It's not hard to feel this way. When you're a parent, life presents you with bazillion opportunities to feel like you are on the losing end of life's cruel jokes. Child pees through diaper. Child throws beloved frisbee on the roof and has a melt down. Child refuses to eat anything except mint chocolate chip ice cream. Child spills bubble liquid all over the carpet. Child colors on the baywindow cushion. Child refuses to let you out of his sight. Child wants juice. Child changes mind and refuses juice.
It doesn't take much to unravel my composure. The dangerous dropoff to "woe-is-me" and "what-the-hell" and "$#!%!!!" is always only inches away. And when I get too close to that ledge, lose my balance, and suddenly find myself in free fall, it's hard to climb back out of that irrational pit of tangled emotions. Not only do I begin to react disproportionately and have a few tantrums of my own, but I feel like crap. I feel angry and frustrated and exhausted and tested and, most of all, inconvenienced and victimized. As if I'm a carefully selected target and some evil parenting force is purposely trying to make my life hell.
One day, when Ryan was insanely crabby, refusing to nap, and demanding to be held, I was just about to fall off that precarious ledge when I looked down at his miserable little self and a thought struck me. I'm not being inconvenienced. I'm not being targeted. I'm not being assaulted. I'm simply being a mommy. I'm not being forced into doing some additional chore. I'm not being unfairly subjected to trials and tasks. I'm just doing my job. It's not the equivalent to leaving your locked keys in the car or being pooped on by a seagull or spilling coffee on your shirt or having to take a lengthy detour on your way to work. It's not an inconvenience. It is THE JOB.
Sometimes THE JOB is wonderful and rewarding. I promise.
Ryan looked at Jacob's penguin and exclaimed, "that's awesome!"
This is what parents do. All of this hard stuff is in our job description. As parents, we are required to nag our children to clean up their toys. We are expected to referee 23 fights a day over the same stinking toys. We are obligated to clean up spilled milk and dig Play-doh out of the carpet. We have assumed the task of rocking our children to sleep. We are supposed to console our children (even if its for the fifth fall of the day) and nurture their creativity (no matter how messy). This IS parenthood.
Refusing to nap. Insisting on a tea party instead.
That thought totally changed my perspective for the day. When my kids were getting on my nerves or making me frustrated, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was only doing my duties as a mom. When I began to see these frustrations as part of my job description rather than additional inconveniences that seemed to pop up around every corner, I was able to adjust my expectations and cope with the trauma and drama of the day.
The hard part of this parenting job is, unlike other jobs, this one never ends and it's unpredictable. Parenthood simply is "all other duties as assigned." You never know what you will have to face next, be it an exploded diaper or a difficult to navigate temper tantrum. We aren't just trying to get past this so we can move onto the next thing (ok, I take it back, sometimes that is EXACTLY what it is like). We are molding and crafting and guiding humans by giving them the tools, the life experiences, and lessons to become the best people they can be.
It's hard. Real hard. And even with this perspective, I still struggle. I have to remind myself everyday of the big picture. I still snap. I have my bad moments. But adjusting my thinking has helped a lot. When things get rough and I'm having a particularly strong mommy moment, I can remind myself that the grace and patience with which I face these mommy challenges define my success.
And then again.... on other days, I plop the kids in front of the TV, sneak a candy bar to my room and nurse my exhaustion and frustration under the covers of my warm bed.