Note to Self: Stop Complaining About Parenting and Enjoy It
I know. It’s so hard to deal with toddlers. It really is. The whiiiiining. The crying. The I-do-it-myself-ing. It really can feel like a prison sentence, especially with the rigid routines, nap times and precariously fragile emotional states (the toddler’s and by the end of the day, your own).
But when I saw the hundreds of negative comments on this post comparing living with a toddler to a prison sentence on The Huffington Post, it hit me. Maybe that’s enough complaining for now.
I have three children under the age of five and it’s brutal sometimes. But there’s the flip side too. These are some of the cutest days I’ll ever know. The miniature dresses. The dimpled knuckles. The confusing lyrics (I heard this one yesterday, “There was a farmer had a dog and Nemo was his name-o!”) As cliché as it is, these times really will pass. Right. On. By. And that’s okay, because then the kids will be on to something even more fun. But for right now, I want to flip this paradigm.
Be less annoyed. Find more satisfaction. Even for five minutes at a time.
Stop sighing. Stop worrying. Start cracking up.
They’re demanding, they’re exhausting, but they’re mine. That’s not going to change so something else has to.
I’ve had a theory for a while now about parenting, happiness and how the two shall more often meet. When we had all three kids in a row, we were surrounded by friends, both locally and those on Facebook, email and Skype from afar, who were also starting families. It was great to compare notes, share laughs and even offer our newbie versions of what-worked-for-me advice. But some new parents, and in my personal experience, lots of dads, seemed to miss their pre-baby, pre-toddler, pre-kid life so much. Sports cars suddenly became a major topic of conversation.
There was this emphasis on living “just like before”.
Even losing baby weight is supposed to be this immediate thing where the best you could ever hope for, the brass ring, is simply looking like you never had a baby at all.
But in my opinion, and that’s what this is, the only way to enjoy parenting is to really get into it. Everyone needs a break and I’m not advocating giving it ALL up. But in some ways, you’ve got to give it up. No matter how great your life was before kids, the satisfaction of raising another human being is pretty hard to beat. (It’s tiring, but hard to beat.) Focusing on how limiting it can be–even as a joke–is a slippery slope.
And I should know. I’ve been complaining a lot lately. A LOT. Just ask my husband. We’ve been moving for many months now. A long, slow move from city life in Rome to a mini-farm we just bought outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. All three kids have been through all the same adjustments we have, and it’s been hard.
I’ve been working part time and childcare has been as difficult to arrange as it’s been expensive. So I end up trying to squeeze in some work when the kids are around. Or worse, when they’re struggling to go down for a nap. Disaster. But we are where we are. Discomfort means you should do something different, so that’s what we’ll do.
The least fun I’ve ever had in life has been trying to do something other than what I’m tasked with at the time. I’ve been unhappy in my career in the past and resented spending time in meetings when I’d rather be out doing something else. Sound familiar? But parenting has something going for it that those jobs never did. These rascals actually love me. And also there’s this: I am NEVER GOING TO RETIRE from this gig. So, the whole thing needs to work out.
Practically speaking, here’s one part of my new plan: Be the boss most of the day, but for a few minutes at a time JUST HAVE FUN. I’m not abandoning the laundry (though it sometimes seems like I have) in favor of playing all day but for five minutes at a time? Even I can do that.
A friend of mine sets a timer for what she calls Super Special Time where she’ll do anything her kids ask. Anything. They love it. When she told me this, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been doing this all along. The idea of officially setting aside time when I’m not rushing anyone through a meal, trying to wrangle three sets of shoes onto moving feet or trying to unload the dishwasher in peace? Brilliant. And maybe that’s the key. Little chucks of time where everyone can feel more satisfied.
I love laughing about parenting, reading been-there posts and feeling validated when I tear-up over something that makes me feel less alone. But in my delicate state of stressful living these days, I choose to focus on lighter humor right now. The stuff that makes me feel grateful for what I have, not annoyed at what I have to do.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a sandwich out of felt food for a unicorn blanket. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
But they do make me laugh.
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