Raising Children

This is going to be  a hard post to write. To be all flowery about the subject would be easy but being completely honest is going to be tough.  Honest with myself as much as with you.
Raising children is never easy. I’ve watched enough of my friends with no psychological  issues have a hard time to know that much.
So what is it like to try to raise good children when you have the added burden of a psychological diagnoses or a completely s**tty upbringing?
Well… it’s hard. Much more difficult than I ever imagined.
I chose to have my 3 children and wanted them very much. They were planned and I was excited to become a mother. I was also terrified. I was so afraid that I would fall in to the same patterns that my mother and father did with me. It really didn’t help that members of my birth family had many discussions about what a horrible parent I was going to be. Today, I can ignore their rude, hurtful and demeaning comments but 22 years ago, I didn’t have the clarity that I have today and their words haunted me.
Thankfully my friends assured me that I was going to be just fine and that my “instincts” would kick in once I had  the baby.
So what was it really like for me?
I gave birth to my first child and  didn’t have a clue as to what to do with him. That mothers instinct is only an instinct if you were actually given that care when you were young. Since I wasn’t? I was absolutely at a loss for what to do or how to do it. I started taking parenting classes when my first child was only 4 or 6 weeks old. The nurse (bless her), could see how little I knew and she actually wrote things out for me.
“If he cries, check his diaper, see if he is too warm or too cold, give him something to eat, give him a cuddle then repeat until he stops crying.”
Simple right? Well I felt like an alien doing it all and NOTHING felt natural. Eventually it started to click and by the time I had my second child, “instinct” had found me.
Some stages were easier than others but I did a lot of things and made a lot of choices that others would not have. Children’s services were called MANY times because people took my lack of knowledge or odd ways of thinking to mean that the children were neglected or uncared for in some way. For me this only added an incredible amount of self-doubt. Children’s services always came, investigated and assured me that the children were getting everything they needed and I was doing a great job but the fact that they were called as often as they were was a huge blow to my confidence.
Then came teenagers. OH BOY! I know that teenagers are hard for almost anyone to raise but when you have such a degree of self-doubt and still feel very unloved or completely unworthy of affection, having your child who you’ve loved with all your heart for years turn around and hate you? It doesn’t matter if it’s “normal”. It has an extra kick to it and it makes you really feel that lack of love from all your many years of growing up.
I love my children. They have never been harmed by me even with ignorance, they are turning out to be amazing young adults. One is almost done his 5th year or university, another has completed college and is working full-time, the third is in her last year of high school with solid plans for college. They are good people with kind hearts. Success right?
In many ways? Yes. I’ve been very successful and they are all doing well. I am incredibly proud of that.
On the flip-side? In many ways… I have suffered. I did not know about setting healthy personal boundaries, taking care of my own needs, making time for myself, being able to separate myself from their hurtful teenage comments and so forth. I am proud of the job I did with them but the physical and psychological cost to me was high. I ignored myself and I ignored my own needs. My 3 wonderful children are not the cause of that. It was me. I never sorted out my own issues before having them. I had never been taught to care for myself before I ventured in to taking care of others.
In the end? I guess I write this post because I think a lot of parents struggle and are afraid to say just how tough they find raising their children. As though admitting that you feel overwhelmed is a failure in itself. It’s not and you are not alone.
I also want to impart a bit of advice to younger folks who are either trying to decide if they want children or their children are still very young… Take care of you first! Go get therapy, take classes, learn how to take care of your own needs first and foremost. Build your self-esteem. Find activities that you enjoy that can help reduce the stresses of daily life and parenting. Build a supportive network of good people around you. When you know how to take care of yourself, taking care of a little one will be a much more natural and fulfilling experience.
And to everyone else who’ve already had their children years ago and done their best to raise them or people who’ve chosen to not have any? Be proud of how far you’ve come and know that you make huge contributions to this world no matter what life has thrown at you.
Take care of yourselves. Really look at what you need and what you want. You truly deserve it.

9 responses to “Raising Children

  1. Fantastic post Heather! You have honestly and lovingly looked at painful issues and nailed the critical solutions. I wish I had read all this in my earlier years … I may have chosen to have children. I chose not to bc I felt too “damaged” to be a good parent.
    Please keep up the great work.
    Sue

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  2. yeah I struggled for years- I wanted to want kids, but didn’t feel I would be emotionally capable of doing it even halfway right. When I finally worked through some particular issues, it sort of opened up the idea for me. Now I want a kid, but I have to get my physical health up to par. sheesh… it never ends!
    Great, honest post.

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  3. So brave of you to write this post Heather. You should be rightly proud of the wonderful job you have done with your children. How many first time mothers actually go to parenting classes?!? And even if they had great parents, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will be good and knowledgeable parents themselves. Also, it’s a crying shame Child Services weren’t more efficient when YOU were a child.xxx

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  4. I know this probably sounds terrible but i can’t bare to look back at my child’s childhood. He is an adult now and an incredible person but i also know there are so many things i could have done so so much better. Your beautiful children are very lucky to have such an amazing mum 🙂

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