What’s it like to be a parent?
It’s alternating the feeling that you made the best decision ever, and the feeling that you are barely surviving.
Parenting is having tiny creatures following you around all day demanding to be fed and then screaming at you for giving them food.
It’s stringing together several wonderful days when everything clicks and then having a day when everything falls apart and the only explanation is that the 2-year-old decided today would be the day to end you.
It’s locking eyes with a total stranger whose child is throwing a tantrum in public and sending a silent message of solidarity. It’s feeling shunned by another parent and wanting to report them for breaking our sacred promise to support each other.
It’s enduring judgment from anyone on any topic, and then having to reassure yourself that you are on the right path. It’s finding your mom tribe, who support you, feed you wine and understand every crazy emotion you have.
Parenting is juggling too many people’s needs with the covers of magazines yelling at you to take some “me” time. It’s finding that “me” time and feeling slightly guilty that you aren’t at home helping. Or, it’s having no guilt at all, then walking through the door and feeling like your “me” time never happened.
It’s swapping proud moments with other parents. It’s showing everyone a picture of your kid because he really is the cutest. It’s knowing that your co-worker doesn’t care about the funny thing the 6-year-old said but telling her anyway because the fact that you have kids is the only thing you have in common and the elevator was awkwardly quiet.
It’s having the ability to get SO MAD at someone but simultaneously being ready to take a bullet for him because you would rather die than even have to think about him suffering. It’s having a deep-rooted frustration with the kids all day long then missing them when they finally fall asleep.
Parenting is learning to live with conflicting emotions. You hate the whiny voices on “Caillou,” but you love that those 30 or so minutes buys you some time to take a shower. You want to ship your kindergartner to upstate New York to live with his grandparents for a week, but you cannot stand the thought of him sleeping anywhere other than under your roof (yet).
And sometimes, parenting is wishing for the days before kids. No, we wouldn’t trade this for anything – but some days, we seriously consider it. You long for the simplicity of a life without children, even if that longing is fleeting. You look at pictures of your pre-baby trips, your pre-stretchmark tummy, your pre-four-mouths-to-feed grocery bill and wonder why you took so much for granted all those years ago.
There is nothing like being a parent. Nothing prepares you for it. It’s a constantly changing environment with a landscape so treacherous sometimes that you aren’t sure you have the equipment or the knowhow to get across it.
But you do. Because parenting isn’t something you merely survive or put up with. It’s your life now, and it’s the best part of it. It’s your responsibility. It’s what makes your heartbeat a little stronger every day.
Parenting is your honor and your privilege. Not everyone gets to do it.
Parenting is hard, but it is absolutely worth it.