Wait. Is this taboo? Can I talk about when this joyous thing called parenting is disappointing? Whether you have a newborn who is screaming all night or a 40-year-old adult child living downstairs, there comes a point (well, many of them maybe) when a parent thinks, wait—this sucks!
Before you get offended, let me acknowledge that talking about the not-so-great parts of parenting does not in any way negate the amazing, heartwarming, life-changing miracle that parenting is. It really is. But sometimes it is truly disappointing, and way too often we parents take on way too much guilt, which of course only further impedes our good parenting moments. We are never off the hook as parents, but that doesn’t mean we are destined to a life of guilt, guilt, guilt.
The Disappointment Is Real
So let’s be real. Mom-to-mom. When you are having those super bad days and you want to know where you can go to throw in the towel, stop, take a deep, slow breath, and try to find one thing that is good right now about your kid in this moment. It’s there. I promise you.
We are never off the hook as parents, but that doesn’t mean we are destined to a life of guilt, guilt, guilt.
Often, when we are feeling disappointed, it’s not our kids we are disappointed in, but ourselves. When they do the crazy things that they sometimes do, it reflects on us and we are disappointed in our perceived failure to transform this ball of potential into a fully functioning, productive member of society. We are scared. Sometimes I actually have to tell my teenage son, “I’m not disappointed in you. You are awesome. I’m disappointed in me.” Don’t try this with a toddler. It won’t work.
A Parent’s Imperfection is Welcome
The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect. Good enough parents create amazing adults! I envision parenting as creating a net. A fully functioning net is comprised of what? Holes. Even the best parents inadvertently create some emotional holes in our children because we are human. Those holes give our children the opportunity to build strength, which is a necessary quality in a functioning adult. A net without holes is not functional. What that means is that there is grace for our mistakes. We all make them and we will learn, and our children will grow from them.
We lose the joy of relationships with our children when we are so focused on the end result. The next time you are disappointed, try letting go of your idea of the finished product and focus on the beauty that is in front of you right now. Focus on your relationship and the rest will take care of itself.
Searching for more advice from Dr. Zoe Shaw? Check out her free advice column, Ask Dr. Zoe, to read others’ questions or submit your own. Ask anything anonymously!
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