My Parents Are Exhausted and They Don’t Have to Enjoy It

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I was so tired I wasn’t sure if his shirt was real or a very literal and accurate hallucination.

The below piece by Toni Hammer is brilliant, and spot-on for me. As I read it, I mentally screamed, “Yes! Thank you!” because I thought I was the only one. Being told to “enjoy every moment” of parenthood by well-meaning strangers has always had the same guilt-tripping effect on me. “Is there something wrong with me?”  I’ve wondered, while feeling mildly ashamed.

I’ve felt flawed, or emotionally cold, because I don’t yearn for the baby days or look back longingly to when my son was an infant the way I often hear friends saying about their own children. At all. (Okay, maybe the smell of his baby head, but that’s it.) Those were the hardest days of my life. I didn’t yet know my son had ADHD neurology, so I felt bewildered, and like a constant failure. We tried every suggestion from every family member, friend, pediatrician, or book — yet nothing worked for us.

Our son was such a difficult baby and toddler that when combined with a hard look at our finances, we decided to stop at one child. We were being financially responsible, but I often wonder if we’d had a quiet, easy baby the first time around, we might have had the two kids I always wanted.

In fact, even though he’s 9 and much easier, I still often find myself looking forward to my son growing up, becoming easier, and less high-maintenance. So when people tell me to “enjoy every moment,” I’m acutely aware that I haven’t enjoyed every moment, and it makes me feel bad.

Am I a terrible parent because of this?

My son didn’t sleep more than 2 hours in a row for the first 9 months of his life, and then we were still only lucky to get 4-5 hours in a row. I didn’t enjoy a moment of that. I did, however, become clinically depressed from sleep deprivation and start hallucinating because I hadn’t experienced REM sleep in 9 months.

Once he started to walk, my son never stopped moving, but did stop napping by age 2. I did not enjoy that.

He went through a phase where every single time I gave him a bath, he shat in the tub. I did not enjoy that.

He didn’t fully potty train until he was nearly 4-years-old. I did not enjoy that.

Kids with ADHD neurology have a developmental delay in the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, and are generally at least 2 years behind same-age peers emotionally, so we experienced the “Terrible Twos” at age 4. And in case you were wondering, it’s a lot harder physically to carry a wildly thrashing 4-year-old child throwing a fit away from the scene than a smaller 2-year-old, and so unbelievably humiliating. I did not enjoy that.

My son has changed my life for the better and taught me so much. And obviously, there are many, many beautiful moments involved with having a child… but they aren’t all beautiful. And they aren’t all enjoyable. In fact, sometimes things happen that we’d rather forget. And that’s okay.

Great writing… check it out:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toni-hammer/please-stop-telling-moms-to-enjoy-every-moment_b_6498336.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037

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