We tend to think of parenting as a happy endeavor. Even though research tells us that in most countries, people with kids are less happy than those without, we know that we have the one-up on those childless couples because we are fulfilled!
But what if parenting isn’t fulfilling for you? Or what if that fulfillment isn’t enough? What if becoming a parent was the worst decision you ever made?
Now, we all have moments when we wonder what our lives would have been like if we’d made different choices — and that goes for all sorts of choices, not just childbearing ones.
For some people, though, this isn’t just an occasional fantasy. For some people, daily life with children is a living nightmare.
If you’re someone who loves parenting, be careful not to judge these folk too quickly. Every parenting journey is different and comes with its own set of challenges, and it can make some regret having kids.
Perhaps, you have some easygoing kids and have never considered the mom who is up at all hours of the night with an autistic teen who attacks her both physically and verbally.
Perhaps you would feel differently if you were parenting a terminally ill child or if you were parenting with an alcoholic or if you, yourself, had an illness that made it near impossible to live up to all the tasks and requirements of being the go-to person for a little human being.
We really don’t know what we’re getting into until it is too late.
When facing a seemingly unbearable circumstance, there are only every three viable options.
Sometimes, a child is better raised by somebody else. This might mean that you leave entirely and the child is raised by the other parent or adopted. Or it may mean that you don’t leave altogether, but just spend less time with your kids.
Parenting can be outsourced, and this is often a better option than having a parent begrudgingly raising kids and not really present for them. Use the time to reignite your passion. Find something to do that truly fulfills you and just parent part time.
When you give yourself permission to go and do something that truly inspires you, it often makes you a better parent in the long run. If you feed your soul for a large portion of the day, you will find that interacting with your kids at the day’s end can become more bearable or possibly even enjoyable.
You may not be able to cure your child’s autism or terminal illness or your partner’s alcoholism, but there may be aspects of the situation that can change. Find out what specifically triggers your feelings of dread and see if there is something that you can do about those.
When we think of the situation in its entirety, it may seem hopeless, but if we break it down into its constituent parts, then there might be small things that can make small moments better… and many small moments of joy added up can make a huge difference.
See where you can delegate, what you can outsource and if there are better systems that can be implemented. If you can’t see the forest for the trees, get a life coach or a friend or your partner to help you brainstorm what can change and how to implement it.
If you’re not going to leave and there is nothing you can change, then your only choice is acceptance. Our suffering doesn’t come from the situation itself, but from our thoughts about the situation, therefore the first step to acceptance is to examine your thoughts.
Question every thought as it arises. See if you can rephrase things so they don’t sound so dire. Try telling a different story about your parenting journey. For everything you hate about it, find 10 things to be grateful for.
When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at will change. Our minds are designed to filter the world according to our expectations. If you believe having kids was a terrible decision, then you will filter your life to prove that it is, in fact, that bad.
Weeding out and questioning that belief can go a long way to making your reality more pleasant.
If you’ve spent the better part of your parenting years believing that you made a mistake in having kids, please know that you are not alone. It’s a tough journey even for those who love it and live for it, and nobody knows the unique challenges you face.
Acceptance begins with acceptance of yourself — as you are now with your “negative” thoughts and emotions, with your desire for things to be different. Start with where you are, and then slowly see if there is some way for you to leave, for things to change or for you to find peace in what is knowing that nothing lasts forever.
Originally published on YourTango.