Dear Is This Normal,
I’m a father to a 2 and a half year old. I love him with all my heart. Funny, kind, cheeky, clever… Couldn’t be anymore proud. However, I hate being a parent. The attitude you get from not wanting to eat, to not wanting to tidy toys up, to generally not listening. I hate it, and when it turns into one of those days, I struggle and just want to break down. Surely it isn’t normal?
Dear Struggling Dad,
Oh, pops. I realize how difficult this letter must have been to write. Sometimes saying those words out loud, “I hate being a parent” or “I hate being a dad,” while cathartic in many ways, can bring such a wave of guilt. We’re conditioned to imagine parenting as being this wondrous, amazing, completely fulfilling journey filled with rainbows and light, just overbrimming with love and joy. And in many ways, it is! Or it can be, on those very good days. But in so many ways, it just … isn’t. It is incredibly challenging, and overwhelming, and monotonous, and it doesn’t end. You don’t get to clock out at the end of a long day of parenting and be your old self again (especially these days). It’s an incredible responsibility and also an incredible weight to bear. And there is no shame in admitting that. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: this IS normal, and I promise you are not alone in feeling this way.
There’s such a big difference between loving your kids and enjoying every single aspect of parenting them on a daily basis. You can absolutely love your son and have no love lost for going head-to-head with a toddler everyday. You’re in a tough parenting season! The toddler years have brought many a parent to their knees. But aside from the fact that you’re dealing with a toddler (and I have yet to meet a parent who genuinely enjoyed that whole stage), it’s perfectly normal and fine to admit that you don’t like parts of this job! And yes, it is a job! The hours are insane, the pay is paltry, the benefit package needs a lot of work, and there’s no one to whom you can report your unruly coworkers, but it’s a job nonetheless. Do you think doctors love every single part of their job? Or teachers? Or…anyone?! The only difference between what you’re experiencing and what someone else with job burnout experiences is that you, as a parent, are conditioned and are told by society that you HAVE to love your job. Plus, you can’t exactly quit.
I know you don’t hate your son. You obviously love him more than you can even describe, enough to admit that you are struggling and reach out for help. Right now you need to separate how you feel about your son, who is a human being with emotions and what sounds like a delightful little personality, from how you feel about parenting, which admittedly really sucks sometimes. The two are not mutually exclusive.
You didn’t mention a partner, but if you have one, I urge you to sit down and talk about how you’re feeling. The two of you can come up with some ways to help you deal with some of the more unpleasant aspects of daily parenting, whether it’s having them step in so you can remove yourself from a situation that you’re struggling with, or just having someone to talk about why a particular day sucked and how you can make adjustments for the next day. I would also suggest opening up about this to some of your friends who are also parents. And if you’re looking for a place to do exactly that—join our digital community. You’d be surprised at the solace you can find from strangers on the internet.
There’s such a stigma on parents who dare to talk about the dark underbelly of actually raising kids and the mental and emotional toll it can take on us. But I promise you, there are so many parents out there who will read your letter and think, “Thank GOD it’s not just me”. It’s not just you, dad. And it will get better! Some stages of parenting are so much harder than others, and can feel so much less rewarding or fulfilling. As your son grows, so will you as a parent. But even if there are parts of the next stage that you hate, and the stage after that, and the one after that, that is OK too. Keep loving your son. Keep caring for him and nurturing him and helping him grow. And if, at the end of a bad day, you sit on the couch in a daze and think, “EFF ALL THIS”, then so be it. We do what we have to do to get through it, and that’s all we can do.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows,
Is This Normal