Why Parents Hate Parenting- A Response

Headlines like this are good link bait, “Why Parents Hate Parenting.” It is the title of an article that many of my friends have been passing around via email. I kind of rolled my eyes through half of it. It is somewhat reminiscent of the uproar that was created from Ayelet Waldman’s piece. I blogged about that in Does Having Children Prevent an Active Sex Life which used to have a ton of great comments, until I removed Haloscan, but I digress.

I am not a genius. I don’t consider myself to be abnormally insightful or profound but I knew that having children would change my life. It never occurred to me that I should be surprised by how much work is involved in raising them. Never struggled because they meant that I couldn’t do things because I expected things to change.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments where I feel like tearing my hair out. I love these kids like nobody’s business and I don’t exaggerate when I say that sometimes I feel like I am killing myself to give them the life they deserve. No kids and I drive a different car, go on better vacations and eat nicer meals.

Sometimes that sounds good but I wouldn’t give up being a father…ever. It is a huge part of who I am, but it is not all I am. Based upon some discussions that I have had with other parents I think that our identity plays a huge role in all this.

We all need to find a way to retain some semblance of self. You aren’t just a husband/wife/father/sibling/child. You are a person who has interests and needs that are specific to yourself. And while it is true that once you commit to a relationship you give up some of your independence it is also incumbent upon you and whomever you are with to find ways to address those needs.

Sometimes you need to be selfish so that you can be selfless in other areas. And that my friends leads into my favorite quote from the Parents piece.

“About twenty years ago, Tom Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell, made a striking contribution to the field of psychology, showing that people are far more apt to regret things they haven’t done than things they have. In one instance, he followed up on the men and women from the Terman study, the famous collection of high-IQ students from California who were singled out in 1921 for a life of greatness. Not one told him of regretting having children, but ten told him they regretted not having a family.”

I have relatively few fears in life but that quote provides a great summation. I have a lot of wanderlust in me. I sometimes wonder about the road not taken and have worried that sometimes I have given up on something that could be great because I was fearful. I try to make a point to live a life that isn’t controlled by fear. I want to live life not wish life.

And that is something that I am trying to pass along to the children. You work to live not the other way around. You get up, go out and do. And when it comes to parents I think that one of the challenges that is specific to our job is expectations.

Expectations of what life should be like impact so many things, parenting is no different. And our expectations of what our children should be like is part and parcel of the overall parenting experience. Frankly I think that the reason some of my friends get so crazy is that they have expectations that are completely unreasonable. Johnny and Sally aren’t going to be pro athletes, Rhodes Scholars or Noble Laureates.

And just in case their parents read this let me state that I agree with you that we cannot dictate nor determine their future based upon ten, twelve or 15 years of their lives. It is possible that they will surprise us and show something special that we had no idea existed. It would make me exceptionally happy to be proven wrong, but statistics show that I have the more realistic position.

So you may ask if I am suggesting that we lower the goals and standards for our children. The answer is no. You don’t lower the bar just because you don’t think that the kids can meet those objectives but you adjust your expectations. You tweak things and say that your goal is for the child to do the best that they are capable of doing.

But that is a different post than the one I started here so we’ll set it aside for a different time. What do you think about all this?

Posts that may or may not be related:

Pressured into Parenthood- A Guest Post
The Search For Happiness
What is A Family
All Gave Some, Some Gave All
Father’s Love Their Daddies Too
Dad’s Most Important Job
If You Died, Who Would Take Care Of Your Children

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  1. TheJackB July 19, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Being present is so very important- time passes so quickly. It would be a shame to miss things because we are too busy focusing on the future.
    My recent post A Six Year-old Speaks of Marriage

  2. Minnesota Mamaleh July 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    jack, well done as usual. it *is* about living and not regretting and being ever so present in the moment. those are truly great gifts to pass onto our children.
    My recent post Minnesota Mamaleh- Summer Days- Summer Nights

  3. TheJackB July 15, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    You are so very right. childhood goes by in the blink of an eye. Being present to enjoy it is something that is important for me. Good to plan for the future, but not at the expense of today.
    My recent post Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience 18

  4. rutimizrachi July 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    You have studied well, Padwan. Right on, Sean! I think you will like yours, when they are grown.
    My recent post Turnabouts Fair Play- Israel Interviews France

  5. Sean Buvala July 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Interesting posts with several threads. For me, the flag I am carrying these days is just how darn fast childhood goes. When you are a waist deep in waste-filled diapers, never-ending demands and running a taxi-service, it's easy to fall into the "what about me?" trap. However, these stages go by so quickly. "Now" is not "forever" and as my children get older and turn into adults, there's plenty of time to pick up what I need.

    OTOH, on goals for our children: having worked professionally with kids for decades, I can tell you the great damages that I've seen from parents that put SO MUCH into their kids that the kids themselves are lost. Hyper busy, hyper "what about college" and so on creates adolescents that smile at their parents when in the same room with them but spend the rest of their time slogging through the fog of their own self-destructive behavior. Sure, Johnny gets into college but he's a basket case when he gets their.

    I don't know. I'm into more "being present" than getting too-hung up on what I'll and they'll be.
    My recent post DaddyTeller- Unplug Dad Be a better father

  6. TheJackB July 15, 2010 at 7:28 am

    It sounds like you are grounded and that is probably the most critical part of it all or so I think.
    My recent post Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience 18

  7. TheJackB July 15, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Hi Ruti,

    I like hearing parents say that they are pleased with how their progeny are coming along. It is gratifying. And I am learning daily from my children just as they learn from me. It is an incredible experience.
    My recent post Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience 18

  8. TheJackB July 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Hi Marian- it is an experience like no other. If we didn't express concern or regrets I would be exceptionally concerned. But the joy we receive from helping to raise them is something special.
    My recent post Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience 18

  9. TheJackB July 15, 2010 at 7:24 am

    My pleasure- it is part of a shared experience that we have, even if we don't live in the same cities.
    My recent post Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience 18

  10. @NewYorkDad July 15, 2010 at 3:01 am

    My son is only two so I think I am still in the wow phase of the here and now of his first words and actions to really think that far into the future. He loves music, but I don't take that to mean he will be a rockstar or concert pianist. I guess for me the bar is making sure that my son is "going to be alright" when he grows up. How do I define that? I cannot say I have put all that much thought into it. Probably the clichés: no drugs, supporting himself, being thoughtful, his own sense of pride in his accomplishments etc. I'll let you know when I start having delusions of grandeur on his behalf 😉
    My recent post My son has a nose fetish

  11. rutimizrachi July 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Very nice and thoughtful post, Jack. You sound "on track" to me. My boys are all nearly grown now. I like the men they are becoming. It is rewarding to hear them quoting their parents. They come to us for advice. They are fun and witty and totally, individually themselves. Did I once have great expectations for them, and did they live up to those expectations? I'll answer that sideways: they taught me to let them be themselves, and that being myself around them was their best school. I don't miss life before them — but mostly because I'm too old now to remember what that was. 😉 Life with them has been remarkable, and it has helped me to grow up into me.
    My recent post Establishing Facts on the Ground- the Fight for Gush Etzion

  12. Marian July 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Great! I appreciate your thoughts. You know, I don't think being a parent makes me extra-special and I don't think my children are unicorns (to quote Anne Lamott) but I am so clear about that whole regrets thing. Do I regret being too broke for vacations? Without a doubt. But now, my regret quickly changes to action, as I try to figure out how to scrape up the means to provide my kids with a beach vacation, because this summer they fell in love with the ocean. For me now, it's about giving to them. Helping them experience the good stuff. Sometimes I miss my pre-kids life, which for me meant hearing a ton of great live music, hitting the road, being a social butterfly. But I don't miss it more than I love making dinner for my kids, tucking their sweet heads into bed, waking up with them. It's all relative. Thanks for your words and for the chance to think and write about this.
    My recent post water mama

  13. SeattleDad July 14, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Great post Jack. This spoke to me on many levels. Thanks.
    My recent post Waiting for Star Bucs in Seattle

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