The other day I told my sister-in-law that the hardest part of parenting is having compassion for your children. It seems like it would be really easy, but it’s not. It’s something you have to actively practice.
I learned this early on in my mom journey. As you probably know if you’re reading this, when babies are first born, they don’t want to sleep anywhere but your arms. They just came out of a nice, comfy womb, and they don’t want to go into a big bassinet. They want to be warm and snuggly. On some level, this is great. You get lots of cuddle time with your new baby.
It’s less great when you haven’t slept and you’re exhausted, especially when you’ve just given birth (AKA sent your body through some trauma). So, it would be four in the morning, and I would be at my wit’s end. All I wanted was for him to sleep so that I could sleep. But he would cry until I picked him up. It was maddening.
But there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t really fix the situation. In that moment, the best and absolute hardest thing you can do is practice compassion. Remember that your baby has also gone through the trauma of being born, and all they want is to be close to you. Their senses are overloaded. They’re also tired and hungry and dealing with lots of emotions. As I say to my son when I’m comforting him, “It’s so hard to be a baby.”
This isn’t exclusive to babies either. Children are constantly learning, growing, and figuring out how to live in the world. They are also equally capable of pushing our buttons, driving us crazy, and being exhausting.
But the reality is that your children are not trying to drive you crazy. They’re not trying to make your life harder or deliberately keep you from sleeping. They’re just also trying to get by. They rely on you to take care of them and help them to regulate their emotions. This means you have to regulate your emotions, and you have to have compassion for what they are also going through.
But I’m not going to act like this is easy because it’s not. That’s why it requires practice. I am not perfect at this. When my son is screaming, I have to take a moment. I have to take a deep breath and remember, “It’s so hard to be a baby.”
When I said to my sister-in-law that compassion for your kids is the hardest part of parenting, she said, “Well, that’s the hardest part of being human.” I think she’s right. But I also think parenting is a unique challenge because it’s a constant struggle. You are constantly struggling with lack of sleep, self-care, and your emotional state. So, you have to actively remember to practice compassion. You have to actively remember that your children are going through it too, and they need you.
That’s the reality of parenting.