Parenting is some hard shit, man. This is arguably one of the most challenging things you’ll ever endure (unless you run, like, an ultra-marathon, or some other crazy thing). I’ve been doing it for 20 years, through five children (who will tell you I am sometimes a big ol’ mess), and I still wake up some days and think, “Oh holy hell, how am I going to screw these children up today? How am I going to get through another day of this nonsense?”:
1. Tequila. Drink it.
Here are three real, actual things you can do to make parenting even slightly more pleasant. And none of them involve Disneyland or Pinterest.
1. Let go of the guilt. There are an infinitesimal number of things to feel guilty about in parenting. The four (hundred) cups of coffee you had in your first trimester. That time you fed them french fries for dinner. That time you yelled at them because you just could not take another minute. TV. So much TV. That time you put your baby down and let her cry so you could wash the three days of stench from your armpits. When you quit nursing because you’d simply had enough of people being attached to you. All the non-organic fruit in your fridge. All the chicken next to the non-organic fruit that is A. not free-range or organic and B. loaded with seven kinds of probably deadly antibiotics. The fact that the chicken and the non-organic fruit are next to each other and the fruit is probably absorbing salmonella from the chicken. Pollution — it’s not directly your fault but you feel guilty about it, anyway. Boxed macaroni and cheese. Disposable diapers. Global warming. That other time you fed them french fries for dinner. That time you fed them Lego waffles for dinner. That time you didn’t even make dinner.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
You really can feel guilty about everydamnthing. Here are the cold hard facts: You are going to screw up. It’s happening. You might actually screw up pretty hard. And your kids are going to grow up, have therapy, and blame you for something (or everything), even if you are Dr. Spock perfect (not Star Trek Spock, the other one). Guilt can be a motivator but mostly it’s just a miserable timesuck. Pause. Acknowledge. Move on.
If it’s something you really should feel guilty for, OK, you’ve learned. Now, instead of torturing yourself with self-loathing, find a solution. Get help if you need it. But if it’s something like french fries, go Elsa and Let It Go (don't click that).
2. Pause. Childhood is not always a magical time of tender moments that you want to save and treasure forever. Just, no.
Sometimes childhood is just a damn nuisance. Sometimes kids are assholes. Sometimes you’re cleaning up vomit for the 10th time in 24 hours and you want to give your children away. (Free. To
good any home.) Sometimes they don’t sleep and you want to cry and you do. Sometimes your toddler smears poop on the walls and you think, "This is my life now. What have I done?"
Sometimes you’re probably going to wish you hadn’t even signed up for this nonsense. Sometimes you’re going to fantasize about all the vacations you could have taken if you weren’t paying for clothes and food and summer camp and 17 different kinds of lessons/classes/groups.
Pause. Take a step back. Go ahead and try to seek the joy in the moment. And then don’t feel guilty if there is literally zero fricking joy in the moment. Instead, pause, and be aware that this is a point in time, not forever. Count to 10 or 50 or 10,000 and then re-group. Sometimes you just have to get through shit, and that’s OK.
3. Fill your cup (or mason jar, if you're on Pinterest). Parenting is draining. Here, take this whole entire human being and raise them. Be there every day. Be patient, but also be firm. Feed them. Clothe them. Impart wisdom and morals. And don't forget to teach them to read and write and not be little tyrants. Good luck. Sorry, no instruction manual.
And when exactly amidst all of this are you supposed to relax? Or feed yourself? Or, you know, bathe? It's difficult enough to map out time for basic human needs, much less time for restoration.
And when you do finally set aside real time for you, see #1. Are you riddled with guilt? This is something that I struggle with, even after 20 years. Take time. For yourself. Be alone. Do things that fill you. This is not selfish. This is sound. The world would have you believe that self-sacrifice makes you the very best parent ever in the whole world. The mom that's doing everything, without a break, without so much as a moment alone to pee, she's the ideal.
But she's probably mostly just tired.
I'm tired. You're tired. We are all just so.tired.
Go ahead, fail at the Pinterest birthday party. Screw up the cake. I mean, have you ever made a seven layer rainbow cake? I have. It takes a long time. And. . . tastes like regular cake. Don't stay up all night making a Halloween costume they are going to forget. Feed them frozen waffles — there are eggs in there. Put them to bed dirty — dirt never killed anyone.
Instead of killing yourself trying to be that mom, read a book, alone — not Dr. Seuss. Watch Orange is The New Black. Take a bath (but not in California, because there is no water). Sometimes you need to pump the brakes and just not be a mother for a few hours. Even a few days. This will make you a far better parent than decorating 36 cookies with royal icing to look like a Minion.
Also don't forget to shower. And eat.