When my husband and I were expecting our first child five years ago, we were constantly bombarded by “helpful” individuals who would tell us all about how hard and exhausting parenting was going to be. After this happening on multiple occasions, we commented to one another about how strange it was the no one seemed to have uplifting things to say to us about becoming parents. It was a bit of a killjoy, to be honest. At the time, my husband’s parents owned a house in Grand Rapids that they were renting out and since my in-laws live over an hour away, my husband was the point of contact for the renters. An amazing family lived there and during one of our visits to the house to make sure everything was going well, we talked with the husband and wife for awhile about the pregnancy and the new stage of life we were about to enter. We will never ever forget that conversation because they said, “It can be a tough job but it’s so much fun and so worth it.” I remember actually saying, “THANK YOU! We needed to hear something positive and it means a lot that you said that.”
So...let’s pretend that you are expecting your first child (or maybe you actually are!). I would love to talk to you about the adventure ahead of you. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not very good at small talk. I’m super awkward. However, I DO think that I am good at listening and letting people know that not only do I hear what they are saying, but that I find what you are saying to be meaningful and important. Here is what I would tell you:
“How exciting! Life definitely does change when you become a parent and, yep, that transition can initially be tough. I totally get it. It was hard for me for a bit after both of my boys were born. But you know what? It gets better! Eventually you establish a new normal and new routines and you realize that life has all these different facets to it that you never even knew existed before. A deep love that you’ve never experienced before will develop. You get to experience all kinds of exciting ‘firsts’ that continue far beyond the baby stages. You even learn more about yourself---what is truly important to you, what you used to worry about that really doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore, when to say “yes” and when to say “no” (which is sometimes an even more valuable lesson than when to say “yes”). As my husband has reminded me since the beginning of our parenting journey, “Don’t make parenting any more difficult than it needs to be.” You got this. Just take it one day at a time. It really is a fun adventure! Oh, and drink lots of Starbucks.”
I know what a huge impact just ONE couple’s thoughts on parenting had on my husband and me and I really want to return the favor and be that person for someone else. I am not at all glossing over the tough experiences I have had as a parent and it’s actually because of those experiences that I can genuinely encourage other moms. My wish is that I can infuse some more positive words and thoughts into being a parent. I can’t even count how many times I have heard or read the phrase, “Parenting is hard.” Trust me---I am certainly not denying that parenting has massive amounts of “hard”. Been there, done that, dealing with it, and will continue to deal with it. But, perhaps it’s just me, I don’t like that word as the sole description of parenting. If we really want to stick with the word “hard”, let’s explore some other options: Exhausting. Challenging. Heartbreaking. Draining. All of these words rightfully belong in the description for “Parenting”.
BUT, and this is incredibly important, we also need to fill our thoughts about parenting with positive, affirming words. There is such power in not just the words that we speak but the words that we think. What might these type of words look like? These are the words that come to my mind.
Filled with teachable moments---from parent to child and from child to parent.
Before anyone gets all huffy and accuses me of not thinking parenting is tough or that I don’t see the importance in sharing our tough times, please just take a deep, cleansing breath. I am a strong supporter of not hiding our struggles and being honest when we’re having a tough time. I’ve shared many of my difficult times as a parent in other blog posts I have written. I even mentioned in one post how much I struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a mother when I didn’t experience immediate adoration and overwhelming love for my boys right after they were born. Much of the reason that I love reading blogs is that they often offer reassurance that none of us are alone in this journey. That’s one of the same reasons that joining FIT4MOM over four years ago was so life-changing---I became part of a community of women who got it.
You can never offer someone too much encouragement, and that’s why it is so important to me that I “define” parenting by using a variety of words. Parenting is so many things, so many emotions, so many indescribable moments. Many moments are fun and easy to navigate and some moments are a significant challenge. But all of those moments come together to create a beautiful opportunity for us to grow as parents and human beings and for our children to grow into kind, compassionate, and brave individuals.
And that, to me, is why parenting is more than just hard.