5 things that parenting is NOT

Ah, parenting…the most exalted, most exhausting job ever. Bringing a child into this world is perhaps one goal we all seek to achieve at some point in our lives, but once we have this child our whole existence is changed. It’s very normal to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and even shocked at how parenting is nothing like what we had imagined it to be growing up. Who would have thought that dinner time, bath time and bed time would be so nerve-wracking at times? In our imagination we only pictured our little ones to be perfectly-behaved, obedient, sweet angels (not that they are not). Reality hits hard sometimes, doesn’t it? But wait, we’re NOT heading down desperation lane with this post. There’s hope, there’s always hope when it comes to how much we love our children. After all, when we are tired, wired and at our wit’s end, it’s only because we want things to go our way and they’re not. Those expectations of an ideal parent-child relationship are simply standing between us and our kids, keeping us from bonding with them the way we had hoped. 

What are we doing wrong? Why isn’t parenting as rewarding as the media portrays it? Why are some parents more fulfilled than others, you may think? Because we often conceive parenting as a set of rules and theories that apply to ALL children. We’ve been socially trained to follow the footsteps of our predecessors in raising our young disregarding the ever-changing environment we expose them to. As a mother of both a boy and a girl living in a modern city, under normal circumstances, I can’t help but observe those fast-paced changes and worry about my children’s future. Will I be able to raise healthy, kind, loving, well-rounded individuals? Just thinking about this grave responsibility makes me hyperventilate! But I know one thing I had to learn the hard way. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a child, a unique child whom you’ll learn to understand as much as you’ve already loved. It takes time. And you’ll get there. In this post I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far in my 8-year-long motherhood journey. I’ve summarized all the irksome, worrisome, troublesome parts of my parenting experience, which you may pretty much relate to. So here are 5 things which are NOT parenting. 

1. Parenting is not a race or a competition: I know, it’s tempting to compare notes with other parents, gather experiences and share advice but once you feel that you’re really failing at this thing called parenting because you’re not doing what other parents are doing, you need to stop. We’re not competing. We’re in this together. And if you ever feel that you can’t handle any more braggers, just keep your distance, there’s no guilt or shame in choosing what’s best for your kids, AND your well-being. 

2. Parenting is a means not a goal: you know that cheesy proverb that says “happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.” Well that also applies to parenting. Instead of worrying about accomplishing milestones and checking off lists, just enjoy every moment you get to spend with your kids. Your presence and role-modeling is enough of an accomplishment. So if you don’t get them to stick to a routine within a week, that’s really OK. Be consistent, yet flexible. Firm yet understanding. The last thing your kids want is to feel their home is more of a military camp than a cozy atmosphere to learn, grow, and just be themselves. 

3. Parenting is not self-sacrifice: We’re always told that fully-dedicated moms are the best moms. Can you imagine how depressing this statement may be for working moms? Why is motherhood always portrayed in such an overly idealistic light? Please stop feeling constantly guilty for excluding your kids in some activities you pursue on your own or with your spouse. It’s perfectly acceptable to want some time for yourself to recharge. Your kids will thank you the most for being a happy, well-adjusted, and outrageously creative parent.  

4. Parenting challenges don’t get easier with time: you know what we parents don’t need along the way? Illusions. But negating the statement that things won’t be getting easier is not…”negative” (does that make sense?)  Actually, it’s not the parenting challenges that will get better, but you’ll be a more equipped parent to handle those ever-increasing challenges. Yes, sadly every phase of parenting has its glitches, but trust me, you’ll nail them. There will be tough days, tear-jerking incidents, and lots and lots of self-doubt along the way, but you’ll be ok. Really! Negativity, busted! 

5. Parenting is not all what you are: when they placed that bundle of cuteness in your arms, you instantly realized that nothing in your life will ever go back to the way it was before. But this doesn’t mean you’ll have to adopt a new personality as a protective, superheroic parent. Regardless of whether the kiddos believe mommy and daddy have superpowers or not, mommy and daddy are (Your name) and (Spouse’s name) first and foremost. Your interests, needs, likes and dislikes should never be affected by your responsibility as parents. In reference to point 3, keep those parts of you alive – for sanity’s sake at least. Avoid falling into the trap of begrudging the single life. 

So whether you think you’re doing this parenting thing all wrong and can’t help but feel lonely and isolated at times, you’re actually never alone in this. Loving someone who is totally dependent on you in their first few years can be quite scary. But have faith in this love and your strength as a caregiver, mentor and protector of this child. You were made for this, and this child is exactly the way he or she is supposed to be. If you can remember to parent the child you have, not the child you always wanted, you’ll succeed in every level of this parenting game, with a little help from them, believe it or not ­čÖé 

Happy parenting! 

~ Zeina

“Back in the old days”…

With all due respect to the elderly in this society, but they all just need to chill! As a parent, albeit it a young thirty-something parent of two children under 10, I believe I have the knowledge and ability to run my life along a safe course. I don’t do drugs, I don’t commit crimes, I don’t feed my kids litter, I don’t keep them awake till after midnight, I dress them in clean clothes, etc… Basically, I count as a good candidate to parent, thank you very much. If that’s what’s considered “mothering”,  I surely can’t be doing it all wrong! Right? 

This short-sighted vision of parenting, however, does not work very well with today’s definition of the term. To be a good parent you have to be a lot of things, not just a housemaid who slaves away in the kitchen cooking, baking and scrubbing floors, or a hermit who severs social ties to raise a family. 

I’m so tired of hearing stories about how moms did nothing but handwash fabric diapers or those obnoxious braggeries about how they potty trained all their children by 12 months in that golden era. You can forget about stating facts and relaying scientific data related to the physical readiness to potty train which most children exhibit by age 2. If you decide to wait it out against your elders’ recommendations, you’ll be looked down upon as the lazy mother who’s too busy texting and tweeting to notice the signs (because, obviously, children at age one SHOULD already by ready to tell you “verbally” that they need to go.) Trust me, your great aunt is more experienced than your pediatrician. 

I’m really tired of all the well-intended yet unwelcome tips and endless guilt trips the nice old ladies take you on with their remarks. Why can’t they just let this generation of mothers be whatever they choose to be? Whose expectations should we be living up to, theirs or our own? Yes, their days are definitely different, perhaps they did have better days back then. Times have changed, and this stressful lifestyle demands a change in approach to parenting, caregiving and house management. The comparisons make no sense when it comes to multitasking, for example. Mothers in the olden days didn’t have the same tasks, interests or passtimes. In defense of moms like myself, I believe we’re all doing an outstanding job surviving this wretched heartless world while teaching our children all the necessary lifeskills to ensure a safer, brighter future for generations to come. More educated conscious moms means higher awareness (and earlier intervention) to issues that require special attention, like learning difficulties, delays and impairments, or physical disabilities. 

They say we should respect our elders, but how about  a little appreciation from our elders as well? How about the respect we deserve for trying to fix a world our predecessors have left broken? We are certainly not the only generation of parents responsible for the moral degredation we witness today. Instead of constantly grieving over the past, we’d be far better off with a little more help and a little less meddling. It’s our time to make mistakes, just like they did, and our chance to learn the lessons they obviously didn’t learn: To live responsibly and teach responsibility, to raise well-rounded personalities not puppets we boss around at will. We don’t want our children to be us, we want them to be better. As a parent, I want to make sure I’ve left no stone unturned, no study unresearched, no effort unexhausted to see my children blossom. I want to bask in the satisfaction that I’ve done all that had to be done so my kids won’t be disappointed that I’ve been a neglectful parent. If that’s not enough for the generation of mothers before me, I might as well blame my inadequate parenting on every war that has plagued this country, wars that were caused by our elders’ unwise elections and re-elections of corrupt figures of state, rather than statesmen. At least we’re trying to change something instead of whining incessantly.
I will always pay much respect to every mother on this planet who would blindly give up anything to secure every child’s need, no matter what her age is or where she is from or how mean she can be to younger inexperienced mothers. We’ll always need to learn vicariously from parents who have longer years of experience in this domain, but we, too, can learn a thing or two on our own. That’s called life, and no one can live it for us no matter how knowledgeable they think they are. 

~ Zeina
Image credit: adweek.com