“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Parenting Confession

Here's the confession: there are times when I really don't want to be a parent. In fact, there are times when I don't like myself as a parent, and even question my parenting abilities. Heck, there have even times when I don't really care for our son, times when he's screaming or crying really loud, or pushing all of my buttons, or throwing rice or pancakes or tomato pieces all over the floor, or knocking over potted plants, or yelling "get up, get up," at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. (I know, I know, these are all great "opportunities" to practice forgiveness and understanding, but that doesn't always happen.) 
    So, yes, there are times when I don't like being a parent. 
    I recently said all of this to a group of folks I deeply trust.

    I doubt my confession is shocking to other parents. I suspect all parents feel this way, from time to time. What is shocking, however, is how hard it was for me to say all of this out loud. Sure, I think these things on a somewhat regular basis, but to say them out loud felt risky and dangerous, even among a group of trusted people. What would they think of me as a parent and minister? 

     But I was surprised by the sense of relief I felt when I spoke honestly about how hard parenting can be and how sometimes I really wish I wasn't a parent. (And for the record, I also said that I love our son, and there are plenty of times when I love parenting, and even times when I think I'm doing good (even great) parenting. Those times far outweigh the times I feel incompetent and dislike parenting.)  However you crack it, parenting can be hard. We all face challenges with our kids - whether its autism, attention deficit disorder, health issues, or something else. Parenting can be hard and tiring and sometimes we don't want to do it. 

      It's kind of like a spiritual practice.* It's about attending to the life and task and feelings right in front of you. It's about mindfulness - what am I feeling/experiencing/aware of right now? Seen in that light, part of the spiritual practice of parenting is noticing and naming when it is damn hard, when it's challenging, when it's breaking our hearts. It's important to name that reality. To say, "Wow, this is really hard," and not to hide or be ashamed of that reality. And to name it when it's glorious, powerful, soul stirring, and beautiful. 

      Parenting is hard. Sometimes I really don't dig it. The vast majority of the time, though, I love it, and am thankful for all of the ways it has helped me grow. Both realities are true. And I feel better for having said it.

*The Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs frequently refers to parenting as a "spiritual practice".


Arif Mamdani said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I have the same feeling about my own parenting, right down to viewing it, especially the hard moments, as spiritual practice.

Theresa Jarosz Alberti said...

Wow, how great to say that outloud (to people and in a blog) in an honest, authentic way. It seems we only hear comments like this about parenting expressed in a funny or sarcastic/bitchy way, which makes it easier to shrug off or dismiss. I relate to your authenticity! And I remember the extra challenges of parenting preschoolers (oh the physical exhaustion). Different challenges with our highschool/college kids, but I can say it gets easier and I so often like the people they've become. I don't think I would've been aware of it as a spiritual practice, but it does fit. Thanks!

Eric Cooperstein said...

Only good parenting is hard. Bad parenting is easy.

LC3 said...

I think the worst thing we do as parents is perpetuate the ideal that everything is perfect -- perfect children who never keep us up all night and if they do, that's okay; perfect parents who never lose it and always know how to get through the cranky minutes/hours/days; and that having a child is just like the Gerber baby picture on the box of rice cereal: serene, loving, beautiful. The worst part is that we parents silently compete with the other parents in our circle for being the best parent and having the best child. (I know first hand that this is especially true for mothers.) So, you know the truth, Justin, and you are only unique because you dare to speak it out loud. The good news is that your son will grow up healthy and happy because he had parents who weren't perfect, who loved him all the time and who liked him most of the time.

Justin Schroeder said...

Thanks, all, for your thoughts and comments.

Someone shared this link with me, about the challenges of parenting and the importance of being honest about it: http://www.npr.org/blogs/babyproject/2011/08/26/139974665/parenthood-got-you-down-youre-not-alone

- Justin