April 7, 2017

This is for all us Sh*tty Parents.

Being a parent is a hard job.

If we want to be good parents, it’s the toughest job out there. And it doesn’t matter if the babies we raise are born to us, or adopted, or a part of our blended family…it’s hard.

The basic nature of it is tough. We’re supposed to love and nurture these tiny, developing humans. We not only have to give them the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter—but we are supposed to be helping them discover who they are and how to live one day as independent adults.

They depend on us, and we raise them so that (one day) they will be self-sufficient. They go from needing everything from us as infants and toddlers, to wanting nothing to do with us as teenagers, and then building their own lives as adults. It’s beautiful, and it’s so incredibly worth it—but it’s also tough and heartbreaking. We want to hold on, but our job is to one day let go and allow them to live their own lives.

My children are two and four years old—and every day, they are growing, changing, and asserting their independent will. They are fierce, perfect, and the very best part of my life.

I’m writing this in between caring for my daughter who has a stomach virus. In between my writing, I clean up vomit from the carpet, give my daughter a quick midnight bath to get it out of her hair, throw in a load of laundry, change the sheets, tuck her back in, and give up on any thought of sleep tonight, as I’ll have an ear listening for the next time she needs me. It could be a long night. This is love and parenting.

But parenting is made infinitely more difficult by the judgment that gets heaped on us all. So here’s my praise of parenting under pressure—my ode to all of those parents who try so hard to love their children and do what’s best for them. Because so much of the time, we just hear the judgment. We are subject to anyone and everyone offering unsolicited advice on how we’re doing, like a performance review for a job that’s not ever going to get easier and certainly doesn’t come with a pay raise.

Society strives for conformity and chastises anyone who falls outside of it. Non-conformity often results in criticism of the parent, as if we are solely in charge of cranking out cookie-cutter children that fit a particular mode. So every day is a barrage of criticism on how we discipline and what we do or don’t allow. We hear all of the voices telling us we could be doing better, even the ones that aren’t voiced at all, but come to us with judging glances, cutting eyes across a room, or deep sighs as we wait in line at the store, tired—always tired.

We feel all of the pressure that comes with parenting, and then we feel all the pressure that the world heaps on our heads—to do better, to do more, to be the perfect Pinterest parent with the perfectly behaved, high-achieving child. I’ve felt this pressure myself. I’ve felt it with breastfeeding versus formula and with the decision to circumcise or not. With discipline. With potty training. I’ve labored under the judgment of other people’s views—and as much as we try not to care, we do. And we care because our children mean everything to us.

So cheers to those parents trying so hard to make the right decisions to not only put your children first, but to help them become happy, healthy, kind, independent people: You’re doing a great job!

I see you—with your tired eyes and less sleep than you needed because your child(ren) needed you in the night. I know that it’s not easy, but I also know that you’re doing a good job, because you love them and protect them and try to make the right decisions, even when it’s at your own expense.

A bad day doesn’t make you a bad parent.

When we mess up, we can learn from it and do better next time. I learned about gentle parenting, because I just couldn’t reconcile the same old discipline most of us knew growing up with the way I want to raise my own children. So I learned something that resonates with me and seems to help my children. Sure, we might have a bad day occasionally—but doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us human. And as humans, we can learn from it and choose differently.

What you do is important.

It’s so easy to forget just how important this job is, but parenting is so powerful. We’re raising future adults here—people who will be in the position to change the world in positive or negative ways. It’s not the schools’ responsibility or our places of faith; it’s our responsibility, and it’s a big one. The weight of that is always on our shoulders, but what we do is actually important. It’s why we have to keep trying. Part of acknowledging the importance is understanding that our children need to feel loved and supported, and if we’re doing that, we’re doing a significant thing. It’s important, even when it seems thankless.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

I think about this quote in regards to parenting. I’ve come to believe that we need to judge how we parent by a different set of standards than what society tells us is normal and acceptable.

Instead of looking at development as a competition, we can strive to give our children healthy self-esteem and body positive attitudes. We can work to give them unconditional love and the knowledge that we’re always proud of them, even when they make mistakes. We can make an effort every day to make them laugh, so that we stay focused on their joy.

We can help them see the beauty and magic in the little things and try to encourage imagination, play, and adventure as a part of our daily lives. And we can hope that they will remember the feeling of that long after they’ve forgotten the particulars of our daily routines.

Parenting is tough, and there are so many choices to make along the way. We’ll make different ones, but I hope we learn to support one another along the way—to prop each other up when we hit those rocky times. Because what we’re doing is important. A bad day doesn’t make us bad parents. And we’re doing a good job.



Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: Flickr/Matteo Bagnoli

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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