Challenges of Parenting Little Ones

We recently had visitors with little ones for a few nights. It was a great visit and I am thrilled that they spent time with us. The visit had me reflecting on how the support our children need changes over the years. Currently, my own children range in age from 8-20 with the ones still living at home being 8, 10, and 12. Throughout the recent visit, it became glaringly apparent that there are challenges all parents go through when raising young children that quickly become forgotten about as they age. Because of this, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post for all parents of young children highlighting challenges of parenting that we all go through when raising a young family.

Hats off to all you parents of young ones! It is an important stage for our kids to get through on their way to gaining independence. However, it is a stage that can be exhausting for parents as there really is no downtime. This fact is possibly one of the biggest challenges of parenting.

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parents walking with their little one... challenges of parenting

Here are a few things about raising little ones that I had already forgotten about as my own children become increasingly independent:

They Require Constant Service

Little ones need their meals and snacks prepared. Even though they are quickly able to put their own food in their mouths independently, they still require their food to be cut up, prepared and served to them. Their drinks need to be poured. They are messy eaters and need a cleaning service afterward to wipe their faces, pick up their food that somehow made its way to the floor, mop up any spilled drinks, etc. Sound familiar? These are just a few of the challenges of parenting that are rarely talked about.

I remember when my own kids were younger and we had spent the day on the road with our children. Finally, we stopped for supper. Immediately upon being seated, the couple at the next table over requested to be moved away from us. They didn’t want to be near loud children. Haha, we had just sat down… our kids didn’t even have a chance to get loud yet. I simply said to my husband, “Hey! We are providing birth control everywhere we go! That couple should be thanking us!” 😉 Yes, a sense of humor is crucial!

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They Don’t Dress Themselves

I am surprised how quickly I forgot about this one, but these little ones require help getting dressed. Why is it that at a certain age it is common to undress themselves to use the toilet but so difficult to get those clothes back on? This is the way it was for my own kids.

When my own kids did finally dress themselves, they also wanted to pick out their own clothes. We had some interesting combinations happening, but I do admit that I love how those little ones ‘own’ their style and walk around so confidently when they do start to dress themselves. Underwear sticking out with a shirt tucked into them? They will walk around like it NEEDS to be in style and trending, haha!

My daughters owning the newfound style they embraced as they were learning to independently get dressed as preschoolers.

They are Diapered or Need Help in the Bathroom

Remember those days of butt-wiping and/or lifting children on and off the toilet? Yes, they do become memories. So do the days of washing our children’s hair and helping them with their baths or showers.

The days of diapers can seem to drag on forever when in the moment, but quickly disappear once our children are toilet trained. This is the thing with kids… We help them over and over again with something with the end goal being they eventually do it for themselves. Once they do, our focus as parents rapidly changes as the challenges of parenting change.

They Need Support Falling Asleep

Okay, most nights I admit that I feel I may still be in this stage with my daughters. They tend to talk to each other and apparently need to run to each other’s bedrooms to do so until they tire out and eventually fall asleep. However, little ones require a different type of support. Some feel scared and need comforting. Others need just one more book read to them or one more hug to be given. We may need to rock them to sleep. It is crucial that our children feel comfortable and safe as they fall asleep. It often takes a lot of time for them to independently get to this stage. One of my own biggest challenges of parenting has been to get my children to sleep at a decent time that allows me to be able to relax and take a breath before going to bed myself.

They Require Constant Supervision and Care

Perhaps you are still in the stage of having to schedule your showers around a child’s nap? If you aren’t, you likely remember them. How sweet it is to simply go for a shower when you feel like it as opposed to when you’d rather be napping! Parents of little ones are constantly juggling daily chores around kids’ supervision. Cooking happens while the baby is in the swing or cleaning while singing and playing peek-a-boo. This becomes normal until we can suddenly trust our kids to do an activity on their own while we tend to other things.

Children even need supervision while getting a picture taken with a birthday cake!

They Can’t Cook

The reality is that our children need to be fed. However, they aren’t able to safely cook for themselves for a few years. As much as it would be awesome for the kids to cook for the parents (and it IS awesome!), it takes years to get to this stage. It also takes many seemingly painful days of them sneaking into the pantry and making total messes in an attempt to fix themselves a snack. These stages are needed, however, to get to the end goal of them being able to safely prepare food for themselves.

Help for Successfully Getting Through the First Few Years with Kids

Take Care of Yourself

I admit that I totally sucked at this one until my kids were older. For whatever reason, I had the mindset that a mom’s job is to take care of her kids before anything else. I tried juggling work in there and was falling apart on the inside. It wasn’t until I shifted my thinking that I became happier. When I became happier, something magical happened… my kids became happier, too!

I don’t know why it is that so many parents have a goal of their children being kind to themselves yet the parents don’t feel the need to model this. It’s strange when we think about it… we want something for our kids that we aren’t modeling for them. Self-care is in this category. We must model it. I promise the entire household will benefit when parents model self-care practices. This can look different for everyone and really doesn’t have to cost a lot. It can be as simple as having an Epsom salt bath, reading a good book, or going for a walk in nature. It can expand to leaving the little ones with the other parent to go to the spa or for a weekend getaway with friends. This is all self-care!

challenges of parenting little ones; support for parents; supporting parents #parenting #supportforparents

Regular Date Nights

One thing my own hubby has been great at over the years is ensuring we have regular date nights. I used to think he was crazy when the kids were younger… I felt no energy for anything let alone for getting dressed up to go out on the town or staying up later when all I wanted to do was crash onto a bed and fall asleep. However, those nights likely saved our marriage and my sanity. Sometimes it is as simple as going for a cup of coffee together or sitting and watching a movie after the kids are sleeping. Focusing on things other than our children as well as focusing on each other and the reasons we fell in love in the first place are essential for a strong marriage.

You may be thinking, “That’s great! How can we afford these date nights?!?” First of all, they can take place at home after the kids are sleeping. However, another way to afford date nights is to take advantage of grandparents offering to care for the kids. Yet another way is to befriend another family with children the same age and offer to take care of their kids for a few hours one night so they can have a date night while they take care of your children on another night so you can get out for a few hours.

Play with Your Kids and Share in Their Joy

Kids have a way of showing us what’s important in life. They feel fulfilled by the smallest of things. For example, they find a pretty rock or feel the grass under their feet and are in awe of life and the world we live in. We can learn a lot from this! By allowing ourselves to share in their experience, we allow ourselves to be happier and take joy in the simple things. When we play, we become happier. When we are happier, our kids are happier. It really is this simple. Forget about the laundry piling up or the dishes when your kids are playing and/or exploring. Instead, learn from your children and enjoy these simple moments. They only teach us this for so long!

This picture of 2 of my children was taken a few years ago. They were fascinated with smelling the flowers I had just planted.

Be Kind to Yourself

How many of us have offered advice to our friends that we aren’t following ourselves? You know, the type of advice such as, “You need to take care of yourself.” or “You’re a great parent! Cut yourself some slack.” For some reason, we say what we know to be true, then expect something different for ourselves. We tell ourselves things like, “I should be able to handle everything. What’s wrong with me?” The truth is that there is NOTHING wrong. We simply need to follow our own advice.

If we wouldn’t give the advice to a friend, we shouldn’t be giving the advice to ourselves. We wouldn’t tell our friends that they should feel the need to handle everything on their own. Be kind to yourself and follow your own advice. There are only so many hours in a day. Take time for the most important things such as taking care of yourself and playing with your kids.

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Ignore Social Media Ideals

We all have at least one friend whose social media posts regularly boast of how easy it is to tackle it all. However, they fail to ever include any challenges of parenting experienced while doing so. You know the people whose kids apparently never cry or make any demands of any kind. They are the ones who seemingly never experience any challenges of parenting. If we compare ourselves, we feel like failures. After all, so and so clearly is handling parenthood so easily, right?!?

I’m here to tell you that anyone who posts regularly and whose feed looks like this is a fake. Is this harsh of me to say? Maybe. However, I can guarantee that either they have a crapload of support to make this happen if their lives truly are this wonderful OR they are kicking things out of the way to post what appears to be a 24/7 clean and happy house and simply neglecting to post any of the numerous difficult moments even they have throughout the day when raising little ones. Feel free to unfollow this friend. At the very least, do NOT compare yourself to their apparently perfect life. Trust me, their life isn’t perfect either!

woman appearing to look perfect; social media ideals

Helpful Resources

There are a lot of parenting resources on how to raise children. However, in this post, I am focusing on those resources that emphasize how to take care of ourselves as parents.

They Say… (Not Your Average Parenting Book) by Lauren Jumrukovski

I have been following Lauren for a while now and appreciate her authenticity. Her book is a beneficial read for anyone entering parenthood and/or parents experiencing the challenges of parenting. This is especially true for those trying to filter out the noise of what others say about parenting and how it should be done.

The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being by Julie Burton

As a mom of 4 children herself who has also taken into consideration the experiences of hundreds of other moms, this book provides an honest and open view of how difficult it can be to implement self-care. Most importantly, it delves into the importance of self-care and provides real and practical ways for mothers to stay true to themselves and take care of themselves. This book is for every mother whether working outside the home or a stay at home parent. One quote early on in the book that I’m sure all mothers can relate to is:

I realized, after breaking down to my sister, that while talking to family members and good friends about the nuts and bolts of motherhood had always been helpful, I often found myself too ashamed to reveal how overwhelmed and unsure of myself I had often felt. It seemed to me that every mom around me was mothering with way more ease and confidence than I was. But deep down I knew that this was not true, and that I was not alone in my struggles.

Julie Burton
What Could Go Wrong?: My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression by Brett Grayson

What I love most about this parenting book besides the fact that it is so raw, authentic, and funny is that it is written by a dad. This book had me laughing almost immediately upon starting to read it. It is truly relatable. Frankly, just like parenting really is, it isn’t all comical. Brett shares genuine struggles that I believe most, if not all, parents can relate to. This book is not only the perfect gift for ourselves as parents, but it is also a perfect gift for new parents as well. It goes through the challenges of parenting as well as other challenges so many people face in their personal journeys.

Codependent No More… How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

It is so easy for parents to lose sight of their own lives in tending to the lives of others. This book is for any parent that has ever felt the need to simply fix their children’s problems themselves. Uh, yeah, so it’s basically a good read for anyone! 😉 Please note there is reference to God in this book. If this offends you, then you may wish to choose another title.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

Okay, I know I said I am focusing on taking care of ourselves as parents. However, with the pressure in society to buy the latest and greatest things for our kids and/or to cram more and more into our children’s lives, this book is a refreshing read. If you are in the category of feeling pressure to have and provide every opportunity for all things great for your kids, then reading this book may help take that pressure off.

challenges of parenting little ones; support for parents; supporting parents #parenting #supportforparents

In Summary

Parenthood is not easy. Although we wouldn’t change it for the world, there are many days that will drag on and feel like they are lasting forever. These are some of the challenges of parenting.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

Gretchen Ruben

Parenthood does get easier as our kids become increasingly independent. Regardless of where we are in the stage of parenting, it is essential to take care of ourselves throughout the process. If we refuse to do this for ourselves, then we need to do it for our children.

Blog posts I have written about my own challenges of parenting and/or my parenting journey include Redefining Our Parenting Role as Our Children Grow, The Value of a Parent’s Self-Care, Defining Myself Beyond Being a Mom, and Redefining Failure… It is Essential for Success.

How About You?

What are some of the challenges of parenting you have faced or are facing? What are some ways you stay sane as a parent? Are there any stages of parenthood that have been particularly challenging to get through? Are there any resources that have helped you? Let me know in the comments below!

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28 Comments

  1. Great article I have three children two are adults and my youngest is 11 years old. So it wasn’t until my daughter had our first grandchild a year and a half ago that all the areas that you pointed out came back to life when I’m on grannie duties.

    1. Yes, as parents we slowly glide into having to get through these stages. It hasn’t even been that long ago for me, but I still ask myself how I managed, lol! Congrats on becoming a grandma! 😀

  2. Such a great reminder to stay present and not get caught up in comparison! There definitely are a lot of challenges to raising little ones! Wonderful post. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Micah! Yes, there are challenges, but we still wouldn’t change it for the world! 🙂

  3. Play with Your Kids and Share in Their Joy. Parenting young kids can really be stressful but as the cliche goes that they are little only once. We may be tired at the moment but to be present and enjoy their presence is a good memory we can instill in their childhood.

    1. I agree! However, for a parent’s sanity, sometimes finding joy in the moments does become more about us as parents experiencing joy than it is about our kids and that’s definitely okay, too! Our kids can be great teachers for finding joy in those small moments. 🙂

    1. YES! Being kind to ourselves and making time for self-care are things we all seem to know but practicing them can definitely be a lot more challenging, especially when our children are having a difficult moment.

  4. It’s so so hard that these little people need you for EVERYTHING and theres no break!! But I know one day my boys will be old and doing all of these things and I will wish I could go back!

    1. It certainly does seem to go this way! I didn’t think I would miss doing laundry for my oldest, but I actually kind of do now that he is an adult and has moved away from home.

  5. My kiddos are older now 9&6 but we still make things like date night a priority, every Wednesday we have a date night at home. I look forward to it all week.

  6. Great post Sherry. Thanks for sharing.

    I love the part about social media. Often what we see out there is misleading and not entirely true and yet we can’t help get influenced by it. I agree with you that it is important to enjoy the time we get with out children, no matter how old they are.

    1. Definitely! Social media can be very misleading. To top it off, I used to check it when feeling tired and down, looking for a pick-me-up. I was looking in the wrong place, lol! Our time with our children is precious and can also be stressful. Choosing to enjoy it and learn from them to embrace those simple moments is helpful. 🙂

  7. This couldn’t be more spot on! I am mommy to four kids and one step daughter. They range between 3-12 and 25. Everything you’ve listed in soo true. I’ve learned over the years I have to pay attention to my mind and my body and practice good self-care. Because the neediness of my children surely can and at times do suck the emotional life out of me.

    1. Yes, it definitely can do that! Good for you for learning to pay attention and to implement good self-care! Those are important practices. 🙂

    1. So true! There is an innocence to it all. I often miss that stage as well, as it all seems to become fond memories that we manage to get through! 😀

  8. Parenting children are the most difficult task in the world. It all depend on how you give teach your children. That make their future. Good teaching lead to good future and bad teaching lead to bad future.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. Parenting children is definitely challenging at times, but I know I still wouldn’t change it for the world! 🙂

  9. Omg! Everything about this post is true! I am a new mom and my son is 8months old. Boy oh boy! He is developing a personality and attitude. He plays independently well but still requires most if not all my attention since he’s crawling and getting into things he shouldn’t.

    Taking care of myself is hard because of guilt for leaving my son to workout or simply walk around Target with a coffee in hand, lol.

    My husband and I are barely understanding the importance of having time for ourselves, date nights, lunch dates, anything!

    But as tough as it is sometimes, I can’t wait to grow our family with a few more little ones 🙂

    1. It is definitely tough sometimes, but kids are also a huge gift! I hope you and your husband figure out ways to ensure you get time for yourselves along the way. It’s incredibly important to stay connected and to recharge. 😀

  10. This is spot on. Parenting little one’s is challenging but self care is so important and it sends a positive message to our children that taking care of yourself is really important.

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