I will be completely upfront with my biggest problem in parenting: I am terrified that I will fail.
It is as simple as that.
The fear of failure looms in my heart every single day, because I have no idea what it means to succeed in parenting. Maybe I do and I simply suffer from a hefty dose of self-doubt. My marriage is happy, and my kids are happy . . . so why am I so worried all the time? What, exactly, am I so worried about?
I worry about the food I give them. I worry about the clothes we have for them. I stress over the amount of time I spend with them . . . or don’t spend with them. When is it enough, and when is it overpowering? We homeschool, so am I teaching them what they need for school? Have I missed anything? Should I push them harder? Should I push myself harder? Or have I pushed too hard, and maybe I should lay back a little? Am I letting them become their own person enough, or have I micro-managed their ideas too much? Are we doing OK as parents? Are my kids happy?
This breed of worry over failure is what keeps me up at night, and there are some nights I almost start to worry about myself because of this. My husband and I have a house full of kids, and at the end of the day, all I want is for our children to know their parents love them, to fall asleep with the comfort of happiness in the safety of their beds, and to grow up and be successful adults with a happy life. I want them to live long, full lives, surrounded by people who love them.
That really is all I want for them. Is that too much to ask?
The problem is that I only have control over a small portion of their journey, and at some point I have to let them not only decide for themselves, but also become their own person.
Through all of my sleepless nights, I have found three big ways to actually make parenting harder than it already is:
“When in doubt, just take the next small step.” — Paulo Coello
The list of “what ifs” can keep me awake longer than a double-espresso at 10 p.m.
What if I hadn’t raised my voice today? What if they didn’t want to go to the zoo? What if we need to spend more time at home? What if I am not smiling enough? What if they don’t have what they need to be prepared for life?
Honestly, these things will tear me to shreds. And they are worthless worries, in the end. At this point, I am not actually worried about my kids. I am worried about myself and my abilities to love my kids. The reality is, loving your children is one of the easiest things known to a mother. If I can listen to my children, if I can spend time with them every day, if I can hug them and if I can brush the hair out of their eyes while they are telling me about what they did that day, then I really don’t need to doubt how much they believe they are loved by me.
The best way to combat self-doubt as a parent is to take the next small step with your children, but most importantly, with yourself.
2. Shield Children From Anything Unpleasant
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” ― Anne Frank
My husband and I are both from broken homes, and when we decided to start our family, we realized that we had no idea where to begin. We had very small, fractured families, and when we began our parenting journey, we weren’t surrounded by grandparents or cousins whom we could talk to about how to be a parent. We were surrounded by books we found on the subject, because that was all we had.
Besides this, I had always worked and been in college as an adult, so my view of what it meant to be a mother was just a blank slate. If I wasn’t working, and I had already graduated college, who was I? What exactly do I do during the day, as a housewife?
Even though it might seem like a good idea at first, do not google “What do housewives do?” Unless you are into housewife role-playing, in which case . . . more power to you. But that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
The fact of the matter is, every person who has ever lived has faced hardships. From relationships that don’t last to unemployment to debt –– to simply existing. There is no way to protect your child from all the hardships in the world, even though you may want to shield them from the life you had.
The key is not to worry about whether or not your children will face pain in their lives. Whether they stub their toe, unintentionally hurt themselves or unintentionally hurt others, sometimes life can have moments that are less than pleasant.
The key is to teach them how to respond to the pain in a way that will build them up, instead of break them down. That is the best way to ensure their childhood is better than yours.
3. Haters Gonna Hate
“Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a 2-year-old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” ― Denis Leary
The best thing I can do for my kids isn’t to focus on being a hater, but to be a good model for kindness. And some days, that is harder than you'd expect.
Instead of encouraging them to nitpick petty subjects or minor injustices, use these moments to teach them about patience, humility, boundaries, and especially how to love others in spite of said petty differences or minor injustices.
When I watch my kids play with other kids, I know they are turning out OK when they stop to help someone who fell down, or when they stop the game when someone is crying. Although I make sure to let them know that it is OK to be angry and to feel upset when something painful happens, it is when my kids can forgive someone that I can see the growth of character in them.
Parenting isn’t always easy, but there are definitely some things in parenting that make it a hell of a lot harder than it needs to be. Ain't nobody got time for that. Especially not moms.