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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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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!