Why Parents Hate Parenting

Carla: Okay friends, my friend Tonya posted this cover story on parenting from New York Magazine. It covers so much of what we’ve talked about here that I am dying to talk about it with you. So give it a read (it’s long, so you might need to hide in the bathroom to get through it) and let’s discuss!

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18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robyn on July 10, 2010 at 10:14 am

    First thought on reading the first two pages: It says most parents disagree with the findings. I don’t. I just told my husband last week how unhappy I am. I never get a single moment for myself because from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep I am meeting others’ needs. Who meets my needs? No one. Hell, even when I’m sleeping, it’s next to a three year old and on alert for the baby’s cry so I can feed him. I’m empty, exhausted, and fried. And unhappy. There are moments, even minutes of pleasure. When my three year old isn’t been a stubborn booger and my infant isn’t needing something else once again. But my overall feelings are of distinct unhappiness. Even at work, I am meeting someone else’s needs all day long as a teacher. That’s why they call it a “helping profession” I guess. And no, I don’t get summers off. I work 12 months a year, 5 days a week.

    Maybe it gets better as your children get a little older. I hope.

    I’m sure I’ll be back with more comments. 😉

    Reply

  2. Posted by Robyn on July 10, 2010 at 10:28 am

    This isn’t analysis, which will take time to percolate in my brain, but the other part of the article that resonated with me was the negative impact on the marriage relationship. The article said that couples with children spend something like 5 hours alone together per week. WHAT?! I WISH! I haven’t had 5 MINUTES of quality time alone with my husband in the last 6 months let alone 5 hours. We sneak off to the bedroom to have sex once a week, and that’s maybe 15 minutes and often feels to me like just another chore on my list. We are wonderful partners in parenting. But our relationship with one another is virtually nonexistent these days. And I miss it so SO much!

    Reply

  3. Great article. I think the first half really hit the nail on the head–a lot of parents are unhappy because the external pressures placed on their family are almost unbearable. School schedules, work schedules, sports schedules, making sure everyone has everything they need for each activity, stressing out about what the other people involved in those activities will think about you if you or your children don’t perform perfectly–it’s an administrative and emotional nightmare!

    Despite all the challenges of having really young children, I think my favorite parenting years (this far) were the years that I homeschooled my oldest son, and had the littler ones at home. Sure, there was work to be done, but there was time, and we didn’t have to adhere to a strict schedule. We could float, which was lovely. All but the youngest of my four kids are in public school now, and I think in many ways the structure is good for them, but I am still occassionally tempted to yank them out and just hang out with them at home all day, puttering at school and housework, taking cross-country road trips whenever we felt like it, etc.

    But boy, that puts a damper on my ability to earn money! Somehow, I’m not surprised that parents with more money are less happy. 😦

    Reply

  4. Posted by Steve B. on July 11, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I’m going to move my family to Denmark.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Heather A. on July 11, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing. ” This sums it all up for me. I love my kids, more than anything, most of the time. But man, just being home in the evenings with them awake for about two and a half hours, and home on the weekends is exhausting. My husband is home with them all-of-the-time. They were an infant and toddler when I was home with them, now he has them as a toddler and an almost-kindergarten-er all of the time. The stimulation coming from them and then to one another is enough to send me to a crawl space under the house!

    I like the part of the article that says “… all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed…Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.” This is something I struggle with as a parent, the “sculpted, stimulated, groomed” part. My husband and I are making conscious decisions for our family to help our children become functioning members of society, but by no means do we want them to come away from our family thinking that they are more privileged than someone else…society will do its part in teaching them that…I just hope our truth sticks better.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Pixie on July 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Robyn, you’ve been in my heart & prayers the past couple of days & I keep checking back to see how you’re doing. Are you still struggling with the fibro on top of this or has that leveled out some after pregnancy? I think that our children are about the same age (1st: 3 years & 2nd: 3 1/2 months). I think about how my own perspective plummets or skyrockets depending on the lack of sleep: demands of work ratio and can’t imagine adding in health. Hope you find some rest for body & soul soon.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Wendy on July 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

    This article was so enlightening and freeing for me. It’s nice to know I am not alone. I have 2 boys, ages 7 and 9, and am overwhelmed and exhausted. I find so few times where I actually enjoy parenting these days. I look at my friends who are parents and seem to look forward to spending time with their children. I can’t even fathom it, and find myself actually jealous sometimes of the divorced parents who get every other week/weekend off. And I’m not saying there is anything good about divorce. It’s just that from my side of the fence, the regularly scheduled time off seems like heaven some days. (And as I am typing this, I am accused by my seven-year-old of not loving him because I won’t buy him his own laptop.) Sigh.

    Thanks you for posting this article. Now that I know there are lots of unhappy parents out there, I can stop feeling like there is something wrong with me!

    Reply

  8. Posted by Robyn on July 22, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Pixie. Wow. I had no idea that anyone would actually pray for me. Now I am crying. Thank you so much. It means more than you know. And God hears your prayers.

    My fibromyalgia has been a bit worse since I started back to work. It’s stress-induced, you know? Plus, I just can’t handle much in the way of sleep deprivation (largely due to the fibro), which is why I had to stop breastfeeding. And chronic pain (from the fibro) is also very tiring. I was (this is not hyperbole) losing my mind. I could feel it slipping away. I could feel myself going crazy, losing control of my emotions and my actions. I pretty much had a nervous breakdown a couple weeks ago and just stopped functioning; it was just too much. I simply couldn’t do it all anymore. My mom insisted I go see my doctor. The doctor said that it sounded like post-partum depression, complicated by the fibromyalgia, and compounded by the exhaustion. She wanted to try to solve the sleep problem first.

    Well, my husband is a prince among men. We had been alternating nights getting up to feed the baby, but I would still wake up every time G would cry. Mother’s instinct and I’m a light sleeper, I suppose. When the doctor said that, he decided that he should get up with G every night and I should sleep in the guest room for a while so that I could have uninterrupted sleep, which I have been doing for about a week. And it’s made a world of difference. I’m not crying all the time anymore. I don’t go to bed every night thinking that I hate my life. I don’t yell at my 3-year-old for no reason anymore. The challenges of parenting are still there, but I can cope with them in a much more healthy manner now.

    I know that your prayers have made a difference. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Pixie on July 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Yay! I am so glad that your husband, mom & doctor are all so supportive and that you are experiencing some relief. I struggled with chronic pain & fatigue in college and had PPD with my first child. I don’t have any answers but if you need a listening ear (or a prayer) give me a shout. pixie.gentry@gmail.com

    Reply

  10. Posted by carla on July 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    just. the. best. women.

    Robyn, we are all praying for you. I have been where you are–not for the same reasons necessarily, but feeling that sense of insanity and fogginess and dread for each day. It sucks more than suckage and I’m so glad you are finding some relief.

    Pixie, you are wonderful.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Mary on July 23, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Don’t wish me happiness
    I don’t expect to be happy all the time…
    It’s gotten beyond that somehow.
    Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
    I will need them all.
    –Anne Morrow Lindbergh

    “Happiness” is too elusive to discuss, especially in such important an important arena as parenthood. One can spend a moment in wonder over a child’s new discovery or unexpected antics and the next moment in consternation over a different shade of discovery or antic. The question, over a lifetime, not fleeting and wildly flexible moments, is “Why do we choose to have children? What, in many of us, causes us to answer the nagging, sometimes desperate call to become parents?” In parenting, as with most relationships, a lot of the story of disappointment can be told in the expectation. If the answer is, “to be happy,” we are asking our children to deliver the impossible, which sets us up for some heavy disappointment either in them or in ourselves or both.

    Reply

  12. I just stumbled across your site. Love it! Even though my blog doesn’t have a specifically Christian focus, I think we have a lot in common 🙂

    Reply

  13. Posted by Christina on August 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Mary,
    So well said. I am so thankful for sensible and godly teaching/modeling of marriage and family. My pastor repeated to me so often that marriage is not primarily about my happiness as much as it is about about my holiness (see Sacred Marriage, a classic). Happiness of heart is such a gift and something I want, but it cannot sought only in my circumstances. If it is who will meet my expectations? And what will come of my disappointment? Depression, bitterness, and blame placing? Children are not there for my ultimate personal fulfillment and neither is my husband. Having a young family depending on you can be very difficult and even painful at times, however, as Robyn said- meeting the basics alone can change one’s perspective (and so can sharing one’s heaviness so others can help carry the burden). I’m so sad about this survey. It shows how lacking contentment is in the lives of so many people. Our unrealistic expectations of ourselves, others, our materialism, busyness and lack of genuine community truly undermine how joyful life can be, even in the midst of hard work and self sacrifice.

    Reply

  14. I read this article sitting at Starbucks BY MYSELF (a very rare occasion as a pregnant working mother of three)! The setting seemed somewhat ironic given the various testimonies from other moms in the article about the lack of personal time and space.

    The thing that struck me about the article is the fact that we so often think we are alone in our thinking but we are not. It was clear to me that studies and statistics support the idea that we can often feel dissatisfied in our lives. (I am not convinced that that is entirely because we had children but the complications of a complex and consumer-driven culture may be a topic for another discussion.)

    The shift in homes from parent-centered to child-centered (‘staff to bosses”, so to speak) creates pressure, without exception. I know that I struggle with the constant demands of my kids and often question when the universe actually decided to revolve around their needs? Even the video clip that was featured highlighted a power struggle that might be avoided with some sound parenting strategies (Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman, for example). However, parents are so confused (myself included) about what “good” discipline looks like that they lack confidence, on top of ongoing sleep-deprivation and emotional drain. We have more resources available than ever before but I don’t think information overload is helping. We can’t sift through all of the opinions that bombard us from every side.

    All the false guilt that mothers experience is monumental It may be that feelings of neglect, lack of quality time with kids and spouses, and the missed “opportunities” of extracurricular activities weigh us down to an overwhelming extent. I was skimming a book called Bad Mother: A Chronicle Of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, And Occasional Moments Of Grace (by Ayelet Waldman) the other day and felt it drew attention to this exact issue: sorting through all of the media-induced, family-tradition-inspired, comparison-laden expectations is really dragging us down as parents.

    If we could simplify our view and gain a clear perspective we might reap a little less stress and a little more freedom.

    If anyone knows how to do that, let me know.

    If anyone knows how to do that, let me know.

    Reply

    • Posted by Christina on August 12, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Sarah,
      So true… the only really intimate time I had with a child not my own, while living in close relationship to his parents was when I was a nanny in college. Coming from a small town where parents were still the boss and children, while respected, were not always the center of their universe or attention. I realized when i started working for her we had two totally different worldviews regarding children. She wanted her child to have every advantage and total attention from me at all times. She did this in love but I knew it would not be beneficial for him. She also did not like consistent discipline. It was there I drew the line. I told her to work for her I MUST be able to create consequences, boundaries, and use time out. She allowed it but did not agree. Within a couple of weeks I could take her son anywhere- grocery shopping (which she did not like because it was not about him), running errands, and to lunch with adults and he behaved calmly and respectfully at almost all times. She did none of these things because he was out of control in her presence with very little respect for her authority. I believe this was largely due to lack of consistency and a child centered life style. Her son and I had a ton of fun, and while there were not many rules, he knew what they were and what I expected of him. We had peace. She is a wonderful mother but I was so sad for her and the chaos that was in their relationship.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Ginene on March 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I actually didn’t read the article. I did read some of the responses. I don’t think it is the kids that are making things crazy. I think it’s our society. Other places the grandparents take more of a role. And we are not having to do everything. Here we think you have to be independent. My family has come on very hard times and had to move in with my parents. It is very hard but it has had many blessings for me as a mom. My dad is on oxygen so he can;t do much. I help take care of him, he helps take care of our children, especially the 1 year old. My mom takes our 5th grader to school on her way to work. She is a patrol and has to get there before her sister. I take the younger one later. I stay at home while my husband works. It isn’t perfect. We have 7-8 people, I have a step daughter, in the house. It is cramped but there is always someone here to help with home work, play with the younger ones, we can take turns with dishes and dinner. I look forward to having more room when ever we can move out, but to tell you the truth having 4 adults and 3-4 kids in the house allows me time to watch my children play with their grandparents or my husband. When we move out I’ll have to remind myself the classes in personalities and lack of space made it hard.

    Reply

    • Posted by Ginene on March 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      oh i forgot to say our children some do dance and sports we don’t have the money. But even when we do we make sure that time spent doing those things is limited so we have time to be as a family. People need to remember it is fine for the kids to just play. With their toys bikes and do nothing much outside. Mom’s it is also the world that has changed to make moms have to work most moms wold rather be not working but have to to make enough money. Again how being a multifamily house hold works to help mom to have time to have fun. I remember playing with my dad more then my mom because she worked and the was doing house work, even though my dad helped. God has designed women to feel the weight of the house and children differently then the man. God has designed the man to feel the out side work differently, most wouldn’t be happy if they couldn’t work. I would be nice if we could again have the freedom to be moms take care of our family and not have the stress of an outside job. Working part time or volunteering if you want to but to have the time to stay home and take care of our family would allow us to have time to sit and play or watch our family play, and not only on vacation! The other tings is the way schools are giving so much work to the children, they don’t have time to play, then people complain there is over weight kids, well give them time to not sit at a desk. I home schooled our oldest and miss the days when we set our own schedule. Our children are in public school right now because they wanted to try it. I think the schedule of our children actually our society as a whole is not healthy! Learning through play or watching something be done is important and it seams no one takes time to just allow things to happen by not doing or having something planned.

      Reply

  16. […] by the challenges of raising children. Not long afterwards, two Christian mommy-bloggers posted the article on The Mommy Revolution, resulting in scores of other Christian mothers chiming in with their own stories of frustration […]

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