What no one tells you about parenting

My son just left home for the first time to go across the country to college.  I have been surprised by the depths of my emotion.  It's one of the things that mom's don't seem to talk about enough, or even at all.  So I am going to talk about it- What No One Tells You About Parenting

This parenting gig is tough stuff.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into 18 years ago when I became a mom.  I didn't know how hard it would be and I didn't know how absolutely amazing it is.


When your baby is a newborn, everything is hard.  Because it's new and you're sleep deprived.  I remember leaving the hospital with my first child, incredulous that they were letting me leave because I felt sooooo terrible after having a tough labor and recovery.  Not only were they discharging me, I was expected to take a tiny human with me and keep him alive.  I knew it would be difficult because I had no idea how to be a mom.  But I figured I would get used to it, and get back to my regular self with a best, little buddy around all the time.

Haha, oh the naivety.  It stayed hard.  I mean- I got used to diaper changes, taking half my house with me every time I left with my child, and breastfeeding.  But the changes in me were permanent.  There was no going back to who I was before.  I looked forward to my kid growing because I just knew the next phase of his life was going to be easier.


Then he became a toddler.  And I got pregnant with his little sister.  The difficulties of my first newborn, had nothing on the difficulties of having a toddler and a newborn at the same time.  Add in that the toddler couldn't communicate because of a speech delay and we were frustrated all of the time.  When I would nurse his sister, that toddler would tear the house apart.  Bless us.  It was rough.  He got some therapy and learned to communicate and I just knew it would be easier when he got older.

The night before he started kindergarten, I sat on my bedroom floor and cried.  It felt so wrong that I was going to drop my baby off at a school with people I didn't know... ALL DAY LONG.  Would they love him the way he needed to be loved?  Would he have friends?  Would he understand his school work?  Sheesh.  It was so hard.  I knew once he got used to school, it was going to be easier.

Grade School and Middle School

Grade school passed with only a few minor skirmishes with teachers and administration.  It was hard for a spirited kid to reign in his energy and adhere to the rules, but we eventually figured it out together.  He grew to be a very smart and charming kid, who was loved by all of his teachers, which continued through middle school.  We even made it through puberty.  I had heard that teen years were tough, but I figured it couldn't be any harder than the toddler years.  Oh, I had so much to learn.

High School

At the beginning of freshman year, he decided to play high school football.  I thought it was a joke at first because he was a band kid who liked to play video games and do things the easiest way possible.  But he went to those work outs, got yelled at by his coaches and learned the hard way how to play a game he had never played before.

Freshman year also brought a higher rigor of classes that he was unprepared for.  He had to learn to work diligently on the football field and in the classroom.  He had to learn to follow through on everything and it didn't come easily.  There were so many homework battles, failed tests, and lots of football practice with very little football play time.  I just knew it would get easier once he got older.  (One would think I would have learned by now)

Senior year rolled around.  He had gotten the hang of his homework (he had a 4.0 gpa from sophomore year on) and his hard work in the weight room and on the field had paid off.  He gained a bunch of muscle and was going to be a starting player on the football team.  We were all soooo excited!  I thought all of the difficulties we had experienced were finally going to come to fruition  and it was going to finally get easier.

During the 2nd game of the pre season, my son took a bad hit and tore the MCL in his knee.  Since he had to be in a wheel chair for his knee to heal, he couldn't play football, work out, drive and he was in a bunch of pain.  He went through a depression as he sat on the sidelines of the football field and watch his team play without him.  Oh my goodness, it was so hard.  He eventually healed and got in a few plays in the last 2 games of his senior season but was so disappointed that the long awaited and hard worked for senior football season did not turn out the way he had hoped. I thought nothing could be harder than watching my son go through that.

He graduated with honors and received a scholarship to go to BYU Idaho.   As I watched him spend months working to save money for school, I was preparing my heart for him to leave.  And that is when I realized something and that is the part that I want to share- parenting doesn't get any easier. 

Every stage of parenting is hard

Being a sleep deprived, diaper changing milk machine with a newborn is hard!  Chasing a maniac toddler that doesn't understand no is hard!  Dropping your child off at Kindergarten is hard.  Guiding your tween through puberty is hard.  Watching your child navigate social and physical challenges, while balancing school, work and high school sports is hard!  And witnessing your child leave the nest to go off and start their life at college has been so hard because my day to day mothering of him is over.  I thought I had prepared myself for him to leave for college, but just like how I felt in each stage of his life, I didn't understand the depths of how hard parenting is.

It's hard because not only is he gone, but I have been questioning myself.
  • Did I teach him enough?  
  • Did I set a good example for him?  
  • Does he know how to take care of himself?  
  • Did I instill in him a desire to work hard?  
  • Did I help him to know what's most important in life?  
I'm not sure what the answer is to any of those things except that I tried my best.  As Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."  

I became a better mom as my kid got older.  I calmed down a bit, was less demanding, had fun, and tried let things go.  And even when I screwed up, which was often, I got up every single day, recognized my faults and tried again.  I showered that kid (and his sister and brother) with as much love as I possibly could while keeping up with all of the duties and expectations of a mother.  I tried to teach him the important things in life by word and by example.

Nothing I have done or said will prevent him from making mistakes.  That's a part of life.  But I know that he has a good head on his shoulders and he will figure it out.

Keep Going

What am I doing now?  And what should you do if your kid has left/is leaving home?  Just keep going.  Keep living your life.  You still have to take care of yourself, your home, your job and your other kids.  But while you're doing that, here is my advice:

  • Let yourself be sad.  It is ok to miss your child.  I have cried more in the past week than I have in years.  
  • Reduce expectations of yourself.  While life still has to go on, I have been gentle with myself.  While I normally cook dinner every night, we have gotten take out this week.   I have watched a bunch of Netflix with my kids and I have been reading.
  • Get your feelings out.  Do this however is best for you.  Talk to your friends, your therapist or whoever is in your tribe that will listen.  The best way for me to do this is journal, talk with my mom and talk with my friends.  All of my people have been so supportive.
  • Rest.  When I am experiencing big feelings, it makes me SO tired.  I need extra rest.  So I go to bed early and take naps.  
  • Get some exercise.  This is contrary to what I naturally want to do, but truly, moving your body is really helpful.  Stretch, go to yoga, take a fitness class, go for a walk.  Do something to get your natural endorphins going.  
  • Retail Therapy.  Getting out of the house and buying a few Halloween goodies in the Target Dollar spot put a big smile on my face and gave me hope for a fun Halloween.  
  • Have some treats.  I have eaten a bunch of candy, which is therapeutic for me.  Not sure why junk food makes me feel better, but it does.  

While some of these things aren't super healthy and wouldn't be good to do long term, it's ok to do once in awhile like when you are experiencing big changes in your life like this!  Dr. Candice is telling you that it's ok!

While Parenting is hard no matter what age your kids are, I can unequivocally tell you that it is worth the sleep deprivation, the chaos, going through puberty again (with your kids), struggling through the tween and teen years and watching the car drive away as they go to college.  Parenting is so hard but so worth it!  

linking up to:  Inspire Me Monday   Your Whims Wednesday   Wonderful Wednesday