By Bre, The Toddler Mom
I finally figured it out, the thing that no one tells you about becoming a parent. The reason behind the “dark side” of parenting – other than having annoying theme songs stuck in your head.
When you’re expecting everyone loves to throw bits of wisdom and advice at you. You know what they are even if you’re not a parent…
“Sleep when the baby sleeps”
“Enjoy this phase, it goes by so fast!”
“Always take help when it’s offered”
“Just wait, you’ll understand when you’re a parent…”
And on and on….
Not to mention the millions of opinions everyone has on everything from what type of diaper to use to breastfeeding versus bottle feeding (how are we still even having that debate?)… It’s never ending.
But even through all this well-intentioned advice there always seems to be something that people aren’t telling you. Have you noticed it? There always seems to be something they stop just short of saying. You can see it in the eyes of the experienced parents, the darkness behind their eyes that never gets spoken of.
Well I’m going to tell you what it is. Right here right now. The darkness comes from the unrelentingness of parenthood. All the challenges the advice is meant to help with can be traced back to how unrelenting it is to be a parent. Seriously.
You can understand, relate to, and prepare yourself mentally (and in some cases physically) for the usual things that are challenging about parenthood – the exhaustion, the strain on your relationships, managing you To Do list, etc…
We all know what it’s like to be bone tired, where all you can think about is your bed, and so knowing that you’re going to be tired once you have kids is something you can relate to. Even if you can’t actually prepare for it it makes sense, it’s something you can wrap your brain around. Of course, it’s different once you have a baby, but you at least know what it feels like.
The difference is the fact that once you have a baby there’s no end to the exhaustion – it’s unrelenting. Before baby when you’re tired there’s an end in sight – a weekend where you can sleep in or taking time off of work to rest, and ultimately whatever is keeping you up will end – but not in parenthood. The weekends come and go and there’s no “sleeping in”. If baby is up means you are too. Sure taking a day off work means that you don’t have to go to work, but not that you don’t have to get up to get your kids out of bed and off to school before you get to tend to yourself. It’s unrelenting.
Maybe it should be obvious going into it, but at least for me it wasn’t, was I being naive? Maybe. What’s it like? It’s like being on stage under the spotlight ALL the time. The heat, glare, and pressure are a lot to cope with, that’s why we love our children as much as we do – so that we can withstand the pressure, the unrelenting pressure.
There’s no good way to describe this feeling in a pithy phrase or quick bit of advice, and honestly who wants to rain on a new parent’s parade by sharing this sort of truth – no one – which is why you don’t really hear about it. That and we’re all afraid of being labeled as an unloving parent, being judged, or being seen as whiney or ungrateful. We do love our children and we’re immensely grateful for them, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings and that the pressure doesn’t get to us sometimes (no one’s Pintrest Perfect all the time. Right?…. Right?!!). We’re not bad parents for admitting it, we’re human.
So, next time you feel like you’re trapped on a never ending hamster wheel with no sleep and the theme song to Puppy Dog Pals playing on a loop just know that you’re not alone – there are lots of us right there with you!