I think most people understand parents when they share how parenting is difficult, if they are dealing with multiples (twins, triplets, ore more), a child that was born premature, with special needs, to a single parent, etc. But what about when your baby was born healthy, on time, generally behaves like a typical baby, and you still find parenting grueling and less than ideal?
It’s not like you can test drive a baby and find the one that best suits your needs or go to university to take a course on parenting and then decide it isn’t for you and change your major.
Even when you marry someone you’ve most likely met them (at least once, if it’s not arranged) and there is time before the wedding to get an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Having a baby is the one major life event that you go into blindly, without all the information or research, that there is no turning around from.
So why is there so much criticism from others (usually non-parents) if a mother or father expresses sadness, frustration, impatience, and sometimes even regrets throughout the parenting journey?
As postpartum and infant care doulas, who are non-judgemental, we see and hear first hand from parents who are struggling with the new realities of parenthood. We are witness to their exhaustion, frustration, pain, postpartum mood disorders, challenges, and those crappy parenting days and nights when they wonder, “What have I gotten myself into?”
We provide a safe space, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on in those moments.
Over the many years of our experience we’ve seen and heard it all. We are parents too. We get it. It’s not always fun and it’s rarely ever easy – and that’s okay! It doesn’t make you a bad person or even a bad parent to have these feelings. Raising a human being is HARD, really hard, and it takes every ounce of strength and patience that you have!
One of my favourite personal memories of a tough moment as a mother was a particular evening after an hour of trying to put all three of my boys to bed they continued to carry on and I was starting to lose it. I threatened to throw out all their toys if they would not cooperate (great move Sarah – how would you follow through on that?!). So, I took a deep breath, grabbed the baby monitor and when outside to sit on the porch and hide until they passed out on their own! It was at that moment that across the street I could hear my neighbour’s son through her kitchen window throwing a massive tantrum, and a few seconds later my neighbour burst out of her front door, covered her face in her hands and let out a huge sigh of frustration. She ran her hands over her forehead and grabbed two fistfuls of her own hair and looked towards the sky, pleading with the heavens to help her… and then she noticed me sitting on my porch feeling those same overwhelming feelings.
We smiled at each other because neither of us were alone any more – some else understood what were were going through.
Parents, it’s okay to have these moments. If you are struggling with your new baby please reach out. We are a part of your community of support. You ARE NOT alone and you don’t have to do this alone!
Sarah Baker is a the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services and has been supporting families for almost a decade as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator. She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.