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Having Trouble with Parenthood? You Are Not Alone
Judging from Huggies commercials, Gerber ads, and perhaps a select number of oddly giddy parents on the playground, there’s no more blissful experience than becoming a parent. One’s days are filled with the laughter of little children, the pride of school recitals, and the rapture of bake sales, soccer game victories, and family vacations.
However, many research studies – and an awful lot of parents if you ask them to be candid – paint another picture. While there’s certainly a lot of joy involved in parenthood, it is not unusual to also feel overwhelmed with negative feelings: anxiety, confusion, frustration, depression.
Parenthood also puts a lot of pressure on parents' relationship, which can lead to more stress.
Take heart. If you’re feeling more of the downside of being a parent lately, know that you’re not alone. Parents all feel the weight of parenthood at some time or another, some more than others. Here we’ll go over what research has to say about the demands of parenthood and some advice based on research to make the less-than-camera-ready moments it a little easier.
Parenthood Is Exhausting
More and more mothers have been speaking up about postpartum depression, and today people see it more as a normal physiological response experienced by some new mothers. What’s less talked about is that negative feelings can extend much beyond the first few months of a baby’s life: they can be felt throughout much of your child’s grade school and teenage years.
As most parents experience, taking care of a child and his or her many, many needs can be physically exhausting. Young babies need almost-constant care: they need to be fed every couple of hours, they wake up multiple times per night (making a good night’s sleep a thing of the past for you), and they may require specific (and bizarre) rituals to get them to eat, stop crying, or fall asleep. And then there is the never-ending supply of dirty diapers, soiled clothes, and the array of bodily fluids they bestow upon their parents with uncanny regularity.
The constant attendance to another person and lack of sleep can leave parents feeling physically run down and haggard. Studies have shown that when parents are fatigued, this can affect their overall well being, as well as their ability to respond to their children with sensitivity and confidence. Fatigued parents also show more frustration and irritability towards their kids, which means that it’s all the more important to learn how to cope with it.(1)
The physical exhaustion of parenthood is, of course, tightly coupled to mental exhaustion: in fact, it’s difficult to separate the two. The very act of taking care of a baby or child can be draining on many levels, emotionally, cognitively and psychologically. Let’s be honest, playing with teddy bears or transformers for hours on end is not the most stimulating activity for an adult. Focusing one’s attention on child games and kid-oriented activities can be wearying, so often parents just zone out. It’s easy to beat oneself up for not feeling mentally present 100% of the time, but these are feelings that most parents grapple with at some time or another.