: We get frustrated with difficulties because we think life is all about us.
2. There’s No Manual: Sure we bought and checked out some books–all the normal ones “What To Expect When…”, Babywise, the Sears books, John Rosemond, 1-2-3 Magic. But in the heat of late afternoon and early evening chaos, you can’t push the pause button on your children and look up: ‘How to positively address 3 yr old’s current demands while 1 twin’s diaper just exploded due to the fact they had too many blackberries for breakfast’.
First, the reference won’t be there. And second, kids have no pause buttons. We have to think on the fly and do the best we can. We have to bob and weave throughout the day.
Good Work If You Can Get It
I’m bumping up against my 500 word limit here, so in short, my two reasons above are exactly the things that I know that I need.
I don’t hate parenting. I hate my selfishness. I don’t hate parenting. I hate that I’m not naturally a perfect parent–that I do have to read and learn and internalize new ideas and methods. Learning a new skill is often tough. And this is one of the most important skills to learn. I hate that I have to live in the tension between doing my best and perfection.
So, to conclude, this is why I love parenting:
- Primarily, it’s just great getting to know those three little personalities and watching them grow.
- I’m becoming less selfish–there’s no better iron sharpener than kids.
- I’m getting the opportunity to take care of three precious, uniquely created human beings. What a powerful thing!
I know Mr. Psychologist’s cost benefit analysis won’t scream and cry and actually depend on him for anything, but it also won’t laugh with him and snuggle with him and force him to realize tough stuff about himself so that he becomes a better person.
Questions: What are the tough things about parenting for you? What are the things that make you realize there’s nothing better in the world?
(For over-stressed parents, I recommend reviewing the list of 10 suggestions at the bottom of the Yahoo piece, taken from ‘Mothers Need Time-Outs Too’.)