Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

How Having Children Ruined my Life

44 Comments

It was one of those ‘open-mouth-insert-foot’ kind of moments.

I was sitting at a table with fifteen other women.  A diverse group in just about every sense of the word, we were gathered to study the Bible and share our perspectives on the ancient beloved words.  Something about having children came up, and we were careful, aware of the emotional minefields surrounding this topic for some of our members.  We were careful, that is, until I blurted out,

“I would say that having children has ruined my life.”

There was a surprised silence and then women began to murmur.  I heard someone explain to her neighbor, “Oh, she doesn’t mean ruined, she just means that having children changed her life.”

I disagreed and tried to explain.  ”No, I mean ruined.”  ”Ruined,” I emphasized, “but if you gave me the choice to go back to life before children, I wouldn’t do it.  Really, I wouldn’t.”  I meant the second part, but my original declaration still hung in the air.  A dear friend gave me a sharp look.  ”I hope that you don’t say that to your kids.”

And I thought, ‘I have got to come up with a better way to explain this.’

****

Okay, ‘ruined’ may be a bit extreme.  And no, I’ve never said that to my kids.  It’s just that ‘changed’  isn’t nearly strong enough to describe the massive shift that comes with the birth or adoption of young human beings.  There is, there really is, a ‘ruining’ of your previous life, but there is also the gift of new life–for you as well as for the child.  It’s a strange thing, possibly as strange as these words,

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Yes biblical scholars, I know that Jesus wasn’t specifically talking about having children in this passage, but as I have tried to follow Him through the bends and curves of my own life, I know that nothing–absolutely nothing–has illustrated this paradox of losing-life-in-order-to-find-life better than the daily joys and struggles of caring for children.  They are the hardest and best thing to ever happen to me… living paradoxes that demand more than I have to give, and then give more than I possibly demand.

They are, in the words of one of my favorite albums, a beautiful mess.  And this is also what they have made of the life formerly known as ‘mine’.

****

I’m pretty sure that I will never find the right word to describe this process, and so I will turn to metaphor.  Here’s one that I’ve been turning over in my head for some time:  Having a baby is like moving to another country.

Having a baby is like moving to another country.

First, the preparations.  You study the guidebooks.  Ask friends who have been there about their experiences.  Make lists and then gather all the stuff you’ll need.  Prepare and wait, prepare and wait… you try to imagine what it will be like.  Of course, if you’re having or adopting a baby, your departure time is an estimate, but you’d better be ready when it comes!

And then you’re in the air, on your way.  It may be a long or short flight, it’s hard to anticipate the turbulence, but at some point you touch down.  Welcome to a foreign place–the land of your baby.  Not generalized ‘babyland’ mind you, but the land of your very specific baby, with his or her very specific mix of traits, proclivities and desires.

And good luck learning the language.

There is a kind of culture shock that takes place for new parents, and it’s no wonder.  Everything that you took for granted before–going to the grocery store, sleeping through the night, getting a quick shower–is now complicated by new rules that you have to figure out as you go.  Everything changes.  It is exciting, exotic, and exhausting.  Culture shock is no joke, especially when it’s coupled with some significant jet lag.

And then, day by day, somehow, you adapt.  You grow.  You learn the language.  You become more and more proficient at navigating your new land.  People visit you and you are proud to show them around.  There are ups and downs, but your adjustment is real.  The new place and your new identity within it becomes part of who you are.

Everything is different, and so are you.

And now I have a question for you… did your beautiful and painful adjustment to your new culture ‘ruin’ your old life?  Of course it did.  You can never go back to where and who you were before.  But would you ever want to?  Perhaps at some moments.  Perhaps when the child wakes up again in the middle of the night, perhaps when the new defiant phase seems to be lasting forever, perhaps when you wish that getting an hour to yourself wasn’t so darn difficult.  But overall?  Would you ever want to go back?

****

We are in California as I write, visiting family, and our oldest daughter has been sick for days.  She is hypoglycemic (we think) and the combination of messed-up schedule (i.e. we don’t know when to feed her) and the demands of her immune system have been brutal on her poor little body… and the coughing and whining is virtually nonstop.  My husband and I are at the end of ourselves, which leads us to pray more.

Last night she was up at 2 a.m. again, and I got her spoonfuls of sticky tylenol syrup again, and sang her to sleep again, and prayed that the coughing would stop… you got it, again.  I was almost delirious as I am a person Who Needs Sleep, but my husband is also sick so I was the night parent on call.  Miracle of miracles, she fell back asleep.

When she awoke (another miracle… at 8:30) she called for me, and I crawled into bed with her.  She snuggled into my chest, right into the place where her almost-5 year old body fits perfectly, and we just laid there together.  We laid there for a few minutes, and then we began the day.

And you know what?  I’m tired.  And she isn’t out of the woods yet.  Today there will be whining and tonight there will be a wake-up.  I will be grumpy and mean, and then I will pray… over and over again.  But then she will snuggle into my chest.  She will say Mama.  At some point, tomorrow or maybe the next day, she will act silly again.  We will laugh together.

And in the ruining of my life I will find joy.

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44 thoughts on “How Having Children Ruined my Life

  1. Love this! Thank you for writing it. If I ever get to this ruining-my-life stage, I am thankful to have first gotten to learn from friends who have traveled there ahead of me.

  2. I was just talking about this with a friend. In different words, but same concept, have having to pretty much reinvent yourself after kids. My old hobbies/interests are gone, replaced with new kid-centric ones. She was struggling with feeling like she’d ‘lost’ herself to kids. Had a great discussion versus ‘lost’ or just needing to ‘reinvent’ and that we’re new, different, will never be like we were before… and that’s not a bad thing; and in fact, it’s a good thing. Just a different, changing thing. Will be sharing this with her. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Great article and analogy. I share many of the feelings you express. One may be different. I WOULD go back. I also search for joy but find only an occasional oasis of happy moments in a vast desert of drudgery. It has been almost 9 years and I remain completely miserable. My life and my marriage have both been ruined. I have a platonic room-mate instead of a wife. Our children have made her, as you described, tired, grumpy, and mean.

    The only reason I agreed to come to the land of parenthood was because she needed to be a mother. What a horrible mistake. She says that she loves it but she sure doesn’t look happy to me. I love my family. Still, if I could go back I would.

    I feel awful, as if I am betraying my creator because he gave me this family as a gift. I’m trying to enjoy it. I really am. I just …don’t enjoy it, not at all.

    Go ahead, readers. Throw stones.

    • No stones for you. Never any stones for honesty.

    • God, every word you wrote reminds me of my own family (I’m one of the adult-offspring who grew up in the situation you just described). The only thing I can comfort you with is that it doesn’t last forever, and there is indeed a life for parents after the kids fly the coop. I always wished my parents had gotten therapy and marriage counseling, so I suggest that for you as well. Good luck and best wishes.

    • I love and admire your transparency and would return to my old life in a heartbeat as well….there are many moments of Mommy bliss, no doubt and I am eternally thankful that my children are healthy, bright and funny..but I am exhausted. The weight of the world remains on my shoulders! As a full time working mom whose spouse works out of town, my two small children do not see an energetic, peppy, happy, fun-loving mommy very much and for this I carry much guilt! I guess this is the only reason I would go back..there was nothing to feel guilty about when I was a single, working girl with my own place and agenda..I didn’t feel like I was letting anyone down!! I show my precious boys I love them and they know it…I am just ready to remodel and rejuvenate this tired Mama!!

    • I too feel the same way. I too would go back, only to see my wife smile. We used to look forward to our evenings together, long quiet walks, exercising together, watching movies, etc. We would even schedule vacation days to go away and enjoy each other as much as possible. We even got a puppy who strengthened our relationship by proving that we can share our love with someone else in the household…that is…until the baby came along…

      Now our lives consist of us taking turns avoiding the house, avoiding the baby, avoiding each other, etc. I am constantly asking her ‘whats wrong’ and she looks ready to blow up every other second of the day. I have developed an anxiety disorder since the baby was born and have received prescription meds to treat it. The baby has single handedly destroyed our life together and any hope we had of enjoying a long term romantic relationship. This probably sounds selfish but as I speak to parents one – on -one, we’re all in the same boat. When people gather in groups, it becomes the elephant in the room. I think everyone needs to be more honest about how rotten parenthood is and communicate it with one another.

  4. My kids ruined my past life but gave me a new better one.

  5. This is the best and most honest post I have ever read about becoming a parent. Kudos.

  6. I’m going to play devil’s advocate, having been exposed to children on a daily basis for over 2 years–if there is some higher power, I beg that it prevents me ever becoming a parent. I’ve seen the absolute nasty side of children; the children in question happen to be absolute monsters that, on the rarest of occasions decide to NOT be psychopaths for a day. Indeed I think I might end up killing myself if I ever found out I was a father.

    I know some of you, nay..a large majority of you will call me selfish. But I ask you; is the self not important? Without nurturing of the self, you deteriorate into something less than human. Parenting is not for everyone–I am sure it is not for me. But if you decide to start flinging insults, as most are accustomed to do, I ask that before you spew the vitriol at me to instead take a step back and ask yourself why it is you’re being sanctimonious about what is, in reality, a choice.

    • Thanks for your comment, Vernon. There’s a lot about it that has given me food for thought. First off, I completely agree that having children can be a choice. I believe that God has given us both ovaries and brains, and it is faithful to use both in shaping a family and a life. Of course, things don’t always go ‘according to plan’, and I am reminded on our “surprise-you’re-pregnant-again” child’s fourth birthday that sometimes the life we’re given can be better than the life we would have designed.

      And thanks for bringing up the ideas of selfishness and self-care. I have been thinking about this a lot since receiving the comment from ‘anonymous father’ and his description of his wife’s unhappiness (see comment below). I like your sentence, “Without nurturing of the self, you deteriorate into something less than human.” I would add that if we don’t nurture our own gifts/passions, we tend to try to live ‘through’ the people around us, which is disrespectful and can be destructive. Still, I would also add that joy can be found when we care for ourselves AND give ourselves away to others. (This is probably pretty obvious, but I find it hard to live.) There is a daily balance here… if I only care for others, I deteriorate. But if my self-care turns into selfishness, I might miss out on the self-giving love that can also make me more human.

      I guess what I am trying to say through this post (and novel-length comment) is that, to my surprise, the exhausting and often painful self-giving required in having kids has also been a gift to me. Weird.

  7. Great article. Wow, reading Unhappy Father’s post, I almost felt as if I was him. ALMOST. Because when I look back to my much simpler life, with just my beautiful bride and I in our new home with our new car and everything under our complete control, I think what in the hell did we do having kids?!? Well, I will tell you: I always thought I would be the guy who did NOT have children. My wife in fact is the one who’s biological clock was ticking so loudly neither of us had any peace. Now we have two little ones that wake us up every single night several times, put fingerprints all over things constantly, throw food and yell at dinner, throw fits at the most inopportune times, require constant supervision and attention, and because we both work, have created a daycare bill that is 1/3rd of our total bills. Does any of that make me happy? No. Of course not. In fact, I constantly ask myself why nature puts something in us that causes us to procreate in the first place. Is it just to keep the species from going extinct? With more than a billion people on the planet I dont think that is cause for concern. So what is it?

    For me, it was not wanting to grow old with really nobody to care about me. My cousin of the same age as me is NOT having kids. He is perfectly fine in his penthouse with several different women a month but otherwise alone. When I now think about him in his mid 40’s, I feel sorry for him. He has lived a great party life, but soon he will feel the depression of really nobody caring about him. No kids to watch play football and feel excited for them. No new young families to go visit on the Holidays and feel the pride of knowing he created that. Nobody to come to his bedside when he is old and feeble.

    The trials and tribulations of having children can be sometimes severe, but in the scheme of life, is SO short-lived. If you live to be an average of 80 years old, raising children is barely 25% of your life! Unless of course your offspring will not leave the house and make their own life, then you have other problems. 🙂

    Point is, as somebody said earlier, it really does go fast. In fact, once they are 9 or 10 years old, they are already becoming independent! So really, the down and dirty part of raising kids is only maybe 10% of your entire life. If you can’t handle that, then maybe you really SHOULDN’T have kids.

    • Your comment was really helpful for me… Why do we have kids? “It was not wanting to grow old with really nobody to care about me.” Yes, and also (and you imply this with your football example)… not wanting to grow old without somebody to care ABOUT. I think that we forget sometimes that part of the fulfillment of being human is to have someone outside of our little selves to pour into, not in a co-dependant, need-to-be-needed way, but in a way that actually, somehow makes us more human. Thanks for sparking this for me!

      • I am commenting on this topic again, after much time because it remains relevant. It is amazing what a few years can do to your energy level, with or without children. I am the mother with one adult child, and admit the alterations to my life, in not a good way since that time. I also acknowledge the sparingly, in between joys that having a child provides. This I know from some of my friends and relatives, who are for different reasons – sans children.

        The reason I write now is because my son has told me he will be marrying in one or two years. My response: ‘Give it a little more time.’ He is convinced he is ready, along with his spouse – to – be. This is the circle of life coming full circle. Where did the time go? I want to be happy for them and very supportive. Doing otherwise will only ensure their own, possible osmosis of my ambivalent feelings regarding parenthood. Life is too short to foster negativity on their hopeful undertaking. While not leaving all to providence, I am encouraging them as much as possible to not rush into things. I have quoted to him, the famous John Donne line: “No man is an island.” – ‘Do not let too much pride prevent you from asking for advice and help, when frustration and overwhelming factors come into play, too quickly.’

        From – ‘Children has ruined my life attitude,’ I am now appreciating that I am still here, and contemplating how to make the rest of my life not depend on others in a non – constructive way, I keep certain books I may be inclined to throw at times, on a tall shelf in the distance.

        Still loving this blog.

    • You’re leaving out the fact that this percentage of your life you are giving away, is the best period I your life, or could be. Sure you may life to be 80, but those last 20 years are your golden years, you’re not young anymore. There are things you can’t do when you are 25-45, the typical child rearing years. The first 18 you are a kid yourself. So that 10-25% you sacrifice. Those are your best years.

      I you want someone to care about you, get married. Not all men without kids are party bachelors. Choose a good spouse and love each other until you die, all the while living life to the fullest. Working all those hours to pay 33% if your income on daycare isn’t living life to the fullest.

    • Yeeaahh, but you do not have disabled kids do you?? The one’s who you need to look after the whole of your life and are not going to be looking after you later, the one’s who not going to be running into your room in the morning and cuddle?! The yeah you can be happy and your life is happy later on!

  8. Well put. You really made me realize that my comment also meant that I have a desire to care ABOUT somebody else as well. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I realize that actually having someone to care about is a significant feeling I have that I actually did not think existed in me.

    I can be a very selfish person and have always cherished my personal time to just be me. But now I can NOT imagine going back to how it was. I would feel like there is just a large empty space. Something missing. And it isn’t like I can’t have my personal life back after this whirlwind is over with a few short years down the road! Knowing how short-lived it really is makes me want to cherish the moments with my kids, not resent them.

  9. I would go back to my previous life in a heartbeat; no regret, no remorse. Becoming a mother was the absolute worst decision of my life, bar none – and one I can never escape from. I am that angry, tired and unhappy wife and mother who is only a platonic roommate to my husband because I arbor so much resentment at being replaced by my children. There isn’t enough room for me so I just drift to the sidelines and exist in the background, which seems to suit them all just perfectly. I knew there were sacrifices to be made with parenthood but I didn’t think my marriage would be one of those things. To Unhappy Father, I get it … I really do.

    • I have been thinking a lot about your comment over the past weeks. I am so sorry because that sounds so hard.

      Here is a follow up post. Part two.

    • I am glad to have read your comment. I was a person, who so wanted to be a mother, before it was too late. It happened and I felt, oh so blessed. I paid half my salary for daycare. Our son never slept through the night until he was eight years. I enrolled him in a private, full day preschool program. He was a physically, healthy, intelligent, lovable child, however, he was active even for a private daycare, which had fewer children to teacher ratio.

      Up until the age of ten, he observed and commented most intuitively. This made me feel it was all worth it, as I noticed age hitting me square in the face, and elsewhere. I reckoned “c’est la vie”, was an appropriate adage here.

      He is now a young adult, with a longtime, full time girlfriend. I am disappointed in the change from intuitive, considerate, remarks
      he made as a child, to now, self absorption, inward looking, entitlement, and hurtful indifference. I wanted a child for the joy of creating a human being, and watching the growth of this child into a responsible adult, who sometimes thinks about others. I never expected to be taken care of in my older years. But some acknowledgement would be appreciated. I am finding I get more of that from my friends than my son. I am told, for some it takes up to the age of twenty – seven to mature, and come out of what appears to be a self centered nature.

      The surprise for me is the abrupt change from an outward looking child, to an individual of much entitlement. Because I have seen the lovable aspect of his earlier personality, I remain grateful for having him. But I also hope and look forward to maturity that displays a little less selfishness, and perhaps a little gratitude for the gift of life itself. I can’t say that I would go back, because I have no idea what else could have occurred. The road not traveled could easily have become disliked.

      I can say that my personal life has turned out less than what I had envisioned, for becoming a mother. Being a good parent, mother or father is a sacrifice. There are no two ways about it. It is likely that we have to experience this in order to appreciate
      the travails of our own parents.

      • Ellen, thanks for sharing your story so honestly here. Your experience resonates with something I was reading in a Wendall Berry book last night. I don’t have it in front of me now, so forgive my paraphrase, but it’s from “The Hidden Wound”, his book about racism.

        He calls to reader to continuity with the openess and wonder of childhood, and laments that so many of us “grow out of” an outward looking attitude. The key question seems to be, How can we regain what we’ve lost in a way that is strong enough to survive the realities of adulthood?

        I don’t know the full answer to this question, but I wonder if, as parents, this is part of the gift that we are given… part of what makes it all worth it… to experience the wonder ourselves, a second time, as we watch our intuitive, open young children process the world. They may not be able to hold onto this through the tumult of adolescence, but it changes us.

        Just my musings on a Friday morning…

  10. I enjoyed reading this…it gave me a bit to think about. Before I had my son, I was never a “baby” person. I was a teacher so obviously I liked working with kids, but at the end of the day I would get into my car and be so relieved to be going to my child-less home. In the 15-months since my son was born, I have given up a lot of the things that I’ve always loved…to name a few…sleep, spontaneous dinner dates, long bike rides and desultory walks, and (as I became a stay-at-home mom rather than struggle with child care costs), the loss of a world where I use my academic brain and am shown respect for it on a regular basis. My relationship with my husband changed and we had a lot of long conversations where both of us were too tired and confused about our new roles in life. But we came out of those with a stronger, more mature, more honest, and more romantic relationship. And though I miss the things that used to define my life, I am so, so thankful that I became a parent. My son has made me a better person. I find that I am so much more empathetic, forgiving, and helpful to everyone I meet…I suppose because I see everyone through the eyes of a mother…eyes that I never once guessed I had. I am more determined to speak up when I see injustice, to work towards things I believe in, and I enjoy the challenge and blessing of being able to see the world through new eyes…through the eyes of my son and through my eyes as his mother. When I miss being able to do certain things I used to enjoy, I remind myself that he will not always be an infant, a toddler, a child, and my role and duties will change. In the meantime, I am finding interests and friends in my world as it is now, and am enjoying it truly.

  11. Having a child is a rollercoaster ride, it should never be entered into lightly. There should be government warnings about the impact these bundles of joy have on your health, wealth and social life!

    With reference to the comment above, the only “new eyes” I see things through are both ringed with black circles from sleep deprivation and bloodshot from stress and crying!

    My relationship with my partner has been completely destroyed and our rôles have been recast: me as the cavalier, laid-back Dad and my partner as the stressy, anxious, negative Mum who constantly criticises and undermines my every parenting move.

    The postnatal transformation of my partner has made me see her in a new light. It has made me resent her, even hate her. I hope I can get back to a situation where I love and respect her but I doubt it’s going to happen, I can’t see how she could return to her prenatal, fun-loving self without going through some kind of event that was equal, yet opposite to childbirth. Have you ever seen Eternal Sunlight of the Spotless Mind? I want to use that fictional memory erasing technique to remove this whole sorry episode from my life.

    I love my daughter, despite all this.

  12. That is the truest comment on “love”, I have had the occasion to come across.

  13. Joe, I agree with your- deciding to become a parent should not be a decision to be made lightly. However, that said – when some decide that having children is not best for them they are often criticized as being selfish or not following God’s plan. Why is this? Parenthood sounds incredibly difficult and I think if a couple knows they are not ready for this- why should they be pressured into joining in?

  14. I can see your point and very well written and nice metaphor…still, it makes me sad…it’s really a matter of perspective. I CHOOSE to believe that my child (8 yr old boy, his 38 yr old dad left me for a 19 yr. old when our baby was 18 months) ENRICHES my life and when I get so annoyed and frustrated and angry, I take a step back and remember that the time they are little is so precious and fleeting. I developed a really bad depression because of life events and a predilection for alcoholism, such that I couldn’t function and my mom forcibly (through the courts) took custody of my child when he was 6 1/2 (I raised him as a single parent, without much help, until then). I still see him, but I have my ‘old life’ as you say, pretty much back, and I feel absolutely desperately devastated every day. Be grateful to be blessed and thank God. I love your blog title of long days short years, btw, I just had to comment as this post made me cry.

    • You are so right… it is a daily choice, an hourly choice at times. Yours is a much-needed perspective. Though I complain regularly about the chaos and the noise and demands, if it all went away, I would be devastated. Thank you, and I’m so glad that you are still part of your little boy’s life.

  15. Here is a story about a relative of mine: when her first child was six months old, she said, “Well I love him of course, and I wouldn’t not want to have him … but we had a REALLY NICE life before we had a child!” He was a child with minor medical issues and a strong personality. He cried a lot because of skin problems, etc. Reminds me exactly of the “whining” hypoglycemic child in this article. My relative would have said her baby was “fussy.”

    The good news: my relative had a second, trouble-free child. The two boys grew up terrific and are now wonderful young men in their 20s; both of them adore their mom. I think that she has probably forgotten what she told me 20+ years ago, and I think that she has also given up her fantasy of an alternate life. She is wholeheartedly onboard as a mom. The ambivalence is utterly and completely gone.

    This is what I would tell all people who have children. Of COURSE it’s like a bomb going off in your life! How could it not be??? Some women feel a much greater degree of ambivalence than other women. I think this depends on personality issues, what they gave up for their child (=job, past-times, marital satisfaction, travel, $, physical effects of pregnancy and childbirth, etc.) and also on the “easiness” of the child in question.

    I think all parents would be better off if they were judged on their behavior (this is normal; you must treat your children with love, kindness, and consideration, and your friends should expect that of you) but never on their hearts. You have to feel safe sharing everything, the good and the bad, the positivity and the ambivalence, the confusion and certainty. I would never judge a friend who shared her heart with me.

    Love to everyone here.

    • I appreciate your comment Karen, especially: “I think all parents would be better off, if they were judged on their behavior…….(treat your children with love, kindness, and consideration, and your friends should expect that of you).”

      As parents, we all start out doing this, and somewhere along the way snags arise. It is especially difficult in one child families, where there is no comparison to another sibling, or experience to go on. I am from a multiple, sibling family. I found that our parents were able to benefit from our varied personalities, in times when one, or two siblings were “off the wall”, for them.” That is not possible in a one child family, and how I miss that, in my relationship with my offspring. Furthermore, I wonder about the future, emotional well being, of my single child in later life, when I and his father are no longer around. This is a concern, as my multiple siblings are around for me, since our parents have gone. Does anyone else have this unease for the long term outcome
      for a single child?

  16. Our child has Autism, and there is no saying mama or looking into the eyes and no interactive play, and NO FREE TIME!!! this is the biggest disaster of my life, it is ruined!

    • If you have one child with autism, you have a huge unasked for load. That being said, there are many families, into which children with disabilities are born. You are not alone. I empathize with, ‘NO FREE TIME’, and “the biggest disaster”, sentiment. While ‘ruined’ is what you feel now, it will not be forever. One of my siblings has a child with a significant learning disability, who is now, twenty – six years old. Her child also has various, emotional, challenges, coping mechanisms in school, and with friends, or making friends. It has been a long, uphill, embattled journey. The most important contribution has come from all of the siblings coming together to be supportive, to our sister with the challenging disabilities. We have accepted her choice to keep her child at home, rather than be in an institution, which was presented as an option for her, in the hospital, when her child was born.

      Now, as an adult all the work, which has gone into raising her child has proven well worth it. She has other children, and she works outside the home. Expect that mistakes will be made along the way in raising your child. Forgive yourself, for the way you feel, and extend that forgiveness to your child, who had no part in this. Your supreme strength is being asked for here, but don’ t feel you have to draw on it, all at the same time. A little each day, is all that is required. Look for others with the same difficulties. Help will come from the most surprising places. Life goes by so fast, your head will be spinning. One day you will come to understand this in real time, and you will miss hearing someone saying these words to you. Your situation is difficult, burdensome, and not enviable, but it does provide cause for PAUSE. This attitude will help you cope, especially at the initial stages. You and your husband, together, if possible need to work to support each other. Your child will benefit, and in the long, haul so will you.

  17. Well written but a symptom of how self centered people have become today. Obviously having a child is going to change everything. The core of who you are could not have been very strong if it changed you that much. Maybe you need a more supportive spouse or family? Not giving yourself free time to do the things you love is just you wanting to be a martyr. Martyr moms are gag worthy and really it’s just another way of saying “look at me, feel sorry for me, me, me, me, me, me!”

    What this article is really saying is “My life used to be all about me. Now I am not the center of attention and I have to care about someone else. If I can’t focus on me, me, me, me, me ALL time, my life is ruined.” Maybe your own parents should have spent more time on themselves so you wouldn’t think the world revolves around you. Don’t make the same mistake with your children, especially daughters. Teach them that it is OKAY to have a life outside their husband and kids. It really is okay to leave for a day and do something you like. Take a day off work and don’t stay home. Reclaim a little of that old fun. Don’t be a victim because that feeling becomes addictive and will add strain to your relationships. No kid wants to feel like mom had to hang on the cross for them because guess what? They didn’t ask to come into this world. You made that happen. So for the love of God, take a day off and have some fun so you will have a better attitude. You are doing this to yourself.

    • There is so much in this comment that I agree with. A victim mentality is a dangerous trap, for mothers and others, and it is so important to have a life outside of child-rearing. I want my daughters to see and emulate a strong, multi-dimensional woman, and it is my responsibility to take steps in this direction. Also, you are correct (though you and I have never met, and I’m still not sure how you can tell so much from this one post) that I am selfish and struggle with selfishness. A big part of this transition into motherhood has been learning to quiet the screaming and kicking 3-year old inside of me who says things like, “But I WANT to have a calm dinner with my husband!” and “Are you kidding? You can’t get sick AGAIN when I haven’t had a day off in two weeks!”

      However, there is one other thing that I want my daughters to emulate, and that is what I’m trying to do with this post. I think that it’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to say “this sucks and this is hard, and giving up this much doesn’t come easy to me.” I’m not one-dimensionally selfish. I’m a complicated generous brat, loving deeply at times and at other times, not so much. And I feel no pressure to have this all together or to pretend that I do, though my honesty is in some ways both a prayer and an attempt to be better. Right now, it’s what I’ve got. And if that just sounds like, “feel sorry for me, me, me, me” to you then that’s okay for you to have this perspective. I just think that I’m still learning.

  18. I agree that your post is for those feelings we carry around with us, and often are afraid to voice, because of the labels, and “daggers”, which will come hurling at us, on top of the inescapable feelings, that own us, even, when we don’t want them. This applies in other areas of our lives; losing a job; losing a spouse; going through a separation or divorce, and suffering a critical illness. But when it comes to children, expressing our true, perhaps, sometimes fleeting feelings is taboo, because parenthood and children have been placed alongside the sacred, rightly or mistakenly. I love your post. It allows honest sharing, some needed venting, and in the process some help with healing, in a time saving space.

    • Thank you Ellen for your words of grace to me, and especially for your response to Anna’s comment.

      More and more as my kids grow older I am aware that I need a safe place to vent, because they don’t need to deal with my ups and downs. But if I can be honest somewhere, then my behavior towards them is more consistently loving. At least, that’s the plan. 🙂

  19. My daughter has ruined my life. Seriously, she has. She has hooked up with dirtbag boyfriends, had kids, no marriage, no support. Then she became a drug addict, turned to crime, and is currently headed for prison. Which leaves me taking care of her kids. Do you know how horrible it is for a retired, single person to be alone with kids 24/7? It is a nightmare! I truly wish my daughter was never born. Unconditional love is a myth.

  20. I am truly sorry that I have become a parent. I can totally empathize with the other honest parents here. I would gladly go back in a heartbeat, if I was given the chance. I have nothing but depression, anger and resentment. No happiness is left in my life. I did not sign up for shit throwing, blood curdling screaming, speech impairment, throwing and breaking everything, getting into everything that I am doing, issues with feeding, tantrums that are constant, etc. I cry constantly and I have chronic depression and anxiety. I am in physical pain all the time from the emergency c-section I was forced to have, even after 2 1/2 years of healing. Nobody knows to what extent I have suffered as a child. I just want to enjoy a loving family for once in my goddamn life, but no… I get a demon child instead of a normal family. I have nobody to help me and my fiance works all the time. I am truly alone. I can’t even express my emotions through my artwork anymore because my child will get into my art supplies. I miss being creative, and I miss my alone time. I am passionate about so many things, and I can’t do what I love anymore. I just needed to vent, and hopefully someone else will benefit from being able to relate to my raw honesty and feelings, just as I have benefited from other people’s honesty.

    • I am so sorry to hear this, but so glad that you wrote. My hope is that this is a particularly difficult season for you, and that you will find a way forward.

    • This does not make me feel better. I was raised to embrace family life, children, and the blessings that provided, – so much more than objects could ever give a person. I have had a hard landing to the reality checks in life. Just please do not blame it all on the kids. My son explained to me, that I came before him, therefore, I have to be the parent. It is the natural law of order. Go figure, that one, from a precocious, self absorbed individual, who sometimes shows, quantifiable, appreciation for the trials of parenting.

      Slow down, take many deep, and slow breaths. Your frustration and anger will subside. You have many more downs, and some ups to take in. It is a tough job. I don’t like it. I can relate, though.

      With a much older child, this will one day be in a gray area, of your memory. You will come to miss the presence of your children. As hard as that is to believe, it is the truth.

      Keep at it. It is not going away, and there is no reversal. Developing a sense of humor after you get some, well needed sleep, and rest will be heading in the right direction. It is a 22 year commitment. for each of them. If you want to throw air fists at me, go ahead, I empathize completely.

  21. I found this post tonight after having a particularly escalated spat with my 6 year old daughter.

    A little back-story, since we’re all sharing: I never wanted kids. I wasn’t a baby-holder, or someone who got silly with the neighborhood kids, or volunteered, or even babysat for extra money as a pre-teen. I’ve just never been a kid person.

    Then, one fateful evening, even with all the protection man could provide, I ended up pregnant. Needless to say, despite not being a kid person, I figured it would be different if it were my kid. Luckily, I was right; it IS different.

    I love my daughter more than anything. I had been single when I found out I was pregnant, so at least I had been able to prepare myself for the long road ahead: Single Motherhood. I’m now engaged to a great guy with two kids of his own, and we have a house together. This child of mine wants for nothing. I think I’ve built a pretty good life for her. I quit my corporate job to stay and work from home, to be with her before she entered her school years. I joined the PTA, and I helped her class throw parties at school. I picked her up on days she was sick, and she never had to go to an after-school program. She has a puppy, a bike, a bunk bed, a closet full of clothes, shelves of books, and heaps of stuffed animals. I’ve been as good of a mom as I’ve felt that I’ve been able to be.

    Having said that though, the road is still much more difficult than I had imagined. This child is beautiful. She’s brilliant and well-spoken, she scores great on all of her tests. When she is in a good mood, she is just the greatest kid ever. But the downs are just as drastic as the ups, and I find myself butting heads with her a lot. I try to make myself feel better about her behavior- She is defiant to the core. I want to tell myself that it’s GOOD she tries to reason her way out of things, it will serve her when she is older. She will be fearless and a good negotiator- traits more women need in the workplace. She is headstrong- she won’t settle for less. She is determined- she won’t stop until she gets what she wants. I WANT her to be powerful and think for herself and be independent. But at 6….. it’s hard. She can’t choose when it’s time to clean her room. She can’t neglect her dinner and go straight to dessert. She can’t stay up as late as she wants, or buy whatever she wants at the store, or watch whatever she wants on Netflix. I feel like 5 out of 7 days of the week are soaked in battles and hurt feelings. I feel like, even though I love her and want what’s best- Some days I go to bed thinking, “Haven’t I given enough? Haven’t I sacrificed enough and changed my ENTIRE life around for this child? When will she just be on my team?” I know it’s selfish- I just want a break sometimes. Her dad hardly ever has her, and my fiance’s children are less emotional/argumentative/hot-tempered/energetic, and I think “Why did I get stuck with the super high-maintenance kid?” Most of the time I love her to death. Some nights I peek in her room and wonder at the beautiful little girl who laughed in the face of birth-control and came into being by sheer force of will. Other times, I think she has been sent here from the future to destroy me. I guess time will only tell.

    I hope it all gets better, but I also fear for the day to come when she doesn’t refuse to clean her room because she doesn’t live here anymore, or the day she quits sneaking desserts out of the pantry because she’s old enough to drive to the store and buy her own snacks. It’s really a double-edged blade, and most days I feel like a crazy person, trying to decide if I should be keeping my head down waiting for the storm to pass, or dancing in the rain hoping I don’t get struck by lightning.

  22. I loved reading your post. It shows how we think, so naturally, that we have it worse than someone else. It also shows, how life can be very unpredictable, no matter how prepared, we thought we were for such, a life changing event, as having a child.

    Some children are just more sensitive than others. Though, I am not a fan of ‘Lady Gaga’, she does say it well: “I was born this way”. She is more successful, than I ever wanted to be. She is a good business woman; and interestingly has a very good relationship with both parents, and her sister.
    Keep working at it, you never know, which next ‘diva’, your daughter will turn out to be, or not. But there are clear, positive, possibilities. Hope that helps.

    P.S. I am still waiting for my youngish adult son, to show similar attributes, of making me grateful, for being his mother. At least, I no longer feel responsible for outcomes, I cannot control.

  23. I have just found out I’m pregnant. My husband and I had talked about children and neither of us were that fussed about having them, but thought at 34 it was now or never. To be honest I didn’t think I’d get pregnant that soon after coming off the pill, but hey presto within a month I was staring in horror at a “pregnant” reading on that little stick I just pee’ed on. And I do mean “in horror” – I don’t want my life to change the way I’ve seen my friends lives change after they had children – how they all look so tired and drained and constantly bicker. I love my husband and we have a great life together, doing great things. I’m considering not having the baby, but then feel guilt for my Mum who will never get to be a Nanna – something I know she’s wanted for a long time. Is that enough to make me have it though? My Mum told me “it’s different when it’s your own” – how will I ever know unless I have it though and what if it isn’t different? I’m not a particularly child-loving person – all my friends kids irritate me quite a lot and my husband feels the same. What am I leaving behind though if I don’t have a child? I have ideas about setting up my own business, which I could throw myself into, but I think about when we’re old, grey and wrinkly – who will look after us then if not our family? I’m so confused 😦

    • Thanks for your honesty, Stacey. Here’s the best I can offer this morning, as I am a bit tired and drained (though not b/c of my kids, but b/c of work, ironically). This morning when I was dropping off my youngest at kindergarten I saw this poster with a MLK jr. quote on it, something like, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because greatness has to do with service.”

      There is a certain weightiness or even greatness that I’ve gotten to experience in my role as mother, precisely because I’m serving other human beings. Now of course you can do this in other ways, maybe you already have a job or friends or family members who you have sacrificed for, but kids don’t really give you much of a choice, day in and day out. And they are, thankfully, hilarious along the way.

      Also: Somebody just wrote a book that I haven’t read yet called “All Joy and No Fun”, and I love this phrase. Having kids is no fun at all sometimes, but the joy is deeper than I had experienced pre-kids. I just don’t know if I can explain why this is!

      Sorry for my stream of consciousness this morning… I just really wanted to respond because I want to say, more than anything else, that you’re not alone in your confusion. But I really, really do believe that things will turn out better than you imagine right now.

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