Parenting is hard. Let me confirm this in writing. What we parents do is undervalued, difficult and important. It is misunderstood, misrepresented, and one of the most important and valuable contributions that can be made to any society. This is all backed with solid scientific research, which I will share in future entries.
Having the perseverance to care for your children while you are sick, or sick and tired of caring for children, is greater than running the last mile of a marathon. I can make this comparison as I have successfully trained for and completed the Boston Marathon.
Getting up on your third consecutive morning after having only received a few hours of sleep each night before, and preparing breakfast for your children does indeed require sacrifice on your part.
Being alone with your children during a period of rainy days or snowy winters when you wonder if you will still be able to form grown-up sentences after having gone for so long without trying to, creates a level of isolation that nobody would choose.
Children are needy. This is not by their choosing. Just ask any three -year old; certainly he would prefer to be able to do everything on his own. He is not capable, and needs someone — all of the time — to help him meet his needs and to care for him. You are his world; the only thing that he really knows, and the sole element that is of any significance to him. He looks to you to understand his own world; how to process events, people and situations. You are his safe haven and he needs to count on you no matter what. If he trusts you, he will trust the world, allowing him to go through life confidently, respectfully and thoughtfully.
So when your toddler comes to you whining (again) because she is tired and cannot gain control of her emotions, and you take time to sit with her — maybe even right there on the floor — and hug her, and let her settle, you are delivering a message as consequential as any that President Obama delivers to a fellow world leader. A message that she is important, valuable and that you love her.
Equally, when your toddler comes to you whining when you are in the middle of cooking dinner, while you also have a preschooler reminding you of how hungry she is — the noise feels the same as being in a City Firehouse when the alarms have just sounded. This causes you to harshly deliver the message that they both must stop or you might actually combust. Still, your children know that you love them, because you are there, and you are meeting their need for nourishment.
These examples of showing your children that even though you may lose your patience, you cannot be scared away from them — no matter what they do — may be one of the most important messages we give our children. The knowledge that you will continue to be there, provide care for them and love them.
And while we do not get the public commendations that we so rightly deserve, I say to you today, “Congratulations, and I admire you.” Congratulations for consistently accepting the most difficult and important role there is, and I admire you for continuing to do so with little support, lack of resources and in spite of the fact that we are often made to feel ‘less than’ for taking this role so seriously.
Somewhere down deep all of us parents must believe this, because we continue to care for our children day after day, whether or not we feel alone and confused as we daydream about what it would be like to have fifty hours a week to pursue interests other than our children.
Yet, when we are snapped out of said daydream and back to reality by the hug of one of our children (as corny as I once thought this sounded) it truly reinforces on the most real level, that we are making the right choice by being here with our children. It is a difficult choice to stick with on many days, but really, it is for a short time.
Bio: Jennifer Andersen is excited to be involved with a project like M.O.M that will bring some visibility to the realities that mothers face. Then we may be able to start to define it, making it demanding of respect and awe. Jennifer lives outside of Boston, with her two children ages 1 and 3. You can find more of her musings and suggestions for making life easier at www.ponderingjane.com, Honest Musing on Family Living. www.jenniferandersen.com voice over artist.
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Photo credit: Pigeon Fly Away by Jiri Dokoupil