As much as parents might complain about sleepless nights and irrational toddlers, most will tell you that the benefits outweigh the hardships. Indeed, having a child of your own is one of the most profound life changes you can ever experience. To this end, it has become a cultural taboo to say you wish you had never become a parent in the first place. We’re told that we must embrace the situation, whether or not the pregnancy was planned.
But, of course all parents can feel that way sometimes. When your tank is running on empty, your child is not listening to reason, and you feel as if your life is wasting away, you can’t help but to wonder how things would have turned out if you never had the kid in the first place. For many parents, these kinds of thoughts are fleeting and you get snapped back to reality pretty quickly. For other parents, these thoughts become far more persistent.
And they might hate themselves for thinking these thoughts.
Misery Loves Company
A friend of mine recently shared a Facebook post with me about a young stay-at-home who is drained, angry and frustrated. It’s in a group for people who regret having children. In reading the post, you get the sense that he resents his wife and daughter for “stealing” his life away from him.
“I love my daughter more than I can possibly explain to non parents. But since I am in school, my wife works full time and I get to be a stay at home dad. It makes me want to kill myself. Not literally, but each and every day I hate life and become more miserable with each passing moment.“
Believe me, I can understand and identify with his sentiment. Parenthood is hard. There are certainly days where I feel like giving up. But you force yourself to persevere, because giving up is irresponsible. All it would do is displace the burden onto someone else and the child becomes an innocent victim.
My friend asked me if this person would be just as miserable if he chose to embrace the situation rather than trying to fight it. Speaking for myself, I have had to make the conscious decision to accept my role as a stay-at-home dad, in addition to my professional duties as a full-time freelance writer. This sounds far simpler than it actually is.
It has certainly been challenging, particularly because I always feel guilty. If I’m working at my desk, I feel like I should be doing family things. When I’m with my family, I feel like I should be working. To embrace the situation is to be fully present, whether that’s as a dad or as an entrepreneur.
Playing with Grown-Ups
“I crave the companionship of actual adults and working on real life problems. Not wiping noses and butts all day.“
Something you hear often from stay-at-home moms and dads is they miss social interaction (and professional interaction, for that matter) with adults. That’s perfectly understandable. However, to say that raising a child is not “working on real life problems” is sorely misleading. One of the most profound “real life problems” you can face is preparing this young person for real life.
“I’m tired of being completely miserable and bored. I would do anything to go back in time and wait till I was ready. Unfortunately that was taken from me. By God or chance or my wife i don’t know.“
Life doesn’t always go your way. In fact, more often than not, life won’t go your way. You’ll be thrown all sorts of curve balls and be offered a bucket full of lemons (not to say my child is a lemon). You want to make the best of the situation to the best of your ability, but it can be difficult. I get that. And the grass will always look greener on the other side.
Chasing the Impossible Dream
In this way, expecting someone to fully embrace the situation, whatever that situation may be, is idealistic. We all think about the what ifs in life and entering (or not entering) the world of parenthood is one of the biggest ifs around. This epiphany is not something that happens overnight and it’s not something that becomes immediately permanent.
You must make the conscious decision to embrace your lot in life each and every day. It may be a goal that you’ll constantly work toward and never fully achieve, because we are all inherently imperfect. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Life is hard, as it should be. You might look at your life and feel like it’s a miserable little existence, when objectively, your life’s probably not so bad.
The challenge is aligning your objective reality with your subjective experience (or vice versa). It is what it is. Roll with the punches and do what needs to be done, even if it’s “wiping noses and butts all day.” Because that’s a privilege denied to many more.