In the Parent Hood
In the parent ‘hood, we neighbors know that for all the great job titles, this is a rather poorly-paid gig.
Don’t get us wrong– parenting can be wonderful (at times.) It’s glorious to bring a new baby home, for example (no matter how that baby came to be yours.)
Snapshot memory moments rise like cream on fresh milk, when we think about the happy times: introducing family and friends to our little ones, late night cuddles, the feel of tiny kids in freshly-washed jammies, those sleepy arms wrapped around your neck when you get them out of the crib in the morning, their first steps, the first tooth, bath times, Christmas mornings, birthday parties… you know the drill.
And yet. (But then.) There are also the less-glorious moments, like when our children start to say and do things that disappoint us, or when the stressors of parenting take a toll on our marriages, or when medical issues arise that were unanticipated, or the costs of having children begin to drain us, or when we realize we may not have been as prepared for all the challenges of parenthood as we thought?
That’s when we find ourselves in the parent hood.
Welcome to the Neighborhood…
The parent hood can be a very gratifying club to belong to, especially for those who long admired its ranks from afar and pined to be counted among its elite members. To celebrate your first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can feel like a dream come true. To have others tell you how well-behaved your child can make your heart swell with pride. To be referred to as someone’s mom or dad is a title of honor, of course. (That’s what sometimes makes it so hard to share, in the adoption world.)
When your child is doing well, the parent hood applauds you. Looks up to you. Gives you cred.
You get a speaking role at PTA meetings, a place of honor in your child’s classroom if you sign up to be room parent, and sometimes, even handmade crafts on holidays (at least while your child is in daycare.) Other parents may ask you for advice. You draw affirmation from your child’s successes, and you brag on your kid incessantly on social media, just because you can, not because it makes you look good, of course.
Along the way, though, there are moments when the wheels fall off the bus. And then, we are reminded what a really crappy job parenting can be, sometimes.
Raising kids is truly a thankless task, because it’s way more labor-intensive (pun intended) than anyone realizes– whether you give birth and especially if you don’t. If you do parenting “right” then more often than not, your child gets all the credit, but if your best efforts don’t bear fruit, then you get most of the blame (from yourself, if not from others.) In this corner of the parenthood, it can feel very lonely. You don’t want to admit that this job is a lot harder than it looks, but keeping it to yourself is very isolating.
And if you became a parent through adoption, then you win a whole ‘nother subset of issues; what do you do if everything you think you wanted most isn’t everything you’d hoped it would be? Are your child’s shortcomings the result of nature, or nurture? What will the birthfamily think of the job you are doing of raising their child? What if your child doesn’t seem as attached as you’d like, or if you don’t feel the bond to your child that you’d always thought you would? Does the agency really need to know when problems arise, and can they do anything about it, really? This corner of the parenthood is an especially shadowy place, because it’s hard to know who you can talk to and where to find help when you need it most.
Please, won’t you be my neighbor?
In those times, we are reminded of the words of Henry David Thoreau, in his thoughts on quiet desperation.
“The mass of (people) lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things…”
What does this mean? In short, dear parent, it means this: most parents go through moments (or days, or even weeks or months) of quiet desperation, so you are not alone! Parenthood is an enormous undertaking even in the best of circumstances, and those are typically not the situations in which most of us become parents.
Parenting is the hardest, longest-lasting, underpaid, overworked, underappreciated and underrated job you will ever have. (Ever.) But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be committed. (Well, let’s say invested, because committed parents have additional burdens to bear.) Even your mistakes (and yes, we all make them) can pay off, if you and/or your child learn from them.
In the parent hood, we could do a whole lot of good if we would learn to reach out more, to risk sharing and to share our experiences with others. In the Abrazo community, we have a currently under-utilized resource called The Abrazo Forum, which is our online community. It’s been usurped by social media in recent years, but it’s a safe place in which to pour out problems and vent frustrations and share heartaches and seek support– whether or not you adopted through Abrazo.
If you are an adoptive parent, you need the support and input of other parents, particularly those with adoptions that resemble your own. (The same goes for birthparents, by the way.) You aren’t an island, and you really can swim better with supportive friends close by.
And keep in mind, always: birthparents and adoptive parents have the enormous potential to support each other, in a way that the world is unlikely to understand, but which can open up beautiful new vistas in the parent hood for everyone, if only we’ll let this happen.