Parenting is Stressful
It’s part of the reason why it’s so pleasurable.
I was on my way to babysit for my daughter the other night when I heard a young man yelling on the phone in a very aggressive and hostile manner.
“You’re the stress in my life mom,” he bellowed, “just like I’m the stress in yours!”
From his tone, I’ve no doubt he was telling the truth. About his mother’s perspective anyway!
Children are a huge source of stress to their parents (not the other way around of course!). They can’t help it. We have so many hopes and dreams, so many sleepless nights and harried days, so much physical effort and emotional effort invested in them. How can it not be stressful?
Watching them face life’s challenges, figuring out when to gently nudge and when to hold back, worrying over their choices, their future. It’s stressful just writing this article!
We make a mistake expecting parenting to be a walk in the park, as opposed to a “run yourself ragged” adventure in the park.
Rabbi Weinberg, zt”l, used to ask, “What’s your greatest pleasure?” Children were always the answer, a direct result of the famous Jewish dictum that the more you give, the more you care. Then he would continue “What’s your greatest pain?”
The answer was always, “My children.”
But it is clearly a mistake (that we make a million times a day) to focus on the stress instead of on the pleasure. How can we alter our perspective? (We can look at the mess of all the dress-up clothes strewn across the floor or we can appreciate that our children are engaged in creative play, in any play, that they’re leaving us alone!
Grocery shopping and meal preparation can be a repetitive chore or an opportunity to nurture a growing family, to provide nutritious meals and spark meaningful conversations.
Adolescence can be…well maybe we won’t go there.
We can view our young adults as aimless and unsettled as they go from school to school or job to job or we can see them as trying to figure out their future in a thoughtful fashion, being determined not to settle but to choose.
Their challenges, like ours, can be seen as road blocks and obstacles (and yet another reminder that life just isn’t fair) or a chance to learn, to grow, and ultimately to connect to the Almighty.
The list of examples is endless – as are the difficult moments. We don’t need to sugarcoat this and you wouldn’t believe me anyway if I did!
It’s stressful. There’s probably no greater stress. But there’s probably no greater joy either. We would do it all again for that one smile from an infant, that one homemade mother’s day card, that softly uttered “thank you”, that nachas of seeing the lovely adult they’ve become. (And I didn’t even mention the grandchildren!)
My husband is fond of saying that “puppies would have been easier”. He’s right. There would have been less stress. But correspondingly so much less pleasure (no slight on puppies intended). As it says in Ethics of Our Fathers, “According to the effort is the reward.” Nowhere is this a truer point!