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Help! I've got kids...

Not Enjoying Parenthood!

September 8, 2010

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.

Enjoying Nature

September 1, 2010

Question:

How can I get my child interested in spending more time outdoors, enjoying nature?

Answer:

Joy is highly contagious. We don't need to try all that hard to convince our children to appreciate what we appreciate. Our own joy speaks volumes.

When we are able to focus on the beautiful world that G‑d made, our perception seeps into our children as well. And nature – including all the plants and animals – has so much to teach us. Can tiny ants demonstrate how to work hard for a goal? As we carefully watch them carrying loads much bigger than themselves, they become exemplary models of industriousness. And if even a little ant on the sidewalk can be viewed with renewed respect, imagine the awe that's possible when viewing a vast ocean.

We can notice how, at certain times in the day, so many little creatures seem to be croaking and chirping all at once, giving thanks, it seems, in their own way. And we can freely share our wonderment about this. We can notice that there are so many different colored birds and think about how they all could have been the same color. Instead, G‑d blessed our Earth with so much variety to add joy to the world. That delight can be spontaneously passed along. We may feel a little silly at first, but the value of these genuine expressions are inestimable.

Just looking around, the life lessons are plentiful. We can see clearly how every detail matters in every tiny creature we meet – as it does in our lives.

We learn that a plant plucked from its source quickly wilts and then withers. And that's just how we feel when we get disconnected from what gives us life.

A fruit tree can tell us how to treat a guest – by freely providing us with food, drink, and a shady spot to rest!

Right next to a valley is a hill – life sure has its ups and downs – and hey, look, that's natural!

Each creature - like each of us - has its own beautiful and unique song.

There are spiritual messages found in each creation of our natural world, and when we pause to listen to them, we gain newfound wisdom. No make-believe "talking animal" stories are needed on a journey into the woods – or even into one's backyard – with time to spend and ears to hear. When given the opportunity, the creatures and vegetation we encounter really have a lot to say.

Collecting little reminders like shells, sand, pine cones, acorns, leaves, and special rocks while on a walk, bring added pleasure that can be later savored. If they are saved in a memory box, it can quickly turn into a timeless treasure chest.

The responsibility given to us to guard and protect our wondrous environment is often forgotten. As we roam across planet Earth with eyes wide open like a child's, our appreciation blossoms. Then we have a chance to value and care more deeply about the natural resources all around us. And this will be gently infused in the children who get to experience that sense of awe along with us.

Taking walks in parks, biking on a trail, going boating, or even just simply strolling in the neighborhood with our children can be an enchanting experience. During every season of the year, and at every season of our lives, spending time together in nature is something that can make us all richer. And at the very same time that we will be exploring more about our remarkable natural world, we will be discovering more enjoyable wonders about each other.

Just about every career requires prior course training, and often some work-related experience.

Becoming a parent can be one of the most responsible positions we undertake, yet most of us do so unprepared and without any prior knowledge.

What makes your child tick? How can you learn to communicate better so your child will listen? Dealing with bedtime fights? Teaching gentleness? Arranging allowances and chores?

With a rotating roster of parenting and educational experts, these and more issues will be covered in this hands-on parenting blog.



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