Is Parenting Feeling Hard? Maybe You’re Thinking Too Much

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so
~ William Shakespeare

Sometimes I can’t wait for the day to be over. Yes, I said it. Sometimes I am just trying to kill the seemingly endless hours between the crack-of-dawn time that my kids wake up, to the can’t-come-soon-enough hour that they go to sleep. Perhaps this feeling stems from the really intense phase our daughter has been going through in which she needs to be in control of everything. And when she’s not allowed to have her way, holy Mother of God…watch yourself! Or maybe the recent four month long phase where our son was using me as a human pacifier and waking every two hours to ask for a snuggle is what makes me feel that the days are, at times, interminable. Or maybe it’s because my husband had a heart attack two months ago and I am trying give him more time to relax on weekends (hello, Saturdays on my own with the kids). Or maybe this tense feeling comes from micro managing every quarrel and crabby interaction my kids have in a misguided attempt to teach them to get along.

Whatever the reason, some days I am not having fun. A friend sent me a really interesting Huffington Post article the other day, titled “The Myth of Joyful Parenthood” in which the author says:

Study after study has shown that parents, compared to adults without kids, experience lower emotional well-being — fewer positive feelings and more negative ones — and have unhappier marriages and suffer more from depression. Yet many of these same parents continue to insist that their children are an essential source of happiness — indeed that a life without children is a life unfulfilled.

How do we square this jarring contradiction? Two psychological scientists at the University of Waterloo think they have the answer. They suspect that the belief in parental happiness is a psychological defense — a fiction we imagine to make all the hard stuff acceptable. In other words, we parents have collectively created the myth of parental joy because otherwise we would have a hard time justifying the huge investment that kids require.

s nice poseThe research the author discusses basically finds that parents who find something about parenting uncomfortable are thus motivated to focus on the joys of parenting, which then makes the discomfort disappear. I don’t agree with the basic premise that parents don’t actually enjoy being parents – there is too much about it that is actually wonderful. Although I do wonder about those who never complain about it. The fact that thinking positive thoughts is merely a defense mechanism is a bit discomfiting, but the process does makes sense. When I spend my day focusing on how tired or cranky or frustrated I am, I simply feel more of the same. Additionally, it can lead to that obnoxious voice in my head that makes me sarcastic to a 4 year old, or snappish with a husband who is trying to help.

So while I sat, contemplating these thoughts, another friend sends me a link to a blog called “Live With Flair” (I have such nice friends) in which the author had written a brilliant post entitled These Aren’t Interruptions:

Many times over the years of being a mother, I’ve felt like I’m just trying to get through something. I’d think to myself: I just have to get through this night waking, this potty training, this noise at the dinner table, this driving everywhere, this laundry, this cleaning, this bedtime routine. I need to get through these interruptions in order to arrive at what I really want to be doing.

I believed some clever lie that kept me from embracing motherhood fully. Motherhood was something to endure, and this made me so deeply troubled and ashamed that the dark days of depression stole half a decade of my life.

My doctor told me one afternoon that “my children are not interruptions” to the life I want to have. They are my life. Exactly how God designed it.

This thought stopped me in my tracks. Was I considering my children to be “interruptions”? I felt the guilt rising because I knew that sometimes the answer was “yes”. I knew that it was true because when other parents talk about how they can’t wait to spend their weekends with their children I think to myself how I often dread those long, unbroken hours. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I do adore my children and they bring me boundless joy. AND being a mom can be exhaustingly hard work. I hope that for you it is always easy and wonderful, but for me I have days when I am so glad they’re at school or that the nanny has taken them out. I just want some time to be alone, or to go to the bathroom uninterrupted, or to write without having my concentration broken, or to not think 50 times a day, “I am doing this mommy thing badly”! So I went back to Life With Flair and read the rest of the post. And there it was, like a brick hitting my head:

Our days are not something to get through as we endure interruptions to our real life.

This is our life: wonderful, beautiful, and just right for us.

Once again, I am reminded that it is simply the way one interprets each moment that gives it its meaning. Instead of simply “getting through” a day, and being frustrated by the kids, I can shift the way I think about what is happening. Perhaps, instead of being annoyed by my son waking me so often at night, I can instead focus on how wonderful it feels to have him close. How very soon this little boy will be a teenager who won’t want to snuggle with mommy anymore. Before I know it, my little girl will have friends to whom she tells all her secrets and mommy will no longer be her confidant. How can I rush her through her night time sharing if, perhaps, tonight were the last time she were to do it? Wouldn’t I actually miss these moments? More importantly, wouldn’t my life just be simpler if I wasn’t annoyed by these moments?

So I am going to be mindful of my thought process and the way I label my interactions with my kids. As Shakespeare so wisely said, it is thinking that makes things either good or bad. Without the label, things just are what they are.

Letters Of Recommendation. To Ask Or Not To Ask?

I’m in the throes of the process of researching elementary schools these days. I know a lot more about the process now than when we applied to preschools (thanks in large part to sites like Beyond The Brochure and The School Boards). I’ve posted often about preschools and the process that goes on here in LA and I hope you’ve found it useful. Christina, from Beyond The Brochure, recently posted a really helpful answer to a reader’s question about getting letters of recommendation on her blog and, with her permission, I wanted to share it with you all because I thought it was so insightful.

LetterReader Question: Asking (Reluctant) Friends For Letters Of Recommendation

Question: My friend seems reluctant to write us a letter of recommendation for a school that is very hard to get into. Our friend says it is because her family has been resistant to one of the school’s most important programs and she doesn’t want to hurt our chances of getting in. What should we do?

Answer: This is an interesting question! In my experience—and the experience of many of my friends—this happens more often than you might expect. You may be hoping a friend will say “yes” right away and quickly write you a glowing letter of recommendation. Instead, the friend hesitates, seems reluctant, or just says “no.”

Now that I’m a mom who gets asked to write letters for families applying to The Willows, I have a better understanding of what’s really going on.

  • It could be that our reader’s friend is being truthful and is not on good terms with the school’s administration. It happens! If that’s the situation, you probably should not have them write you a letter.
  • A family may have been asked to write letters for 3 or 4 families at the same time. They may only want to write 1 or 2 letters to avoid seeming like they are recommending everyone they know without being selective. It may take some convincing to let them know you’re serious about the school. You can also tell them that if accepted, you will enroll your child. But, only if it’s true. Lying to friends isn’t cool and could ruin your friendship. Your friend will be putting their reputation at stake if they promise the school you’ll enroll. Then, if you change your mind, they will be left embarrassed and furious at you. They will have to apologize to the admissions director.
  • This may be the first time your friend has ever been asked to write a letter (especially if they are new to the school). This is where sample letters of recommendation are a huge help. We include several real examples in [our book] Beyond The Brochure. Offer to write the letter for your friend and have them edit it. That will help!
  • Some schools discourage letters of recommendation–or even prohibit them. If this is the case, abide by the school policy.
  • Your friend may not think your child is a good fit for the school. Or, they may wonder if you’ll be happy as a parent there. This probably won’t be discussed with you. They will just make up reasons why they can’t write a letter for you. If you get the feeling they are reluctant, move on to somebody else.