Who should have reconsidered having children, raise your hands! Ah huh. I thought so. Having children sounds like the right idea until it isn’t anymore. So what do you do know that you have them? Can’t really give them away. And to whom would you give them? People who also should have thought more about the decision to raise a family?
Okay. So this is how you feel on some days. Not every day, but on those days when parenting becomes herculean, and you just feel like a failure. Like this is beyond hard. And you ask yourself, “Can normal people really do this? Who do I know that has parenting down? Where can I get help?”
On THE Amicable Divorce Expert podcast, we featured Esther Jacob, MA, ACSW, Certified Divorce Coach, and Parent, and we talked about the perils of parenting from the point of decision-making to have children, to the reality of raising them, to being a co-parent in a divorce, and remarrying with another child conceived. Esther said, “Most people don’t even question whether they should be parents. It has to start there. Before being parents, people need to assess their ability to sustain parenthood, because it’s life long.”
My questions back: Does having children just come naturally, or is parenthood a studied art? How does anyone know if being a parent is right for them? How do people know if they would make good parents? Is there a test we can take to determine our ability to weather the storm of raising children?
And my tag line…Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!
I remember a mediation I conducted years ago with a couple getting divorced, with one young child. The father wasn’t arguing about paying child support. In fact, he was offering more money to mom in exchange for less time with their son. I had not seen this before, a willing payment of additional child support and less time with the child. So I asked, “Did you want to have a child?” And he answered, “No.” I was quite surprised at his honesty. He further explained, “Our marriage wasn’t going well, and she (wife) thought that having a child would bring us closer together. It didn’t, and here we are in your office mediating child support and a co-parenting plan for a child that I never wanted in the first place. Yet, I gave in and we got pregnant.”
This made quite an impression on me; I never forgot it. And it got me thinking, “How many people choose to have children either without really considering how their lives will change and if they are suited to be parents? How many people think that getting married and having children is what we’re all supposed to do to be happy and fulfilled?” I bet more people than we realize. And I’m not talking about the obvious, people who can’t sustain a healthy lifestyle for themselves on their own. I’m referring to regular people who go to work each day, have friends, have outside activities, living a traditional lifestyle. How many people really think about how their lives will change and what that means to their satisfaction and happiness?
Millennial are taking time to pause and think about what parenting means, and many are choosing not to be parents, or waiting to have children once they’re financially set and a little older, exploring life as adults first before being parents.
What makes being a parent so hard? Here are a few reasons Esther gave us:
- You are not in charge of your time any longer. You are in service to your children.
- You have no idea if your children will be manageable; if they will listen to you.
- You have no idea if they will have medical needs that will exceed your ability to provide treatment.
- You have no idea what your parenting style is, nor the parenting style of the other parent, and how that will affect your marriage or partnership.
- Your sleep will be compromised.
- Your ability to quit a job you dislike and make a lifestyle change may be compromised, thereby compromising your happiness.
- You will be challenged with decisions for your children that can be overwhelming.
- You will be expected (aka forced) to put your children’s needs before yours.
- You will be expected to be patient, kind, understanding and forgiving, even when you’re exhausted by life.
- You will be expected to provide unconditional love, even if you never received that from your parents.
The rewards of parenting, we are told, by people who really want to and still love being parents, are beyond anything one could image! Greatest love of all!! The love of a child makes you richer than any amount of money in a bank account. And all of this sounds and is wonderful, if you were meant to be a parent. If all of the expectations and perils of parenting are so much less than the exhilaration you can feel when your children put their arms around you, kiss you on the cheek, and say, “I love you, Mommy/Daddy.” Just those four words make it worth the hard work and compromises you have to make as a parent.
In life, with the perils of anything, come the rewards of doing it, of taking chances to see how we can succeed and live our dreams. It’s just that with children, we’re playing with their lives, too, not just ours, when we take one the responsibility of parenting. It’s not something we can quit if we don’t like it. We’re in it for life.
When making this life decision to be a parent, take stock in your ability to unselfishly fulfill your commitment to the role of parent. And when dealing with the transition to co-parenting in a divorce, revisit why the decision to be a parent was made in the first place, and return to the commitment to love and to cherish these special little people known as your children.
Listen to this week’s episode with Esther Jacob here: https://judyweigle.podbean.com/e/the-amicable-divorce-expert-presents-the-perils-of-parenting-with-esther-jacob-ma-acsw-cdc-parent/