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Help! I've got kids...

Not Enjoying Parenthood!

Not Enjoying Parenthood!


David, age 57, sighs heavily. "I'm tired," he admits. "I don't want to be worrying about my kids anymore. I don't want to keep carrying their problems around with me; I have enough of my own. I know it's a terrible thing to say, but I'd be very happy if they just all got up and moved to the other side of the world. I need a break."

Carly, 26, expresses a similar sentiment. "Am I the only woman who doesn't enjoy parenting?" she wonders aloud. "Don't get me wrong – my kids are great, as far as kids go. It's just that I'm not at all interested in playgroups and talking with other mothers about what I fed the kids today and sitting on the floor with puzzles. It's just not my thing. In fact, I can't wait to finish my mat leave and get back to the office to be with other adults. Is there something wrong with me?"

Marni, 38, has a slightly different problem. "I can't stand my son. He's not like the other kids at all. They're all easy-going, well-functioning, pleasant children. But Daniel is impossible! Everything with him is an argument, an exhausting debate. He can never just say 'yes' and move on – everything has to be negotiated. And he makes everything difficult; every small bump in the road becomes a major catastrophe with him. There's so much drama! And he's not like this just with me – he's difficult with his teachers and his father and his siblings. He's just a pain for everyone to deal with. I know it's an awful thing for a mother to say, but I don't like my own child."

The Parenting Job

Some people really enjoy parenting. They enjoy their babies and toddlers, school-age kids and teens. They enjoy their adult children. But most people feel stressed by parenting at least some of the time. The stress may be caused by the endless demands of the task: the 24-hour days, the enormous responsibilities, the neediness of children. It's all normal and understandable. There is, however, another source of stress that people can't usually talk about. This is the stress of actually not liking the job of parenting, whether that pertains to parenting in general or parenting one particular child.

The truth is that people don't always enjoy their children. They may enjoy them more at some stages of development than others or they may enjoy some of their children more than others or they may even enjoy them more at some times of the day than other times (e.g. when they're sleeping!) – but clearly, people can find parenting some kids to be hard, disappointing, frustrating, overwhelming or even just tedious. Since this isn't the way parents are "supposed" to feel, those who don't enjoy parenting usually keep it to themselves. Not wanting to appear deviant or mentally disturbed, they suffer silently and alone. They don't realize just how common and normal their feelings really are.

Coping with Negative Feelings

Feelings of dissatisfaction in parenting occur to almost everyone at some time in their parenting careers. A personality clash with a particular child can trigger such emotion. A badly behaved child can trigger it. A houseful of noisy, messy, wild youngsters can trigger it. A rebellious or disrespectful teen can trigger it. Even the expenses of parenting can trigger it. In fact, there are endless triggers for unhappy responses to parenting.

Of course, parenting has its good times as well. Over the twenty years of raising a child or the thirty or forty years of raising a family, there are plenty of ups and downs. What can parents do to help themselves negotiate the down times more successfully? Here are some ideas:

  • Accept the dissatisfaction as a normal part of the parenting journey. Expect negativity to fluctuate, to come and go as the situation changes.
  • During stressful periods of parenting, try to find personal satisfaction in other endeavors. This may be the time to take a course you've always wanted to take or get involved in an activity that you've been interested in. This is a good time to strengthen your marriage and spend more quality time with your spouse. A bit more attention to your social life, sleep habits and diet will serve you well, as will a dedicated exercise routine. The more full and balanced your personal life is, the better you will be able to tolerate and deal with a difficult parenting situation.
  • Don't try to raise challenging children on your own – enlist the power of prayer! Ask G‑d to help both you and your child(ren). It's not all up to you.
  • Get professional support if your negativity is affecting your mood or your health, or impacting your relationships with the child or children in question, or your marriage.
  • Learn specific stress-reduction strategies that can lighten feelings of anger, resentment, helplessness, despair, anxiety and other negative emotions. Such techniques make it easier to cope with difficult periods in parenting.

It's easier to enjoy parenting when we give ourselves permission to not enjoy it, too.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Anonymous Freehold, J November 5, 2014

for Marni with the difficult son! For Marni, as a parent of two now, 30 + yr old kids, I would add you should seek counseling for your son, if this has been a constant with his behavior. You may start by consulting his pediatrician and then a counselor if he suggests this. There are ways to cope through help and not take it at face value and have to live with it.
Life is not always easy and totally pleasant, but no child should be difficult constantly without rhyme nor reason. get needed help and you and your son will enjoy better times! Reply

Anonymous louisville ky June 11, 2014

thank you. This is what I needed to read right now! Reply

Anonymous April 26, 2014

Sarah so greatly appreciated! Thank you.

Parent of 15 year old Reply

Sarah Chana Radcliffe Toronto April 24, 2014

Not too late to gain respect Hashem believes we can change at every age - hence the annual Rosh Hashana review of our past performance and the expectation that we will correct ourselves. Therefore, yes, your 15 year old can improve on her behavior and attitude. In order to help her do so you may want to change your own strategies that you've used till now or you may want to enlist some professional help for yourself and/or for her or you may just want to become more consistent with those techniques that have worked in the past. Whatever you do, don't give up! Your own gentle, loving, respectful attitude combined with healthy boundaries can make a positive difference. Invest in the future with this child; by remaining optimistic and kind, you can also plant the seeds for a future, healthy adult relationship with her. Reply

Anonymous April 19, 2014

At Shabbos dinner last night everyone commented on the out of control 15 yr. old that belongs to me- it's true I don't have control over her. Sometimes i just don't care, give up or bite my tongue to hold back my disgust. Is it too late to regain respect and control? Reply

Anonymous ORLANDO, FL July 6, 2011

Can I ever relate! Thanks so much for giving me permission to NOT enjoy parenting. I've realized that both my husband and I hold ourselves and each other to impossible standards of perfection in our parenting. Just knowing I'm normal helps. So did reminding me to ask G-d for help and support. Reply

Ben NY, NY, USA December 18, 2010

Perfectionist Parent Raise Flawed Kids Everything is an argument? What exactly are you arguing about?

Is it a struggle getting your son to pull up the knot on his necktie until he chokes himself?

Is it a struggle getting your 5 year old to wear that pretty pink dress with the bows and ribbons, which YOU picked out and gave your daughter no choice?

Is it a struggle getting your son to do his homework all over again because it's full of mistakes (never mind that he slaved over it for an hour already)?

Look at the following options:
1. Your son goes to Shul without a neck tie.
2. He hands in a page of math homework is full of mistakes and he wo
3. Your daugher dyes her hair or pirces her ears/nose/lip without your permission.
4. Your son wants to do his homework alone.
5. He won't shut up to let you have the last word.

If the above bother you, then you need to back off and lighten up. You're trying to mold your kids to perfection, and it can't work. Reply

Anonymous Ann Arbor, MI October 4, 2010

Thank you for the reassurance & validation. Just when I had an angry moment with my son this morning when he yelled "shut up" to me and slammed the door on his way out to school, reading this article helps me to feel better. I wish the media and the college education system could offer more pratical, real-world parenting facts like this article so that people can think twice before having kids. At least, it would help people to become more aware of how specifically the addition of a kid can change an adult's life, and thus help people make a more informed decision on how many children one can best have without losing one's own sanity and inner peace.

Looking on the positive side, as much as I don't enjoy the experience of raising a defiant, strong-willed child, I consider this an opportunity to grow in my inner strength. In order to rise above such challenge with grace, I find the suggestions of this article quite helpful--do something I enjoy to take care of myself, get help for support if I cannot deal with it alone. Reply

Frankfurt New York, NY September 28, 2010

To Seatle ANonymous I have a somewhat comparable situation--two toddlers, excepth that my wife and I both work and we take turns (although I feel I take more than she does). I also hate being alone with them--one zigs, the other zags, and the constant tag-teaming makes you want to kill yourself. Even if she goes upstairs for a few minutes I get angry. II always try to include as many people as possible to avoid being alone with them our families live nearby, luckily).

The real issue is, why does your wife think she has the right to abandon the four of you on the weekends? You need at least two adults to handle them without going plain damn insane (it's hard enough with just two). Where is she dissapearing to? Work out this issues, and there's a better chance that you can share the load. Reply

Anonymous Manchester, U.K September 26, 2010

to Anonymous of Seattle have you tried the park at the weekend? Free. I don't know any kids who don't enjoy going to the park. Take healthy snacks & drinks for when they get peckish.You could even have a picnic & 5 year old could play at being mummy. Take buggy for 2 yr old. After a few hrs in the park, 2 year old should end up going for a nap later so you can spend more time with the other 2. You and 5 year old can listen to 8 year old reading or you could make some simple biscuits or cupcakes together. You could direct imaginative play between them or do some simple craft work together;like making paper chains.Plain white paper is cheaper, & get them to colour it in ;which will keep them busy for longer,before you cut the paper into pieces for them or let the 8 year old do it so he gets a feeling of responsibility (round tipped scissors).8 yr old could go to a friend? only 2 girls left to deal with then.Memory & guessing games.Board games. Videos. Reply

Anonymous Seattle, WA September 25, 2010

Not Enjoying Parenthood I didn't get much from this article. I came to this blog looking for a way to deal with the frustrations of managining 3 children by myself. I'm a married 37 Y/O father of 3; ages 8 (B), 5 (G), and 2 (G). As the sole financial contributor to the family, I have a solid job but it requires me to be gone 12-14 hours a day between 5AM and 7PM. My wife stays home with the children, 2 of which goto school between 8-4. She also started a photgraphy business and she schedules photo sessions on the weekends and does editing at home during the week - she makes enough money to pay for her equipment and overhead but no more. When I get home from work, she dissapears and leaves me to manage the children. On the weekends, she dissapears and leaves me to manage the children. I dont get a break. I hate it. It's near impossible to take all 3 anywhere together by myself and keep them under control. It's also hard to give any individual child focused attention. any ideas? Reply

Anonymous MANCHESTER, U.K September 14, 2010

PARENTHOOD I could have done with this article 17 years ago! I had to learn the hard way. Like so many people do. I suppose by the time you've had 3 kids it starts to get easier. Unfortunately, I didn't get that far! Reply

yael September 14, 2010

good good to know it's normal. main thing is health and being thankful to G-d for all He gives. Reply

Sherri st. george, Canada September 14, 2010

discipline i find that parents who consistently discipline their kids enjoy their kids more.

the one mother said that everything has to be negotiated with her child - well, of course! i bet in that family, negotiating works, so why wouldnt he try it.
kids are kids -they are born selfish and parents have to correct that. when we leave it unchecked, we are left with ungrateful, selfish children we don't like. its sad. children are a blessing from the Lord. Reply

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Sarah Chana RadcliffeSarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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