Why Does Parenting Feel Like the “Hardest” Job in the World?

Posted on September 24, 2019

We all have felt “this is so hard!” Sometimes it’s “hard” because we’re physically exhausted, and at other times, it’s because we’re mentally exhausted. And here’s the big one – it’s even harder when we’re emotionally exhausted! Of course, there are also those super hard times when we’re served a combination of the above.

None of us are immune.

“I left you two messages, and you haven’t called back. Is everything okay”? asked my Mom more than once.

I finally broke down and complained, “I just didn’t find time, Mom. I’ve been so busy with the kids.” Then I added the most common parenting mantra: “Why is this is so hard, Mom?”

She giggled as she responded, “It’s just life. You should have thought of that before you had children.”

“But what does that even mean, Mom?” I said. “This is not something we can ever think of?”

She reality-checked me instantly, “And what do you want me to do about this?”

She was right, but I thought I’d have some fun, so I tried to trump her. After all, this was pre-FaceTime, and she couldn’t see me. With a big smirk in my heart, I played it a little further, “Why did you not tell me how hard it would be?”

She exploded, “If I had told you, would that have stopped you? You didn’t have your children because I told you to. And maybe you didn’t know the first time, but if I remember correctly, you did have a second one three years later. I’m sure you knew then, no? Anyway, that’s just the way it is. You’ll be fine. How are the kids?”

Really, why does it feel so hard to raise children? After all, aren’t we adults who manage our jobs, homes, vehicles, finances, self-care, and sometimes our parents? Yes, it can get a bit much at times, and we go through peaks and valleys with our lives, but we are never challenged as consistently as we are challenged by our children! And, yet, we hear that it’s just the way it is when we commit to raising children.

Well, let me tell you why I think that’s the case. Our living, breathing little loves are ever-changing and growing. They are morphing internally and externally constantly and consistently. When our children change, they grow—not just physically—and as they grow, they change. And there we are, right beside them. Like a braid, life, parents, and children are intertwined to form an intricate external and internal experience that shapes both our own lives and our children’s. Each strand is perfectly and intricately connected. So when our children go through their growth phases, we have no option but to ride the twist and turns at their speed and their level of understanding. If they’re having a long, hard day and their emotions are flying all over the place, so are ours. The reverse is true as well: When we have had a hard day and our emotions are flying all over, we cannot help but affect them.

What really makes this ride seem “hard” is our own resistance to the process of change and growth. When our children are faced with an experience that pushes them to change, learn, and grow, we feel that aftershock. Our kids have life experiences that are different from ours—just as ours were different from our parents’. More often than not, we push back by losing our emotional balance. If we just remind ourselves that this is how life is designed to move forward and that all we need to do is respond to this push calmly, the tugging and pulling naturally simmers down. In other words, our children’s growth pushes us toward our own growth, and we should respond by committing ourselves to that process.

It’s only our resistance that makes raising kids seem so “hard.” It’s being set in our ways and thinking our way is right. It’s not really listening and not letting them complete what they are saying before jumping in. It’s not being open-minded enough to listen to their very different point of view, let alone accept and respect it. This is how we set up roadblocks and stunt our own growth and theirs.

As adults, we tend to get stuck, stagnate, and resist change, well, at least until our children come along and push for it. Have we ever considered that that’s why they come into our lives? To keep us changing and growing. Their very presence makes us more patient, kind, and compassionate emotionally; more alert, responsive, and dynamic intellectually; more connected, reflective, and committed spiritually.

Once we commit to allowing life to flow through us—by simply being open-hearted and open-minded toward change and growth—the push and pull eases up. When we turn down the volume of emotions, we melt the “hard” out of daily parenting. This commitment, this shift in perspective is the only change we need to make to take “hard” out of the equation.