No one tells you if you are doing it right

I am so tired I can barely type this. If I am thinking of things to feel bad about, there are lists I could make.

I think often we stay away from talking about feeling off. Depression is one thing — and I do flit in and out of that one — but some days I just feel badly. I can be overwhelmed, or irritated, or frustrated, or insecure, or beyond logical rationale. This is not something we often talk about though. I think we call this complaining. At the other end of the spectrum, we don’t talk about how great we feel either — we can call this bragging. For me, I’m always suspicious if someone is “doing great” for too long. I suspect chemical substances are at work to make that happen.

Housewife

Not me! But with this outfit you must have some kind of superpowers, no? (Photo credit: garryknight)

I had a really nice weekend. I think a few things combined to make that happen. Principally, it was because my daughter was away all weekend on a camping trip. For those of you without kids, that’s TWO whole nights. It literally halves the workload and if you take away all the fighting, arguing, and tattling between my two kids, that’s also a good 25% reduction as well.

My daughter is high-energy. She is forthright. Her interpretation of the world is very specific and focuses a lot on perceived injustices. She does not shy away from telling us what she doesn’t like, or how life is unfair. I hear her and I get it, but I am one person and can’t change her whole world for her. The trickiest thing is that these demands and likes/dislikes are a moving target. You can never stay ahead of the game.

My son, who’s 7, is more relaxed. Like my husband and I, he likes to stay home. One morning he woke up, put on gardening gloves and pulled weeds out of our lawn. He did this on his own without being asked. He wanted to do this.

My son made himself lunch one day.

My son made himself lunch one day.

It was sunny all weekend. My son and I went out for breakfast together. He helped me clean the house. It was like it was summertime and the living was easy.

No one tells you you are a good parent, or that you are doing it right. People are either too tired themselves to notice, or they think you are doing it wrong.  There are days where I look forward to getting to work just so I can sit in my cubicle with my eyes closed for 5 minutes of silence.  When I pack up and head home, I brace myself for the next phase into the unknown. Sometimes getting home to the kids can feel like another job.

My daughter is now 10. When I picked her up from camping she overwhelmed me on the half-hour drive home. I secretly went into the pantry and ate a handful of chocolate chips right from the bag. People tell you to cherish this time because it goes so quickly. While this may be true I can barely remember what happened yesterday, let alone a month ago or 5 years ago. I don’t know if this makes me a bad parent, but I can’t be bothered to figure that one out. I’m trying to get through today, through homework and dinner and bedtime.

I gave this post to my husband to read before I hit publish. His response summed up the situation: “This, and everything else you do, shows you care. There is no perfection in parenting, for anyone. The best you can do is see the perfection in the growth and the journey.”

And if tomorrow comes I know we’ve made it another day. Our family is carrying on and doing what we can and remembering that we are doing our best in that moment, however it may look.

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31 thoughts on “No one tells you if you are doing it right

  1. Tania,
    Your husband is right.
    Both my kids are in their thirties now. I don’t want to be simplistic and tell you “it will get better”; in my experience it gets different. Somehow your experiences and time will make it easier as you all get older. Investing yourself in your kids is similar to investing money in the bank. Money will always have a certain degree of “pain in the ass” but like kids, if you don’t invest, there will be nothing there in the future. As a good parent you are giving part of your life to your kids and sometimes it seems like there’s not enough left for you. I remember that and I see it with my son and his three young daughters.
    You do your best. You love your kids. You wait for payday. You’re a good parent.
    John

    • I totally agree that “it gets different.” Although we are going through many, many permutations of what seems like the same stage, it is also different. I can applaud when one of the kids has more self-awareness and a realization. I appreciate that as I get older, so do my kids (so I don’t look like I’m getting close to 40 and just tired) and we can have a different relationship. I like that they are gaining independence and exploring the world through their own perspectives. It’s true that I often want to stop the ride and get off for a while (usually my first choice is to nap) but I’m hoping this investment is to the benefit of us both.
      Thanks for your (wise) perspective and kind words. It’s good to know that the “money” does grow over time.
      T.

    • Tania,
      I so agree with Red on this. It gets different. We’ve swung over the pit on that parenting pendulum too often to count. Our children are adults and I still have to resist the urge to take the blame for their choices. Nobody knows better than you how to love your kids. Love yourself for being present. That is HUGE.
      Stephanie

      • Hi Stephanie, Thank you for your astute words and great reminder: Love yourself for being present. So often I think of how things could be different (namely: worse) but I’m sticking it out and I’m there for my kids. Thanks. Your comments made me smile. (I’m also smiling because I’m at work and it’s quiet today. Ha ha).

  2. “and if you take away all the fighting, arguing, and tattling between my two kids, that’s also a good 25% reduction as well.”—So true! Really wears a person down, doesn’t it?

    I agree with your husband–there is no perfection in parenting. The best we can do is love our kids, let them know we love them, and hope we get more right than wrong. 🙂

    • Amirite or what? I felt like I was 1/4 parenting for a good 30 hours this weekend.
      I was never striving to be a perfect parent, but it helps to know if you are on the right track. I guess the only way to know is hindsight. Being the first-born (a.k.a. the parenting experiment) and a complex kid, it’s anyone’s guess as to how my daughter will turn out. But we love her to bits and after another decade, more of the choices will be hers alone.
      Hope you are enjoying your vacation. Miss you!

  3. Perfection as a parent? There’s no way to ever know what that is. You can love your kids and still be a good parent even if there are times you feel stressed and worn out. Now that my kids are both grown, I can’t remember how I ever found the energy to do everything that needs to be done as a parent. And the things that make you feel guilty and you think your kids will always hold against you? They probably won’t know what you’re talking about when you bring it up ten years later. You are a good parent because you care enough to worry about it.

    • It’s good to hear you say that you wonder how everything got done when your kids were younger. I wonder this now! I’m amazed that my kids listen sometimes when I’ve asked the same thing 836 times, so if they hold some things against me that’s okay too. I take comfort in the fact that they were listening. 😉
      I so vividly remember my own feelings and the conversations I had with my mom growing up, so I can really empathize with the way my daughter acts/reacts/speaks sometimes. That being said, she is not me and I’ve got a lot to figure out still as her parent.

  4. I’ve never been a parent but I think that you’ll know in retrospect that you did it right when your relationship with your children continues to evolve, they grow up, you grow old, roles reverse and they look out for you. At least that’s how it’s been for my siblings and me with our parents.

  5. I don’t have kids, but based on other things, I’d have to agree with your husband.
    And the way your love of your kids comes through, and the fact that you worry about being a good parent, makes it sound like you probably are very good.

    Rock on, you!

    • El Guapo,
      Thank you for the fan support. It can feel like you are either pushing rocks uphill or chewing on rocks sometimes. I completely empathize with how conflicting and confusing the world is and how their little souls must feel in the midst of it. But then I remember that I am in that same world, with no much more wisdom and my patience flies out the window. Little by little, bit by bit. Every day.
      Thanks!

  6. This really resonated with me, Tania. Our kids are the same ages, and the time has flown for me, too. I wonder what happened yesterday and last week, and worry sometimes I didn’t enjoy it enough. I still have boxes and files of photos that haven’t been organized. There doesn’t seem to be time for that. I’m glad you had a little time to yourself. Kids are a lot of work, but also a lot of joy. I think we just have to cherish those little moments when they happen.

    • Hi Amy. Didn’t realize you and I were in the same stages/phases! Kids are a lot of work and the hardest part for me is having perspective. Nothing is forever – no tantrum, or happy moment, or age. One day at a time… And have fun when it’s joyful.

      • Yes! Same ages, but mine are boys…my oldest is high energy and they are really different from each other. My seven-year-old likes to be at home too, but is challenging in his own way. I enjoy being a mom, but sometimes I’m just tired. But I guess we’re human after all.

      • Your kids temperament sounds generally similar to mine. You can’t completely like a person who can push all of your buttons — at the same time — every minute of every day. I always love my kids and remind them of this, but I’m also just human.

  7. I have 2 daughters. Oldest is going into her Jr year in college and the youngest will be a HS Senior.
    When the oldest went off to college I felt like I wasn’t done teaching her things. My job as a parent was not complete. I’m not sure that it ever is complete as we are always learning new lessons our selves as we grow older. And i’m told the kids actually hear us even when it seems like they are ignoring us.
    It’s impossible to be a perfect anything, all we can do is trying our best and do what we feel is right and best.
    I struggle with what is the right thing to say and do every day. I often feel I am wrong and not helping.

    • Hello Imarunner,
      It’s good to hear you share your thoughts. I also am astounded when kids figure out what I have said thousands of times and they have appeared to be not listening. Turns out, some of it sinks in!
      I also agree that we can’t be perfect, but for the overall experience we are perfect for our kids. We may challenge each other, but through this we grow.
      I know I also need to stop talking and learn to just keep my mouth shut. I’m sure if I can master this skill before my kids hit their tweens it will make our home environment much more pleasant. That being said, if I feel strongly about something they will hear about it. But too much advice doesn’t teach them anything more than they can absorb in that moment.
      Congrats on getting so far with your daughters already!

  8. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent because there’s no such thing as a perfect anything. We do the best we can in life, and I think that’s the mark of a great parent. I’d also like to say that I do try and tell my deserving friends they’re great parents because it’s normally such a thankless job.

    • So true: no perfect anything (though I did see a pretty flawless mango at the grocery store the other day). You are a good friend: telling parents they are good (and great) is encouraging even when the muck you are in is deep. Seriously, having someone appreciate that you are in your shoes and still wading is a kind thought. The thank-yous do come from your kids but they are usually for the things that kids want — like ice cream.

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