Why we don't have to enjoy every moment of parenthood

"Enjoy every moment, they grow up so fast."

How often have you heard this sentence?

Maybe you have turned to a friend or a family member and told them about a current hardship you are experiencing. Or worse, you asked in a Mom-Whatsapp group or, heaven forbid, social media. Maybe you were even at a low in your parenting life, and you just need advice. And then you get this...

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Did this answer work for you? Did you feel as if you were basically told to enjoy a problem or a difficult situation? And instead of feeling better in reality, you wind up feeling even worse.

I cannot tell you how often I was given this generic advice when I was looking for confirmation, constructive advice, and recognition for my hardship during motherhood. And I have grown to dislike it. Every time a parent tells me to enjoy every moment, I see a mask appearing in front of their face covering up all their personal hardships of parenting they are covering.

The thing is...We know how fast time flies. We see it happening right before our eyes, and it makes our hearts heavy.

Exhausting nights of no sleep and then those first smiles and laughter. Carrying them all day with an aching back and then seeing them crawl, stand up and walk for the very first time. The first time they call our name. We are experiencing all these moments, and at the same time, we are saying goodbye to them.

We enjoy so many moments but is it really possible to enjoy them all?

Do you know what I think?

I think every parent has the right to be in a bad mood every now and then. Every parent has the right to be annoyed by parenting, their husband, or their children.

So I am here to tell you:

No, you do not have to enjoy every moment of parenthood.

Good Vibes Only Is Not a Good Thing

It seems that nowadays, the mission of everyone is to find complete and utter happiness. We need to be positive all the time. Hundreds of videos on youtube, personal counselors, and motivational speakers telling you how to be positive during all life encounters.

Don't get me wrong. I am all about a positive mindset, and it undoubtedly plays a key role in a healthy, happy, and content life. But there are moments in life where this approach is not only unhelpful but can be destructive and harmful. Because the truth is that everybody at some point in their life will experience good and bad times.

Toxic Positivity Is Real

Toxic positivity refers to a state where one is always staying positive and positive only, ignoring, denying, or downplaying any sad or negative emotion.

Sadness, disappointment, anxiety, fear, worry, frustration, grief. All these emotions are authentic genuine emotions. Downplaying them with any positive phrases will not make them go away. Ignoring them will not make them disappear. Or have you ever really felt better and uplifted when someone told you "to look on the bright side" or "enjoy life because it's short"? Probably not, even if you have tried.

Forcing this mindless positivity on people can cause a feeling of shame, guilt, and ingratitude. It can make people feel unheard, unappreciated, and unacknowledged. And optimism is in no way helpful when it causes these kinds of feelings.

Related Article: 5 Quotes About the Importance of Self Care for Moms

Toxic Positivity and Social Pressure to Love Parenthood

It seems that this forced positivity is strongly present when it comes to parenthood. There is so much social pressure that parents should enjoy parenthood naturally all the time.

Having children is a voluntary choice, so parents are not allowed to complain. Otherwise, they seem ungrateful and whiny about something they chose to have.

But the truth is that especially parenthood is real turmoil of emotions and can take a toll on your mental health in ways you never thought of before. It brings up feelings from your own childhood and tests your relationship with your partner on a whole new level. You will encounter so many unfamiliar challenges without knowing how to navigate through them.

So when a parent trusts someone by opening up about their feelings or a struggle, it can be extremely hurtful and damaging to respond with the constant promotion of positive thinking. Sadly, some people will insinuate ungratefulness, first-world problems, or spoiled parents when they are not positive about everything parenthood has to offer. Unfortunately, these people don't seem to realize that those problems are real for those who experience them. Believe me, these 'complaining' parents know as well that there are much worse situations.

So yes, you can be grateful for your healthy family but still complain openly about bedtime because it is a daily battle. So yes, you can love the presence of your children and still find them clingy some days.

And aren't we parents told to accept every emotion our children go through, whether it is a positive emotion or a negative emotion? Aren't we told to help our toddlers through tantrums with acceptance rather than ignoring? Then why is it so difficult for so many adults to accept negative feelings in others? Why are we taught to bury our true feelings by having positive vibes all the time?

Why can't we parents just sometimes say that it sucks without being told 'nah, you gotta enjoy!"?

How to Offer Real Support

Positivity and happiness are not the only emotional choices parents have. We don't need to enjoy every moment, and we don't need other people to tell us that we should. Just as there are negative moments during relationships or at work, there will be negative moments during parenthood.

I firmly believe that most people respond with optimism because they want to make us feel better. Maybe they are not sure how to handle negative emotions, and they really don't know how to make us feel better in a different way.

I am a positive person and strongly believe in the power of positive psychology and positive affirmations. But we need to be able to handle negative emotions in a healthy way. There is a time for positivity, and there is a time for compassion and acknowledgment. And I also believe that for parents, compassion works much better.

We all have an obligation to show empathy and validation towards one another. We should not make other people give the impression that they need to suppress every difficult emotion or every negative experience with forced optimism. When a parent or any other person shares their feelings with disappointment and anger, then show them you share their feelings, too. Go down that road with them, and that's what will make them truly feel better. They want to feel heard instead of being told how to feel instead.

Related Article: 20 Powerful Affirmations for Mothers

How to Cope With Negative Emotions as a Parent

Research shows that when we accept our negative emotions instead of ignoring them, it will help us defuse them better and lead to fewer negative emotions over time, leading to better overall psychological health. In fact, trying to chase happiness will make us focus more on non-happy experiences and add up to more unhappiness overall.

Of course, I am not telling you to drown yourself in negative thinking. But you need to acknowledge hardship as well and allow yourself to experience uncomfortable emotions. This is the only way how you can process them. Often, we will look back at past struggles and see what we have learned from them.

Share your thoughts only with people who can show you compassion. Tell your partner what kind of response you really need in the future. Don't try to jump from sadness to happiness and gratitude, but first move on to accepting that something makes you feel bad. Analyze the situation, pinpoint what exactly makes you feel that way. Then think about ways that could help you find release, and you will slowly move your way up to building resilience and being able to cope better in the future with similar situations.

You will always encounter people who will tell you to be optimistic about everything during your lifetime job as a parent. But my dearest parent, I hope I could help you realize that there is no such thing as complete and utter happiness and that there doesn't have to be. You have every right to feel every range of emotion in every bit of your body and not feel bad about it.

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