I’ve been a parent now for almost eight years. So I have received eight years of (mostly unsolicited) parenting advice. You know what I’m talking about. The “nice” old ladies in the grocery store that tell you your baby needs a hat when it’s less than 60 degrees outside. (I’m sure the walk from the car to the store is NOT going to kill them.) Or the “friendly” guy at the zoo that tells you to cover up when you’re breastfeeding your baby. Thanks, dude. I’ll totally do that next time.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve gotten TONS of great parenting advice. But I feel that the vast majority of that has been when I was seeking specific answers to specific problems. And usually it came from friends that had been through something similar relatively recently. Need practical advice on how to get your children to eat? Or sleep? Or where to buy the best age/gender appropriate toy? Ask a friend. Your peer group is by far your best resource.
I’ve discovered that people with older children (empty nesters and up) seem to look back at the parenting of young children with rose colored glasses. And this leads me to the worse advice I’ve ever gotten. Something I get ALL THE TIME. Something that we all have gotten so much that it has become a cliche. And that is to enjoy the moment. Enjoy your time when they’re little, because it goes so fast. And before you know it, they’ll be all grown up and out of the house. Blah, blah, blah.
Look, I get where this advice is coming from. Really, I do. I already look back at pictures of my children when they were babies and think, “Where did that sweet little baby go? How is Cooper going to be in second grade next year!?! Time flies!” And I know that this is not EVERY empty nester/older mom. There are plenty out there that give you a, “You got this!” at the grocery store. But when the advice becomes a cliche, you know it’s common.
But here is the problem with this advice: it completely ignores the mother’s feelings. We spend so much time teaching our children to feel their emotions. To understand that the sadness or frustration or anger is a valid feeling, but one that will soon pass. We teach them techniques to manage and control their behavior so as adults they aren’t walking around loosing it all the time. So when we call up our moms, vent to older moms, or come clean in a moms group about how frustrated we are about the meltdown our toddler just had in the grocery store and the advice we’re given is to appreciate the time we have while our kids are little, it’s almost degrading. They’re basically saying our feelings are wrong. Our feelings don’t matter. Our feelings need to be changed. And THAT is wrong.
I can love my children and be frustrated by them. I can love my children and be angry at them. I can love my children and want to leave the house the second their dad gets home from work. Last time I checked, those were pretty valid feelings to have. And someone saying that instead of feeling those feelings I should instead be grateful is actually pretty harmful advice.
So moms, be angry. Be hurt. Be frustrated. But make sure you also enjoy the fun moments. And laugh with your kids. And have date nights. And take long, hot baths. And drink margaritas with your friends. And if you need to vent, I’m here for you. And my advice will be, yes that sucks. Parenting small children is SUPER HARD. But know that this phase will pass. And next year this struggle will be but a memory. BUT you will be in a new phase with a new struggle. So make sure that you are recharging. Make sure you are venting your frustrations. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and your friends. And make sure that you are enjoying the enjoyable parts of parenthood.