Why is parenting so difficult? Well – for starters you can’t escape being a parent, it isn’t like any other kind of relationship where you can just disengage and separate yourself. If a child is being particularly frustrating you can’t just say, “I’m calling it. This is over.” If they are pushing your boundaries, you can’t just leave like you might in a situation with another adult, you have to stay there and try to deal with it. If they are in any way abusive to you, whether intentionally or not, you cannot move out, file a restraining order, etc. Even if you try to talk through your emotions, or a situation, with your child it doesn’t guarantee a child will listen, care, or comprehend you completely. You just have to keep plugging away throughout all the exhaustion and anger and sadness that is inevitable even in a very rewarding, happy, and healthy parent-child relationship.
Constantly in Flux
It’s also frustrating that even if you have found a way to master one stage of development, another stage hits and you’re suddenly fucking stunned into complete confusion and desperation. Let me remind you, you’re helping a human grow from infancy to adulthood. It’s no easy feat. They start out knowing absolutely nothing about literally anything, and although you can have multiple people engage with them to contribute to their learning…it is still difficult as fuck. I’ll try to have you think about your connection with your child like an unconventional relationship where things are constantly changing and the relationship may transition in nature multiple times. This can be easier when you and your child are naturally compatible people, but sometimes someone might have a child with whom they are not compatible with at all. No common interests, and their child goes about dealing with things in all the ways that directly go against the ways in which the parent does things. This can be during certain phases, or a more permanent situation. Children can sometimes be the most difficult housemates you’ve ever had. It certainly feels like you’re doing way more than your fair share of the housework the majority of the time, and yet you have to continue to care for them and let them live with you (no matter how infuriating or ungrateful they are).
This is why it can be extremely helpful to have other trustworthy adults around to help out, that way when you’re feeling like you’re at your wits end you can simply tap out and someone else can come in. I can’t stress this enough for making sure you are able to meet your basic needs and stay sane throughout the course of parenting a child. These other adults can come in the form of a child’s other parent(s), your family, your friends, etc. Being in a non-monogamous relationship, in particular a more kitchen table brand of polyamory, can be a great asset in these instances, as you have more parent-type adult figures to go to for support, to lean on when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and to help out when you feel like you just can’t anymore. Ideally, you’re able to work together fluidly enough that none of you ever reach that breaking point where you’re in dire need of assistance; but chances are you will reach that point at least once or twice. And that is Okay!
Of course, not everyone is in that type of relationship setup – and plenty of people don’t even wish to ever develop that dynamic. Whether you’re lacking in the extra hands department due to person choice, or for any reason, it can be reassuring to know that there are plenty of other parents out there going through similar (if not the exact same) struggles as you are. In times like these it is best to find ways to connect with other parents in your community. Parenting groups, playgroups, and other child-oriented activities are a great place to start your search for other parent friends who – if they cannot provide actual assistance – will most definitely be able to provide, at least, emotional support. Feeling understood by others through the stressful process of parenting a human can truly be invaluable!
Any and All Types of Situations
It’s important to note here that this information rings true whether you’re in an unconventional relationship, or not. ALL parents need assistance from time to time. This can be especially true of single parents, or those in traditional monogamous setups where their role is stay-at-home-parent. However, even in polyamorous relationships where a child has multiple sets of loving adults to care for him/her, parenting is still a daunting and strenuous endeavour. It is a lifelong commitment that has to be honored whether you want it to be or not (with the exception of adoption, abortion, and other alternative situations in which a child is given a new home – by all means, if giving a child up is the best option for you, then go for it, there is no shame in doing what has to be done).
Perfection is a Myth
The point here is that parenting is hard! And things don’t get easier simply because you want them to. Yes, it’s possible to have blissful and enjoyful parenting experiences. Sometimes this is the whole journey from beginning to end, or just part of it. But even parents who seem to have the happy shiny family thing going on… even people who are always upbeat and seem to have endless patience… even those rare cases where the children are little angels who are thoughtful and loving and respectful… even then, there are STILL things those parents are struggling with, in one way or another – whether it be loss of identity, fear of the unknown, or simply feeling pressure from others to stay seemingly ‘perfect.’ NO ONE is perfect. NO child is the perfect child. NO adult is the perfect parent. NO parenting journey is done without bumps and bruises along the way.
Take Care of YOU
So do what you can to step away from any potential feelings of shame or guilt, because you don’t deserve to feel that way. And search out the assistance you need – be it in the form of help with childcare, household chores, financial, etc. or just finding someone who you can sit with and complain to. Having a shoulder to cry on is sometimes the most helpful piece of equipment you can have tucked away in your parenting tool belt. Do what you have to do in order to stay sane and make sure your needs are being met. It doesn’t matter how many partners you have or how involved they are in your child’s life. Make your self-care top priority! As a parent, you deserve nothing less than enough time and space to meet your needs and keep your sanity intact. A quote I particularly like is, “An escalated parent cannot de-escalate a child.” Keep that in mind, always. The most important thing to learn during your parenting years is how to take care of you!
Good luck. 🙂