Parenting Is Not for The Weak

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As the school security guard eagerly tried to wave me onto the school grounds, for what was probably the 10th time, I wondered where my mind had gone. My toddler screamed for me to open the car window, even though it was raining, and my frazzled nerves reminded me that I was operating on a total of 4 hours of sleep. I drifted off to a faraway land free of kids’ screams and sticky fingers. Suddenly, I was jolted back into my current reality by the angry stares of the security guard. “Crap,” I thought, as I begrudgingly left the peaceful place in my reverie. “This whole parenting thing isn’t for the weak.”

Some days I feel like I’m training for the Olympics. I wake before the sun rises. I lift. I run. I go  crazy amounts of time without sitting. I’m bulking up and becoming a machine, but I have no idea what I’m being trained for. Maybe I should have done all of this work before I had kids. Set an alarm every 2 hours to prep for the sleep deprivation. Had someone follow me to the bathroom and scream, “Mom!!!!!” at me every 5 seconds. Stood up while I ate and drank my coffee while a timer ticked away the seconds. Practiced doing everything with one hand. Trained to win the gold medal of diaper changes.

Before I had kids, I thought I was a hard worker. I thought I was mentally strong and could handle just about anything. But I’m much humbler now, as I cry for sleep and get bossed around by a toddler on a daily basis. My body aches from carrying around a 16-pound baby, picking her up and taking her out of the crib, lifting the stroller and car seat, constantly chasing her so she doesn’t break her head open.

As the days pass me by in a fog, I remind myself of everything I have to be grateful for. I tell myself that this was a choice, that it will all pass fairly quickly. I remind myself to enjoy the moments of laughter and snuggles, even if my eyelids are heavy, my back is aching, and I’m starving waiting until the next nap so I can eat.

“How do people do it?” I often wonder, as I try to get my daughter in the shower while she screams like I’m murdering her. My baby crawls towards something dangerous, yet again; I swiftly pick her up and catch a warm glance and smile. There it is! That smile! That’s how people do it. When my toddler isn’t throwing a tantrum, she’s actually pretty pleasant and quite hilarious to be around. I laugh with her like I’ve never laughed before. Parenting isn’t for the weak, but it is worth it. All the training and hard work are for those priceless moments of joy. For the hugs you get when you pick them up from school. For seeing the world with fresh and curious eyes again. For getting to be a mentor, and growing into the best self you can be.

If I didn’t have kids, my life probably would’ve been a lot easier and, let’s face it, more affordable. But does easier mean better? Does having the luxury of showering alone or going to dinner without needing a babysitter make for a better life? Not necessarily. As a mom, I’ve been challenged in ways I never could have imagined. Some days I’d like to give up. But then I remember that this is all part of raising a family and having the most important relationships of my life flourish. I remind myself of why I wanted to have kids in the first place, and I’m able to go on. I have respect for anyone who’s a parent, even those who do the bare minimum. It isn’t for the weak, it isn’t for just anyone; it’s for the big hearted, the patient, and those who are a bit insane. It’s for those who can tolerate true sleep deprivation and maintain their composure in the midst of total meltdowns, allowing that warm, innocent, selfless love consume to them.

I often ask myself: If I could go back in time, would I do it again? The answer is always yes. Either I’m a little delusional from not sleeping since 2013, or despite it all, I’m happy with my choice. That very thought gets me through the tough moments and difficult days. Having a family is like training for the hardest sport in the Olympics. But it’s not a medal we’re training for; it’s getting the growth and maturity to build families we’re proud to call our own.

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Dr. Ilene


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