Faith · Parenting · Vulnerability

No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

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Don’t Blame a Selfish Generation on the School System (or the Government)

Sometimes a post or a comment can trigger a string of thoughts. Often I just ponder them throughout the day, but, once in a while – if I have the time to sit down and write – a new blog post is written. A few months ago, I noticed a paragraph that got posted a few times on my feed by different people and so even though I often skip long status updates, I ended up reading this one through many times. And each time I read it I thought, hmmm…it’s very interesting how whoever wrote this felt the need to both write off an entire generation of people and blame the government for making them that way.

Here’s the post:

R.I.P. Canada You are too soft. You raised the cost of living so high that both parents are always at work, rather than spending time with their children. You took authority out of schools. Parents were told ‘No you can’t discipline your kids’. Well, Canada You shall reap what you sow, and we have lost a percentage of next generation adults as the soft approach turned them into rude, selfish, disrespectful humans who have no respect for people, property or authority…

(Ok I deleted a big section of this long-winded rant, but I left the conclusion for you 😜)….

Things need to change! Copy & paste if you have the guts too!!!”

Now, I would agree with some of the thoughts behind the post, but today I’m not writing about politics or my concerns about our current government’s shortcomings. Today I want to address a FAR more important issue that’s damaging households and families in every background and social status across our Country.

Let me start off by saying this:

Fellow parents, it is not the governments fault or the school system’s fault if our children turn out to be selfish, disrespectful and rude. It’s OURS. If all our children are really turning out that bad, we just have to look in the mirror to see who’s really at fault.

I hear again and again that “both parents HAVE to work in order to survive these days” and I have to tell you, in the most respectful way possible, that this simply isn’t true!

I got pregnant as a teenager. I got married at 18. My husband was making only $24,000 a year when our first son was born. And you know what? We have been living off of one income for the past 12.5 years.

Was it easy? No. No it wasn’t.

What teenager wants to go from living in a wealthy home in a nice neighbourhood, to living in a mouse infested trailer in the trailer court? What woman (or man) wants to be stuck at home all day with a baby because there’s no money for a second vehicle? What teenage new mother wants to stop wearing makeup and buying new clothes because she can only afford the used ones? Or go without internet, satellite, or a smartphone (gasp!) and settle instead for a landline.

Not very many – I assure you. Not very many are willing. But don’t tell me it’s not possible! I’ve lived it.

But here’s the thing: my baby boy couldn’t care less whether he was laying on designer sheets, in a fancy house, with a well decorated nursery – or a plain white sheet, in a used crib, in a trailer.

All that mattered to him was that he was being loved and tenderly cared for.

Now don’t get me wrong….I’m NOT saying you need to homeschool or stay at home and live on one income to raise good children. But you do need time. And it’s not the governments fault that we haven’t made time for our kids.

It’s our own busy lives that do that.

If us parents would be really honest with ourselves, all that stuff we buy for “them” is really not for them at all!

It’s for us.

The fancy themed bedrooms with matching decor, the name brand outfits bought for that perfect photo shoot, the outrageous Pinterest birthday parties, with the perfectly decorated cakes (as I gulp…guilty over here 🙋🏼‍♀️) …all these things never were really for them in the first place. They were for us. To boost our egos. To make up for what we fear we lack. Social Media and Pinterest have only fueled this struggle for parents because deep down we want our kids to have the best childhood! We really do!

Yet, I look at so many children and do you know what I see? Emptiness. Sadness. Disconnectedness. The result of parents not giving them what they deeply wanted and needed all along.

Parents: All your children want is YOU! From day one. This is why the new fancy toy set you just bought for them remains in the corner a few days (or hours) later while they whine and cry at your feet…they didn’t really want it in the first place. They just want YOU!!

Twelve years have gone by. My husband went back to school for a college degree and got a job in a field he loves. Four more kids have been added to our home. My oldest boy is in grade 7 and has been in the public school system now for the past couple years. My husband is making a lot more and we are living in my dream home in the country. But we still are making “sacrifices” so that I can stay home. And somehow, looking at the relationship that we have with our kids, I no longer see them as sacrifices. I willingly give up a finished basement, a shiny new vehicle, or a perfectly manicured yard to finish raising my children well – to have them feel safe and loved and connected. To have time to teach them to work hard, to volunteer, to cook and clean.

And I don’t worry about the negative affect of the school systems policies, because I’ve done the hard work at home. No matter what happened at school, I know my boy can come home and talk about it with me, feeling safe and loved. It wasn’t up to the school to raise him.  It wasn’t up to his coaches to teach him respect, or up to his Sunday school teachers to teach him about God and morals. It was my job! And unfortunately not all parents understand this!

Parenting is a hard, draining, often uncertain and lifelong commitment. It’s a parents job to teach respect and morals. And in Canada we still have so many opportunities and freedoms to do so! You know the best way to change your country? It’s not simply changing the government. It’s raising the next generation to be confident, caring, compassionate, hardworking individuals who believe that their most important job in life isn’t the one that pays them to be there, but rather their responsibility to the lives around them.

You want to change Canada? Then do!

But don’t try to change it by copying and pasting some whiny rant against the government. Change it, one person at a time, by taking responsibility for what’s happening in your own home.