Please welcome Loren Buckner, LCSW.
What Makes Being a Parent So Difficult?
Guilt is an unavoidable emotion that plagues the spirit of most conscientious moms. There are so many demands on mothers. When we fall short of our own expectations or experience our own shortcomings, we feel guilty.
Raising children is stressful and not just the physical everyday stuff of laundry, cooking, and cleaning-up. As individuals, having children challenges our definitions of ourselves, psychologically and emotionally.
In addition, we can’t always be home with our kids and we don’t always feel up for a story. Often, we feel so immersed in our babies and children that we have trouble shifting our minds and bodies into the sexual realm. As our partners worry if they will ever have sex again, our loyalties are torn. And we feel guilty about that too.
On top of all this, there are darker emotions that come along with being a parent – feelings that we’re not prepared for and are ashamed of. Parents generally don’t talk about this painful side of parenting and the silence tends to undermine our confidence and self- esteem. I remember as a young mother thinking, why didn’t anybody tell me what this was going to be like?
The feelings I’m talking about here are the sadness, disappointment, worry, anger and even hatred that, from time to time, are normal parental emotions. But moms (and dads too) feel guilty for having these feelings. They think that somewhere out there are parents who always feel good about themselves and who always adore their children. It’s not a good idea, though, to compare our insides to other people’s outsides.
The truth is disturbing feelings are as much a part of family life as the happier times. Coping with the good and bad feelings about ourselves and about our children are, in truth, what make parenting so profoundly difficult.
What’s Bothering You?
Parenting books offer what seems like sound advice regarding the complexities of child-rearing:
- Get the kids on a schedule.
- Be consistent.
- Don’t give in to tantrums
- Know where your teens are and whom they’re with.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these concise solutions resolved the pressing problems of parenthood? And wouldn’t it be great if, regardless of our individual circumstances or of our children’s individual personalities, there was something simple we could all do to feel less overwhelmed? And wouldn’t you just love it if there was some expert advice I could give that would keep you from having those darker moments?
Actually, my ultimate message is that there isn’t anything simple about parenting. Easy parenting is a fantasy that just doesn’t exist. Frightening and disturbing feelings will periodically disrupt your life and challenge your sense of self. From time to time, feeling taken over, used, and overwhelmed is unavoidable. Parenting is an amazing experience, but it also involves coping with anger, sadness, loss, disappointment, and guilt.
There aren’t any tricks to learn to ward off these feelings. Rather, the trick (if there is one) is to accept your experiences as meaningful opportunities to better understand yourself and the people you care about. Ultimately, calmer nerves and a quieter mind come from getting comfortable with your own emotions.
Try listening carefully to your thoughts. Explore your feelings instead of avoiding them. When something is troubling you, ask yourself one question, for example, “What’s really bothering me?” Then patiently pay close attention to what starts trickling into your mind…
Loren Buckner is a psychotherapist for individuals, couples and families in Florida. She wrote ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How To Deal with Them, an absolutely fantastic parenting book that I had the opportunity to review for another parenting site. I was so blown away by this book that I am currently rereading it so that I can share a brand new review with all of you guys. Check out the book’s website here.
These articles were posted with the consent of the original writer, Loren Buckner.