My wife and I are really honest when it comes to the struggles of parenthood.
Sometimes too honest.
My wife, Shannon, works in Human Resources and she said while others have been in her office they’ll see pictures of our two daughters and comment about how beautiful they are.
“Yeah, but they’re trouble.”
“Yeah, but they’re rotten.”
“Yeah, but they’re a handful.”
“Yeah, but they’re a hot mess express.”
I told Shannon last week on the way home from a beach trip with friends that I think we complain too much. When you’re with a group of parents, it’s natural to vent about your children or spouses, but when you speak too negatively it starts to leak into how you treat them.
I was speaking with one of our friends about how I just need a break. As a stay-at-home dad I’m always with my family. With a six month old baby, I never catch a break. I’m always exhausted and dealing with a screaming baby in one ear and cleaning bottles and cleaning the house and tending to the five year old who doesn’t listen to pick up her things and she is always asking a million questions while I’m preparing dinner and the laundry load is never-ending.
Even on our beach trip, it was the same chaos. As someone said to me, “Vacation with kids isn’t a vacation; it’s a trip.” Life with kids is a trip. It’s a non-stop ride of moving from one place to the other with little-to-no down time. Even when you have down time you can’t stop thinking about all the things that need to get done and you can’t turn your brain off.
Parenting is the most difficult job I’ve ever had.
So, when we are with our friends, I typically use humor to describe dealing with our kids because I know they can relate. I’ll tell the story about how my five year old daughter wiped her own ass only to leave poop-soaked toilet paper in her panties that fell onto the floor for her crawling sister to almost put in her mouth before I found it. It’s amazing how many stories deal with poop or vomit. Many comedians use stories on parenting because #thestruggleisreal. And with the real, raw, honest truth of parenting we can see the humor amidst the chaos.
Yet, I’m wondering how much our five year old daughter is picking up on our “honesty.” When someone comments on how beautiful she is in front of her, and we respond with “Yeah, but she’s a hot mess express,” what does that do to her self-esteem? We can’t take a compliment without overshadowing something positive with something negative. This could have lasting effects if we’re not careful. The last thing we would ever want is to make our daughter feel anything but positive about how wonderful she is and special to us and to those around her. If all she heard was our negativity and honesty to the struggles of parenting, that would be devastating.
It also affects us. Last night the baby was screaming – as she usually is – while Shannon was on her way home from work. The five year old was pouting because she did not get her way for something and we’ve been struggling with her attitude and poor listening lately. Shannon asked, “Do I need to let you go to tend to the girls?”
“What’s the point? They’re going to be upset anyway.”
Then Shannon responded, “Maybe we need to be more appreciative of our girls. Maybe our negativity is affecting their attitude – not to mention our own.”
Shannon had three miscarriages before we had our first daughter. Sometimes we forget how it felt seeing pictures of babies and comments on social media, and not being able to have that in our own lives. We longed for poopy diapers because that meant we had a child of our own. We longed to hear screaming or get a lack of sleep because that meant we had a baby to hold. In some ways our poor attitude towards parenting is selfish because of all those who wish they were as blessed as us. Our negative, “honest” attitude is selfish because it’s robbing us of the joy of being parents. We are blessed to have two beautiful, smart, kind girls.
We should be reminded of how sweet our five year old is. She is a great friend and helper to those in need. It’s amazing to hear stories from other parents and her teachers of how helpful and sweet she is to her friends when they are upset. She is a great kid, and when we get caught up in the day-to-day chaos we forget that. She puts up with a lot having a screaming baby sister, and we sometimes take her for granted. Not sometimes; we often take her for granted.
And since we are NOT having any more kids, this baby phase is the last baby phase we will have as parents. Soon we’ll long for that poopy diaper blowout because it means we’ll still have that little baby snuggle and those cute, squishy cheeks. We should soak up every moment – even the tiresome, disgusting ones – because they’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.
Maybe the break I’ve been looking for isn’t to take time away from my kids (although all parents need that sometimes).
Maybe what I really need in my day-to-day life is to change my perspective. I need to remind myself that these two little ones are my precious gems. They are to be adored and praised and cherished daily, just as my wife is. My three girls are my world, and I should speak of them highly and with the utmost respect.
Parenting is tough and it is the most difficult job in the world, but there has never been a better job. There has never been a better investment. There has never been a better use of our time.
To see a child start to crawl or talk. To see a child start to make friends and ride a bike. To see a child grow into the person they are meant to be. To see a child smile or hear her laugh or watch her do what she loves. To see a child – your child – be a shining light in this world. That makes everything worth it.
Let not the struggles of parenting outweigh the intoxicating joy of being a parent.