‘I love my child but I don’t love parenting’

Question: I love my child. She is magic. But I don’t love parenting. I just don’t love this phase – she’s 3½, and, man, is it relentless. 

I miss the space to be still and alone, literally and inside my own head. I want to find ways to love and appreciate and be in the moment in this parenting gig, because it’s not going away anytime soon. Any advice for this mama, who is madly in love with her child but a bit resentful of all-consuming motherhood?

Answer: I have a good friend who, when our kids were little, I would regularly text to share how desperately I needed a break.

The chaos of living in a small house while parenting one, two and then three children chipped away at my soul, and although my love for my family was endless, so was my desire to get away from them. 

I would enviously watch other mothers whom I perceived as blissed-out with motherhood, but when I was brave enough to speak my truth, "I am so burned out with these kids," they would turn their heads quickly and say, "Me too." The more I told other parents how tired, and yes, in love I was, the more other parents told me they felt the same way.

And for many of us, this wasn’t because of a lack of the ubiquitous selfcare we were told we needed at every turn, nor was it because of any specific stressor, per se. We were tired because parenting young children is tiring. 

You see, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone, to be still and to be inside your own head. Parenting a 3½-year-old can feel as if you are parenting a tornado. But every once in a while, you may find yourself in the center of the storm where it is quiet, and you remember how much you love your life. 

Mothers have been sold a bill of goods through which we trade our brains for parenthood, and it is suffocating many of us. Sure, it is better than it used to be (which is always what people say when things are still pretty darn bad), but my coaching practice and living among other mothers has shown me that our faulty mothering expectations run deep.

So, what are you to do?

I am not going to recommend that you fall in love with parenting or become more present. Those words don’t mean anything, and they don’t help you when you are scrubbing marker off the walls or dodging a kick.

I will suggest that you visit your doctor to discuss your general health and to make sure you are not depressed. Hormone changes plus huge lifestyle changes can do a number on a mother’s emotional life. Seeing a doctor is a form of self-care that many mothers eschew, but desperately need.

Then you can decide how to reclaim some of your time and your mind. With options such as therapy, mother’s groups (without the kids), child care, hobbies and parenting classes, there is a world out there that, with some creativity and courage, you can rejoin. 

Sitting in a library alone, reading, won’t make your daughter any easier or grow her up any faster, but it will help your desire to be quiet. Respecting your temperament is a crucial need as you continue this parenting gig.

The Washington Post

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