Regret and Other Hard Things About Parenting

When I first announced that I was expecting, many people gushed about how amazing parenting is.  They threw in a few jokes about sleep deprivation and mom diapers but they usually followed it up with “but seriously, it is great!” or “I wouldn’t change it for the world!” Some even said it is the best thing you will ever do with your life. Well, I’m not going to disagree with them but I am going to take a moment for some real talk. Most would mention that it was hard in passing, but most left the details to themselves. They acted like the hard parts were surviving sleep deprivation, changing diapers quickly before they made a mess, and learning new schedules. And those things are hard, but they left me with this almost unattainable perception of being a parent. Well, I say, not today. Today I’m going to talk to you about the really hard and about how experiencing the hard doesn’t make me a bad parent.

I have regretted becoming a parent.

Yep, I’m going to start with a big one right out of the gate. Newborns aren’t always squishy, cuddly, little bundles. Sometimes they are screaming, pooping, monsters that I created. I have had feelings of “what if…” and sometimes even regret. This does not make me a bad parent, nor does it mean I don’t love my child. Most likely it means that I’m overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and need a shower.  This regret can be triggered by a lot of things too, but it is temporary. When these feelings aren’t temporary, that is when it is time to call the doctor.

I don’t always like being around other children anymore.

Whether it was volunteering in the church nursery or hanging out with friend’s kids, I was surprised about how much I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I found out, it is totally possible to become overloaded on kid interactions. (I will never understand how teachers do it every day, btw.) Children require a lot of attention and time. It is totally okay to need a break from all children even if it means I do less hanging out with other kids in my life for a while.

I gave up on dreams and passions.

Or at least I placed them on the back burner for an indeterminate amount of time. Whether it is traveling, hobbies, or desires for other personal achievements I found myself quickly giving up on them. Yes, I know this sounds depressing, but hear me out. Just because things change and I move on from something that was once a dream of mine doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on myself. Reprioritizing is essential during the first few months (actually years) of being a parent. I may revisit those dreams later or find that they aren’t what I want anymore too. Either way, the first time it became shockingly evident that I had made these sacrifices it hurt. It hurt really badly. Remember the section about regret?

I’ve found parenting can be unfulfilling.

I may draw a lot of ire with this one but it is true. Not every parent, every day is going to feel fulfilled by parenting. I’ve gone through long periods of feeling like I was just plugging away simply because I had to, not because I wanted to. No, I don’t always feel like taking care of a baby. Detangling my six-year old’s rat nest hair probably isn’t the most important thing I will do with my life. Some days I cherish it and then the next I find myself just going through the motions again. Yep, that’s normal, no matter what the sanctimommies might say. Even though I spent a large amount of time growing up dreaming of the moment I became a mom, I have found that it isn’t as amazing as I imagined all the time.

I understand why tragic things happen

In case the last one wasn’t blunt enough, let’s talk about tragedies. We’ve all seen the headlines. Kids left in cars, falling into gorilla enclosures, shaken by a loving parent, and being attacked by alligators.  All of a sudden that seemingly unanswerable question of How could that happen?” was answerable once I became a parent. These parents experiencing the most tragic thing in their lives are relatable. They loved their children and they only wanted to give them the world, but something terrible happened. It happened in an instant, and it could have been me. And while, statistically, these types of tragedies may never happen to me, I suddenly understand. I understand the pain, worry, and that hollow, gut wrenching feeling of helplessness. No one tells you how much pain you can feel just hearing about someone else’s loss.

 So What’s The Point?

Yes, I do realize that I may have just made a comprehensive list scaring you out of ever having kids. That was not my intent. Despite those dark moments, parenting is still an adventure like no other and I fully recommend that you embark on it. Just know that you have a little better idea of where those rough patches might be and you can feel confident that no, it is not just me.