You're Doing Fine at This Parenting Thing
By Jen Holman
You know the drill. At the end of every day, after dinner dishes are cleared and the kids are bathed and put to bed ... after we’ve trudged up and down the stairs three times to break up an argument or deliver last-minute cups of water or string cheese because the kids are starving despite the fact we ate an hour earlier ... after we pick up the same toys put away only three hours before ... after all of that, we parents might sit down for an entire 30 minutes before dragging ourselves to bed.
And then, we’re up bright and early to take the dog out or head to the gym or make lunches and do it all over again.
These are our lives. I keep waiting for mine to slow down, but one sport season rolls into another. The baby is finally out of diapers, but big sister’s homework is more demanding or dad has a work deadline. It’s always something.
Somewhere in there, we manage to teach a life lesson and have a good, long talk with our kiddos. It’s these stolen moments in between all the busy that we’ll remember, that we cherish. Life, an old expression says, is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.
And those are the good days. So often, during those 30 peaceful minutes I remember half a dozen things I failed to do that day. From changing the cable plan to scheduling dental appointments, the running list of To-Do’s never stops. I have to admit that many nights I lie in bed feeling like the day was a total fail. I didn’t get to the laundry (again), I left peanut butter off the grocery list, I’m 2,000 miles overdue on an oil change, and the orange soda someone spilled in the fridge has started to grow hair. So. Many. Things.
Doubt and fear creep in and tell me this patchwork lifestyle is not sustainable, that eventually all of these failures are going to pile up and topple over and my whole family will come tumbling down around me. Feeling like I’m not doing well enough isn’t a good feeling, especially considering how hard I try.
It’s not just me. My husband feels that way, too. There aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything he wants at work, and then spend adequate time with the kids before bedtime. It’s a struggle for our family, and we’re not alone. I have been secretly polling the parents I encounter regularly (sorry, friends!). You know what I discovered? No one thinks they’re doing it perfectly. Everyone fears they’re doing it wrong, or not well enough. Not once did someone say, “Yo, I’m knocking this parenting thing out of the park.” We all struggle and we all worry we’re messing our kids up in any multitude of ways.
Comradery, community and the knowledge that most parents feel this way helps. We’re not failing. We’re surviving. We’re taking it one day at a time until things calm down. And if they never calm down, well, we’ll eat Nutella instead of peanut butter. It’s not the end of the world. And okay, so the kids only have a single pair of shoes they haven’t outgrown. At least they have shoes. These tiny, everyday failures are trivial. They’re not what really matters, and my world won’t stop spinning just because I couldn’t find time to put on a load of whites. I did find time to take a walk with the kids after dinner. We reserved seven full minutes to get to the next chapter of "The BFG." The kids put down their iPads in favor of helping me cook dinner. Winning!
My guess is there are so many parenting and self-help books— and columns like this one—because most parents feel they’re not doing it right. The truth is, there is no “right way.” We do the best we can do, just like our parents did for us, and theirs before them. And someday, our kids will struggle to find time to change the laundry robot’s batteries.
This is life. It’s messy and nearly impossible to navigate without acquiring a heavy load of self-doubt. Talking about it helps. Learning that our neighbors struggle, too, helps. I hope this little column helps. So, don’t worry—you’re doing fine at this parenting thing.