Let’s be real. Even though we love our children, there are days when we’re just plain tired of parenting. Look at it this way: How many of us wake EVERY morning thinking, “I can’t wait to get to work!!” Just like with a job, there are going to be days when we feel like burrowing in and pulling the covers over our heads as parents. And think about it — how many parents actually have a designated day off? (Even Mary Poppins had one day off a week!) If you’re a single parent and have some time to yourself when your children are visiting their other parent, the behavioral transition time of leaving and coming back can also take a huge toll on patience and tolerance, leaving you feeling frazzled and overwhelmed.
I don’t know why we’re surprised or feel guilty about not wanting to parent on certain days. The fifth call from school about our child in two weeks is enough to send anyone off the deep end. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to call someone somewhere and say: “Nope, I’m not going to parent today, I’m sick and tired of it!” Think of all the confrontations you could avoid until you’re mentally and emotionally ready for them!
So what can we do to help ourselves when we’re in this exhausted, “I-need-a-break” place? First off, if you find yourself in the frame of mind where you’re not liking your child or wishing he was somewhere else for the time being, try not to judge yourself. As much as we love our kids, we all have moments when we would like to take a break from parenting. Recognize it for what it is: frustration with our child’s current behavior. (And often, just plain physical or mental exhaustion.)
I think we also need to accept the fact that we are human. We need to forgive ourselves for not being 100% all the time. How many of us like anyone in our life all the time? The point is, most of us don’t like to eat the same food every night. We don’t like moving the same smelly shoes every morning to avoid tripping on them, either – or scrubbing the toothpaste out of the sink, again. But as Debbie Pincus says, “Remember, it’s very easy to forget that it’s the behavior you don’t like, not the whole person.”
Read more: “Sometimes I Don’t Like My Child“.
In spite of all of this, (and moments of wanting to take a vacation, let alone a break! ) one of the things that I like to remind myself is how much I’ll miss it all when my children are grown and out of the house. The house will be clean, the food will still be in the refrigerator, and life will be quiet and peaceful. But these are who our children are. Focus on their positive characteristics, not their shortcomings, and on our own reactivity as parents. They may not put their dishes in the dishwasher every time (or ever!), but they may successfully clean their biology equipment at school.
We all know childhood is fleeting, and most of us are grateful that adolescence does end. But that doesn’t mean that we can always be the loving, wonderful parents we want to be all the time. We need to be forgiving and gentle with ourselves on those days when we want to call out.