Parenthood: The Job You Can’t Quit

“I stink at being a parent, and I don’t want to do it anymore. All my kids are going to end up in therapy, and I’d just rather go hiking really.”

(via pictures

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been here. You’ve had those days when you were just so discouraged that you couldn’t see a way through the tangled morass of hope, fear, joy, worry, doubt, and dread that is parenthood. It’s a colossal task, raising kids, and most of us are woefully unprepared for it.

There’s no magic rule book, no fool-proof training. The only models we had are our own parents. But they raised different kids in a different time when children actually played outside occasionally and didn’t carry smart phones in their pockets. The old tricks don’t always apply. And just when you do manage to become an expert on your particular kid, he/she will change. Kids do that. They grow, they develop, they enter puberty, and then all bets are off.

So here I am trying to make decisions on a daily basis that are going to affect the development and future potential happiness of our children, and I’m guessing. Most of the time they are educated guesses, sure, based on past observations of said child, the experience of other parents, and often, extensive reading.  But when it comes down to it, every decision is a judgment call, an educated guess at best, and one that is very often swayed by how much or little patience I’ve got left for the day. And lately, I’ve got to say, the reservoir is pretty darn low. I’m thinking about rationing, but I can’t figure out how to get my family to go along.

And that’s where I run into my other little problem – raising a child in the context of a family. Everybody has needs, and they don’t always spread them out so that you can deal with them one-by-one when you are well-rested-and-emotionally-prepared. That’s not the way life happens. No, life likes to descend on you like a shit-storm of need, nausea and broken appliances. It’s failing grades and juggling bills and used Kleenex and muddy paw prints on the spread you just washed. Life happens in your face, when you least expect it, or when you honestly think the very next thing will be the last straw. You know what happens when you have that thought? Something awful, usually.

Life is like someone calling your name over and over, but they never come to you. You must seek out the caller and carry out their commands. Can you get me a towel? I don’t understand my chemistry homework. Will you get those dogs to stop barking? I’m stressed, I’m nauseous, listen to my problems, fix it, fix it, fix it! It’s like being a genie with a house full of frantic wishers. And just when you think you have a handle on it all, when you have put your house in order, walked the dogs, and anticipated and prepared for every child’s (and your partner’s) every need – life will surprise you. It will wait until you have done your very best, until you are sweaty and dirty and proud of yourself, and then it will walk up, wag its tail, look you right in the eye – and then hike its leg and pee on your shoes.

So this is where I would probably be expected to add a paragraph about how it’s all worth it in the end and how the joys by far outweigh the stresses. And yes, that’s true, though I’m not feeling it so much at this particular moment. Because we all know, you have to work for that attitude. So this is my first step – writing it down. It’s therapeutic. Then I’m going to go have a cleaning frenzy all over my house, because that’s what I do when I’m stressed and don’t know what to do next. (I already had a cleaning frenzy on our yard last evening and may have been a bit too vigorous with the weed-eater and gardening shears. I’m a little afraid to look.)

So after I’ve obsessively put our house (and yard) in order for a few hours, I will be sweaty, tired, satisfied in a way only a career house-not-wife can be after a day spent cleaning, and happy to see my partner and our children when they get home this evening. And we are going to have a happy and fun Friday evening together with lots of hugs and positive affirmations. But until then, I’m going to go bleach something.

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  1. SimplySage

     /  September 21, 2012

    Hilarious. You have to laugh to keep from crying. And you have made me laugh. I’m bleaching, too.

  2. SimplySage

     /  September 21, 2012

    Hilarious. You have to laugh to keep from crying. And you have made me laugh. I’m bleaching, too.

  3. Parenthood is a trip in insanity, but boy, you’ll never be bored. I’ve had days I wish I could have resigned, but fortunately never did…ha, ha. Getting ready to be thrown more on the roller coaster ride. I’m gonna be a grandma way too soon.

    • Congratulations, Grandma! Theoretically, that should be the fun part we’re all waiting for, right? When we get to spoil the kids and then hand them back to their parents when they’re tired, sick, overstimulated or need their diapers changed? At least that’s my personal vision of grand-parenthood and I’m holding on to it until reality shatters my illusions.

  4. This post should be put in the front of every baby book published. Brilliant, Fork. Just brilliant. Especially the wet shoes.

  5. When I was an older child and still living at home, I would go into the back yard and stand on an old tree stump and look out past the back wall, beyond the alley…and into the cemetery that bordered our property…it was always so peaceful…mourning doves on the power-lines above me, cicadas singing further away…and passing cars out there somewhere…while emotions and words bounced around inside the walls of the house…I sought a natural refuge, while living, among the forever quiet….

    “…I’d just rather go hiking, really…” too…. 🙂

  6. I have many shitstorm days, too. I keep hoping they get better soon..

  7. You go girl. When everything goes belly-up, it always helps to have control over *something.* A scrubbed toilet can’t whine.

  8. I’m glad you said you’re guessing a lot. So reassuring……*hugs* from fellow guesser.

  9. Well said! Or written. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have one kid with autism, let alone two, but every parent has hands-in-hair moments at their own level, and no, it never ends. I agree that the guessing and the constant pressure of knowing that everything you do or don’t do will affect them in some way is unbearable if you think about it too much. I wish my way of dealing with it was to clean. Our house would be spotless!

  10. I love this post. You manage to be incredibly real and funny at the same time. Some days are definitely better than others, and as a parent, I appreciate you acknowledging that.

    Totally unrelated, but in the bleach vein, did you know that rubbing alcohol gets paint off of anything? By anything, I mean anything, so give it a go when you’re up over your eyeballs in cleaning fluids. =)

  11. “I’m thinking about rationing, but I can’t figure out how to get my family to go along.” and this –
    “No, life likes to descend on you like a shit-storm of need, nausea and broken appliances.” – 😉 🙂


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