What’s to love?

I love my children. I really do. And I can genuinely enjoy spending time with them, one on one, especially if it’s the weekend and we have some time and we’re doing something fun.

But most days? Parenting is just hard. It’s not fun. It’s not even enjoyable. It’s tiresome and relentless, and difficult. A lot of the time I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and I worry I’m getting it wrong, and damaging my kids, forever.

I feel like yesterday is a good example of a day in the life of parenting for me.

TIRED: Wake up at 5:45am, exhausted because my kids were up four times and I didn’t sleep well in between. Go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. Sit down to meditate for 15 minutes. Hear my son cry out just as my meditation app signals me to take a deep breath. Get off pillow and check in with my son. Warm up some milk, change his diaper while he drinks it, acquiesce to his pleads for “snuggle time,” spend the five minutes lying next to him feeling sure that now I’m going to be late.

FRUSTRATED: Sit back down on pillow and start to meditate. Hear my husband’s alarm go off, wonder why he isn’t getting up. Try to focus on my breathing. Feel relieved when my meditation timer finally goes off. See that I’m 10 minutes late to get into my daughter’s room.

RESIGNED: Finish packing my daughter’s lunch and school bag. Wake her up for snuggle time. She’s upset to hear we don’t have as much time as usually. We listen to an audiobook to wake up. She is in a bad mood and just generally grouchy. She yells at me a lot, but I try to be nice.

PANICKED: Hurry to get dressed. Realize the shirt I picked out has a big stain. Find a new outfit. Try to get ready in the bathroom while my husband is showering. Pour myself coffee. Attempt to soothe my son, who is crying loudly. Drag my daughter out of bed to eat breakfast. Return to my son who is in full meltdown mood. Try to escape to the car, but can’t leave when my soon is screaming for cuddles. Sit with him on the couch, resigned to the fact that I’ll be late for work for sure today.

{Usually I bring my daughter to school in the morning but twice a week this month I go early and her friend’s father picks her up for school.}

REALLY PANICKED: Fly downstairs and try to pull out of my garage but realize some asshole is parked a foot into my driveway. Maneuver my car out of the small space they left for me. Wish I could leave a note on his window. Jump on the freeway. Feel thankful that the traffic isn’t too bad. Realize I’m still going to be late. Call a friend and ask her to cover my class for the first five minutes.

RELIEVED: Fight the insane traffic (it’s really bad right by my work) and arrive five minutes late. Teach one FLEX class. Teach another FLEX class. Eat lunch alone in my classroom, reading a book on my Kindle and feeling lonely.

EXASPERATED: Get a call during my third class of the day (when I’m standing in front of my class, teaching) that my son bit a kid and is being sent home. It’s his third biting offense, and the second time he bit a specific kid. Waste 7 minutes of my class’s time trying to get a hold of my husband (he never answers) and then finally get a hold of my MIL who agrees to pick up my son. Feel relieved and grateful that I don’t have to make sub plans and leave early, but also feel super frustrated that my son is biting other kids and getting sent home. Have a hard time focusing during the rest of my classes. Count the minutes until the end of the day.

FURTIVE: Sneak out of work ten minutes early to avoid the traffic from the other school getting out. Rush home, make my daughter a sandwich, pick her up from after care and take her to swimming.

SURPRISED: Talk my daughter down twice during swim lessons when she starts to panic because she’s scared. Wonder if the swim teacher is looking at me like that because she doesn’t want me to interfere or is just annoyed that my kids is hyperventilating. Decide I don’t care. Spent 10 minutes when she gets out showing empathy and reminding her that she’s not in the water anymore and no one is asking her to get the rocked from the bottom of the pool. Assure her she can wait and do it when she’s a teenager.

SUPREMELY FRUSTRATED: Reminder daughter she has to finish her sandwich before she can eat her after-swimming treat. Spend another 10 minutes getting her dressed and trying not to lose it with her while gently reminding her that if she doesn’t want to eat the sandwich, she doesn’t have to eat the sandwich, but then no treat. Spend the entire drive home gripping the steering wheel while she complains about not wanting to eat the sandwich, and that she hates sandwiches, and why does she have to eat the whole sandwich? Finally lose it and yell: You asked for a sandwich, you won’t eat any other food, just don’t eat the sandwich if you don’t want to but no treat if that’s your choice!

OVERWHELMED: Get home. Help your daughter upstairs. Greet son. Listen to MIL’s suggestions about ways to get son to stop biting. Nod head politely and bite tongue. Get pulled inside by son’s screams. Find him melting down because his sister won’t let him in her room. Try to keep him safe as he flails his arms and throws himself on the floor. Show him empathy and caring for 20+ minutes while he screams. Try not to look at watch and think about how much this is pushing back dinner, bath time and bedtime.

WORN DOWN: Set my son up in front of the TV. Turn on Thomas. Make him dinner. Help him watch dinner while he watches TV (Yes, I know, the cardinal parenting sin).

DISAPPOINTED: Try to convince daughter to play in the bath with son for 5-10 minutes because it would make him SO HAPPY. Try not to judge her when she refuses. Strip son down as you explain that big sister probably won’t be joining him. Try not to let his broken heart break my heart. Have son’s bath all ready when daughter shows up needing to go number 2. Let her go because she refuses to share the space. Forget that son is running around without a diaper. Pester daughter to finish quickly and NO BOOKS! Help her wipe. Panic as son calls out that there is a BIG POOP! Find his big poop on the carpet. Clean it up. Get him in the bath. Wash his hair while he wails that he doesn’t like it. Fill up the tub with bubbles.

GRATEFUL: Feel so happy when daughter agrees to play with her brother for a little bit. Referee their time together. Make appointment with new pediatrician to talk about daughter’s excessively restrictive eating. Get son’s room ready for bed. Pull him out and go through bedtime routine. Leave him to look at books. Wash daughter’s hair. Do a quick snuggle with son and kiss daughter goodbye. Head out to see friend who’s in town for a couple of nights.

I love my kids, and am grateful to be their mom, but most days I don’t enjoy parenting. Every minute is hurried and stressed and frustrating. I’m trying to approach this “season” with different expectations, but it’s hard when most moments with my kids involve talking them down from an emotional cliff (while trying to keep them from hitting themselves or me) or hurrying them through the next thing on the list.

This is probably a normal day in the world of the mothers of young kids. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. I don’t know why those few moments of snuggle time, or the quick hug I sometimes get aren’t enough. And I know this is just a season, but the most common response to me vocalizing my discontent with early motherhood is Bigger kids, bigger problems! Enjoy them while they’re small! Which I’m assuming means it gets harder as your kids get older. If that is the case, I’m in serious trouble.

Things really do feel hard right now. My “easy” kid is angry and aggressive most of the time. My other kid is obstinate and quick to lose it. Most moments are spent reacting to their unexpected upsets, negotiating to get something done, or refereeing every interaction between them. It’s exhausting and not very pleasant. It wears me down. It wears my husband down. It tears at my resolve and our marriage. It’s just a really challenging place to be, and it leaves me wondering, most days, What’s to love about parenting?

23 Comments

  1. This sounds really hard. I only have one and I have a nanny on the days when I work, which makes it much, much easier. That being said, the main time I spend with my son on work days is bedtime and I find it absolutely excruciating. I hate the fight over teeth brushing. I can’t enjoy the routine at all because I never know if he is going to protest and demand more books and freak out when I leave the room. And, I’m basically starving during it because I don’t have time to eat dinner between coming home and putting him to bed.

    My kid isn’t in day care, but is it standard to send a two year old home for biting? What is that possibly supposed to accomplish — I can’t imagine that your son will feel shame about being sent home and then stop biting? I guess it placates the parents of the bitten kid. I’d be furious if my two year old were sent home in the middle of the day because he was biting — biting is normal. Three biting offenses in the five months since he’s been in school doesn’t sound like much at all.

    From your other posts I can tell that your daughter sounds very challenging. I also think that you are seriously sleep deprived. Can you spend a weekend at your parents so you can catch up on sleep?

    My only other concrete suggestion is that you pack lunches and schoool bags the night before.

    1. I do pack lunches the night before, but I wait to cut her apple until that morning so it doesn’t get too brown over night. And I am sleep deprived. My son hasn’t slept well in months. I keep waiting for his last molars to come it but they just don’t. And now I’m not sure they even are. I would kill for a full night’s sleep.

  2. I totally understand the feelings in this post, and have had this day myself many times. (Well, a variation). The two kids vs one tired kid at bedtime part = my least favorite. That said, I find it random how sometimes I can find myself in utter despair, and other times just bowled over by the cuteness and sweetness (probably helps that my younger one has not hit the aggressive stage yet – maybe he won’t!).

    Other comments – I am friends with a few people with older kids and the refrain I hear most often is that it get easier once they are all over 3, and that yes the problems are DIFFERENT but it’s not quite so hands-on-every-second the way it is when they are really little.

    And finally – agree with above that sending the biter home makes no sense! My younger one got bitten last week and I highly doubt they sent the biter home. (I don’t even know who it was as it’s school policy to keep the names confidential). perhaps increased supervision for the biter for the rest of the day, but that seems like enough to me.

    1. I appreciate hearing from parents with older kids that it gets easier in some ways. That whole, Bigger kids, bigger problems refrain really chafes. I mean, obviously the issues are more complicated when they are older, but not all kids are dealing with them all the time. I also think I’m going to be better at navigating those kinds of problems… I’ve spent my life with kids in the really hard middle school years, so I’m totally aware of what those kids are dealing with (and yes, I realize it will be different when it’s my own kids at that age).

      I don’t know what is up with that biting kid gets sent home policy. My daughter was sent home a bunch of times for biting. I hope this doesn’t continue to be an issue.

  3. I have felt overwhelming tired and more defeated than usual recently with my daughter. It might have to do with potty training and my husband being out of town for work, but it’s just so much work (being pregnant doesn’t help). I keep trying to remind myself that it is a phase and that we will get through it hopefully sometime soon. Not to mention the tantrums and how hard it is to get her dressed and ready in the morning as I worry about missing my train every 5 minutes.

    As far as the biting thing, my daughter has been bitten by the same girl three times (last week she bit her on her hip?!?) in the past 6 months and I see the girl still at daycare when we pick my daughter up so they don’t send her home. That’s an odd policy- how is your son supposed to learn not to do that if they are just isolating him at home?

    1. I think being pregnant and parenting a small child is REALLY exhausting. Remember how tired you were when you were pregnant the first time!? Now you’re that tired, but dealing with a small kid!

      I don’t know what the point of that sending-home policy is, I’m assuming it’s to assuage the parent of the bitten kid. I think he got sent home not because it was his third offense but because it was his second time biting the same kid. But yeah, he LOVES going to his grandparents house so I’m worried he’s going to associate biting with going to their house and bite someone just to get to leave with them!

      1. My kid was bit before and no one went home. Yeah the school just says “a friend” but my kids always tell me who did it…

  4. Because I am not in the trees with you I had some thoughts that undoubtedly are off base. But: When meditation is interrupted shortchange that rather than the rest of your morning. When daughter doesn’t cooperate with getting dressed take her out with her towel for warmth to get to car in wet suit. (yeah, cold in SF etc etc but discomfort will not make her sick or damage her and keeps you on schedule and while it would not end the sandwich pre-snack fight, you didn’t win it anyway.) When son wants to tantrum for 20 minutes unless you think he will harm himself seriously leave him to his tantrum and move ahead with some other activity like sorting out his next mornings clothes…. or yours. So you can hear him but not be there for it. In other words, do not use words just consequences. NOTE: I am totally not saying ignore daughter feeling panic in water or not snuggling son waking early or not asking daughter once only if she wants to share the bath with brother. But cut your losses.
    AND, YES, IN PERSON IS WAY HARDER SECOND BY SECOND than for me at a distance! The constantness of it all really really totally wears one down and out. But try it when you can.

  5. First off, you’re a great parent & there are days that are good and days that are off and then days that we don’t really want to see again…ever. Add in when your “easy” kid is not overall easy, a toddler who is adamant about everything & parenting is rough. Overall, your life seems to be, on a normal day, hectic & hurried. Gosh, when do you have time to just breathe?

    My other half keeps on telling me to make my two self-reliant. It’s hard for me to do but he’s right. For instance, they do bath time together or right after one another, but I only wash their hair…and they do the rest. It’s time consuming (it is!) and trying to figure out how to keep one entertained while the other one bathes is hard…but they gotta learn. Of course, logistics could be a problem too when you have 1 bathroom.

    Look, at the end of the day, when my kids go to bed, I am relieved. Does that make me a bad parent? No. Does it make me a bad parent that I hope they don’t wake up right after I put them to bed? No. Parenting is hard. Kids are hard. But if we had the chance to do this all over again (and if my ovaries would cooperate) would we? Yep.

  6. I was going to ask the same thing about daycare sending your son home for biting. L was a biter (and then had some issues with scratching/hitting, too, yes we have THAT kid and he’s my EASY one!) and never ever was that a consideration. We got an “incident report” and had to have a conversation with the teacher about making sure we are reinforcing “gentle touch” etc… after the 3rd time (2 times same kid). In fact, when touring daycares when pregnant, I remember asking about policies for biting (because a friend of mine had a real issue with her daughter biting & being put in time out at age 1-2) and every single one said it was developmentally normal and they would never punish or send home, just redirect.
    I hear you on this, its hard. But also…reading this…I see so so many instances of you putting yourself dead last. And yes we should put our kids first in many ways, but we do not need to completely forget our own needs. I cannot “give empathy” throughout an entire 20-minute tantrum at dinnertime. Or indulge their needs for snuggles when I’m running late for work or exhausted at bedtime. You are really a great mother, you sacrifice so much and try to do whatever is best for your kids. Maybe sacrificing less will make you happier and able to enjoy the moments more, though.

    1. I agree with this about putting yourself last. When my son tantrums, I usually make dinner and every few minutes tell him that I hear him and I know he’s upset — intermittent empathy, I guess you can call it.

  7. Ugh, I’m wrapping up a really tough parenting day too and this all resonates with me. I hate days like this. I’ve always heard the “sweet spot” in parenting is from 7-12, but who knows? Anyway, in so sorry and you know I think of you so often.

  8. Holy mother of pearl. It’s hard to see it all written out like that! I especially relate to the mornings, that’s where the majority of our screaming is done. I HATE starting the day out like that.

  9. Minus one kid, my day feels similar. I know how much self-control it takes to give empathy when you’re on a tight schedule and I commend you for it. It’s okay to feel like your days are hard because they sound HARD.

  10. Interesting–it seems it’s the always feeling like you are rushing that contributes a lot to the difficulty. I feel that way too. Unfortunately it seems to be standard for working moms without oodles of help or extremely flexible jobs. I have this same constant rush/worrying about being late stress.

    And yeah I hate the ” ha! Wait til they’re teenagers!” type comments.

    1. I think feeling constantly rushed is just parenthood. I stay home with my kids and do not wait until the last minute to get ready for school or appointments and no matter what type of jump start I get, we’re almost ALWAYS rushing at the end. I just don’t get it. It’s like they can tell I’m relaxed and we have ample time and they decide to lose their shit and refuse to put on shoes, or put the toy down, or get distracted in the garage on our way to the car. It’s infuriating.

  11. Oh, I remember those days – they are exhausting and leaving a bad morning is just hard. My kids are 7 and just about 5 and just recently have marveled at how much more I enjoy my children and my life these days. It does become easier, and more fun.

    Are you familiar with Alan Kazdin? My daughter is the girl who will test EVERY limit she encounters. She’s lovely, but much like your daughter seems to be, also very difficult – your stories resonate. Anything less than 110% consistency parenting her throws us into chaos and that is unrealistic and exhausting.

    Anyhow, I read The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child in October and started applying his methods in November and in four months, I can definitely say it is effective. It’s about eliminating your child’s unwanted behavior by teaching, practicing and rewarding its positive opposite.

    I’m not a 100% follower and my husband does not play along (he’s not anti- just the non-default parent), but my children are much better at listening and doing right away (particularly with morning routines). It really has shown me that I have to formally teach my child how I expect her to behave and react in most situations.

    I know you were venting and I can totally appreciate it. It’s just a suggestion, you seem open to hearing what has worked for others. It has been really great here and I feel like it is helpful for all parents, not just ones tagged as “defiant.” Shopkins have been great currency for us too, just FYI.

  12. If I’m being honest, I don’t know how to respond to this post. I have so many thoughts, but I don’t know how useful they will be to you…and I hate giving parenting advice/thoughts to other parents….

    I will say this, parenting spirited/emotional children is different than any other challenge I’ve dealt with in my years of working with young people. It’s draining and frustrating and exhausting. Finding ways of coping with those outcomes is key. I hope you get sleep soon….

  13. As a non-parent, I really hesitate to respond to this. But I will, because there are two things I want to say. The first is that you need a hug, and I want to send one to you, and suggest you take a few seconds and just envelope yourself with the mental hugs from me and all your readers here, AND from yourself. Self-compassion us recognising it’s hard, and giving yourself some comfort. Even for just a few seconds.

    Second thing was that I was struck by the fact that the five minutes you spent having snuggle time with your son, you were worrying that you were going to be late. It reminded me of am anecdote in the forward of The Miracle Of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, where a man says he has no time to himself, because he’s either working or carrying for his family. The suggestion he’s given is to see his time differently, to see the time with his kids as precious time for himself with his children, rather than as five minutes (for example) of lost time, of time he was cheated of. Now, I remember reading this 24 years ago, and thinking that it would be very hard to do, and seemed quite unfair! But now I realise that maybe it might help? I could find the excerpt and send it to you if you want. E-mail me if you do.

  14. The sandwich story made my eye twitch. I have had the exact same convo umpteen times with X. Usually devolves into him melting down and me yelling exactly how you describe. (hugs)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *