You Can’t Know How You’re Doing as a Parent
Parenting can feel like a thankless job. With toddlers, there are the unpredictable tantrums erupting from the strangest of grievances (“No wanna climb stairs!”), the endless trips to the potty (and countless loads of laundry for the inevitable misses), and the CIA-level deciphering of a nonstop stream of gibberish (“Eee meow wit Dada!” translates to “I want to eat a banana with Dad!”). I do enjoy a spontaneous hug or sloppy kiss from my two-year-old now and then, but parents seem on par with teachers, social workers, and garbage collectors in the realm of underappreciated occupations.
Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately), you don’t receive regular performance evaluations as a parent. Improved collection of feces and urine in lavatory in Q1, but you fell below performance goals in Q2. You have no idea if you’re raising an empathetic, responsible member of society until your child is about 38 years old and most of their/her/his personality kinks have been ironed out. Until then, we’re left guessing as to how our parenting is impacting our little humans.
In the absence of any assuredness that my parenting efforts are benefiting my child, I’m motivated by love, hope, and a healthy dose of worry (“I’ve got to do better than my parents did so you don’t end up like me — an emotionally incontinent, middle-aged writer.”).
I’m walking blind toward an unknowable future and hoping all this mindfulness stuff I’m using is actually working. I do my best to remain calm and positive with my daughter, even when her shrieks are piercing my skull. I take a deep breath and center myself. If I’m still feeling overwhelmed, I walk away and look out the window for a moment. If I’m completely overwhelmed, I’ll hand her to my husband, tell him I need a moment, take a walk around the block. 90% of the time, I’m playful and patient with her, and I haven’t raised my voice at her yet.
Occasionally, the exhaustion of maintaining my composure in front of my daughter overtakes me and I find myself expelling my frustration at other targets. I become irritated at my husband for the most inane reasons (“You didn’t close the lid on the Tupperware all the way!”) or annoyed with general life stuff (“Why am I getting heartburn…