Why Is Parenting So Hard?

What's Covered

You might wonder how come the parent-life you have right now is far too different from how you’ve imagined it to be. Back in the day, as you talk about relationships and building a family, you would think about how you would raise your children. You aim to be the parent you’ve always wanted to have. Then fast-forward, 10 years passed, you’re in your car screaming and crying out of frustration over your 2-year-old child.

How did parenting become so hard when it seemed so easy in my mind? What are the factors that make parenting difficult?  Here are 3 factors.

1.     Parental Expectations

Everyone has expectations. It is one factor why parenting gets hard. Attending to an adjusting new human, and adjusting to everything increases the number of expectations on yourself. As the child grows, their needs change just in time where we just got used to their past needs. Difficulties in parenting have many underlying reasons that influence the expectations we set on ourselves and our kids.[1] Where do these come from, and how does it affect our parenting greatly?

Personal Expectations                                                   

One thing all parents do is telling us their ‘Back in my day’ stories. But the world where they grew up is a very much different world than where they raised us in. That is also the same case for our children. When we strive to give our children what we never had, the memories of our past becomes our motivation. We don’t want them to be as uncomfortable as we were.[2]

The thing is, we have given our kids a new norm. Everything they have now is their norm, and it is far from ours. We are still adjusting to the new norm because we aren’t wired to look at the world the way they do. We usually fill these expectations with the things we wanted we didn’t have. So when we can provide those needs to our kids, we expect them to react the way we would if they did it to us. We unconsciously want our kids to be better versions of ourselves. 

The hard part here is children are smart copycats and there’s a very thin line between too many expectations and too few expectations. You give too much and they feel bombarded. You give too few; they feel you don’t believe in their abilities at all. But once you find that perfect spot where your child feels confident about himself while feeling your support, things will get better. But always prepare to adjust time and time again to suit your children’s needs.

Social Status

Our social status is a big part of our life. It plays a role in our decision-making, daily lives, and even in child-rearing. Some people might say it’s just a title, but for many, it is a name that they should maintain. For example, you are a teacher. Your social standing as a respected teacher should reflect on the qualities of your child. People will look for the attributes you have and cross-match them to your child’s attributes.[3]

The problem here is, as our child develops his own identity, we see that there are lots of differences in how the child is and the way we think they should be. What makes parenting hard in this situation is when we get frustrated with the progress of our children, we control them. This results in behavioral, relationship, and self-esteem problems as they feel the need to please people. If left as it is, the chances of your child falling into peer-pressure is very high.

As parents, we must teach our children the importance of self-love, identity, and respect. Respect doesn’t mean conforming to everyone else’s preferences. It is simply accepting each person’s differences. We must show our kids that despite our social status, they can freely pick what they want to be and support them throughout. 

Generation Gap

I often look at my kids at night when they sleep and say, ‘You won’t get to experience the hardships we had to go through to get to where we are’. And before I know it, I am in front of my child screaming how ungrateful he is with the food I served him while other kids are hungry in poor countries and they have no choice. The gap in generations is building more gaps between the parents and children because of the lack of understanding that they view the parent-child relationship differently.[4]

People from our generation understand the commonalities our era presented while the current world presents a different new generation of our children. We need to understand that most of the problems we had before can be non-existent now, and problems in this generation could be far more serious than how it was in our time. It needs more understanding and patience.

  The difficult thing about the generation gap is the change. We have to get on the same page as our kids to better understand how their mind goes. Like I said before, we need patience, understanding, selflessness, and unconditional love. It is our job to understand them, even though we grew up understanding things ourselves. We have to adjust our mindset to the new norm that our kids are living in. Do not let the generation gap give your family a big relationship gap.

2.     Parental Anxiety

Anxiety can get the most of us, especially in parents. When our babies came, anxiety came with them too. Anxiety is present in our daily lives. We’re anxious about their breathing, bumps, and bruises. It just never ends! But did you know our children can also be anxious because of our anxiety? It does!

Why Are Parents Anxious?

                   Parents love their children usually much more than they love themselves. However, too much love can cause problems, too. Apart from the daily worries of parents about basic needs, they are also concerned about the kids’ psychological needs. Parents might not have these worries before. And when they had children, they now have a responsibility for a lifetime.

               Parents are not just responsible for the current needs and short-term outcomes, but they keep in mind the effects of their parenting on the child’s growth. You won’t be able to notice the effects of your parenting decisions until your kids are already making their own. By that time, you cannot change anything. A future depends on a parent’s choices, and a simple mistake can ruin your child for the rest of his life. If you get scared of enormous responsibilities in your workplace, how will you be calm and confident with your choices for your kids?

Parenting seemed so easy when we are the ones on the other side, receiving all the parenting, but now that we’re on the flip side, we understand that it’s more than just choices.

What Are Parents Anxious About?

                 Do you remember being told by your mom to be nice as she walks to a friend? Parents have a fear of judgment. It triggers our social anxiety, especially when in front of people who knew us or people we look up to. We are afraid to be told that our parenting skills are failing our kids, or worse, our kid has no future with his behavior. Parents with this anxiety usually have a childhood experience. It may be a constant comparison or a memorable humiliation.

Apart from this, most parents also have General Anxiety Disorder which might be the reason we worry too much about our kids’ friends, their activities, their health, their grades, their plans, their dreams, their thoughts, their passions, and many other things all at once. These issues are coming out of just one source. Add up the work, bills, family matters, plans, and other responsibilities a parent might have. Parents would usually worry about how to continue providing everything, how to keep up with the changes the kids are needing, and how do we keep the communication when the child is slowly closing in his privacy.

And in most cases, if a parent had just gotten from a separation with the spouse, separation anxiety can also take a toll on the parenting. Parents with separation anxiety go wherever their children will go with the fear of losing them, too. This leads parents to be overprotective, strict, fearful, and doubtful of their kids.[5]

How Does Parental Anxiety Affect Their Children?

                  Like the saying ‘Hurt people hurt people,’ anxious parents raise anxious kids, too. Children mirror everything they see in their parents. EVERYTHING. And as parents show signs of anxiety and frustration with control, children are susceptible to adopt these behaviors. Both the mother and father contribute to the mental health of the child and different types of anxiety are shown to give a child anxious outcomes.[6]

                When a parent shows anxiety by being overly protective, children will lose confidence, question their abilities, and avoid risky decisions because of the fear of failing. Fear changes lots of things. So, if a child is fearful, it may also affect their social behaviors. These kids are prone to bullying, peer pressure, and people-pleasing.

Because parents already hindered them from experiencing and learning from natural things and responsibilities, these children will have difficulty in independence and self-sufficiency. It will challenge them in making choices because parents have chosen almost everything for them as they are growing up. And when the time comes that these children are about to build their own families, the chances of having the same anxiety issues will be pretty high.[7]

3.     Unexpected Circumstances

When you’re a parent, things can go from best to worst in a snap. Lots of things can happen. Parenting gets harder when you face challenges that can affect the life of your child. Once we’re in the middle of an unexpected circumstance, we try to take control of things. It takes away the time for us to make an effort to be closer to our children. These unexpected occurences have a negative effect on children.What are the common unexpected corcumstances that contributes to the difficulty of parenting?

1.      Unemployment

When parents get unemployed, children in ages 6 above can absorb negative tendencies. If the father is the one who lost the job, the children may become anxious about what they need. Children who grew up with financial problems are usually more cautious with how they handle money and would sometimes ignore their personal needs because of the fear that what the parents have is not enough.[8]

Unemployment also increases the risk of neglect in child rearing because parents will be focusing on finding a new job. Neglect can lead to anxiety, depression, and insecurity. Making time for the kids will be harder and by the time that you’ll have the chance to bond with them, they would be minding their own business and they might even push you away because that’s the usual thing for them to do.

Trust in parents are harder to be found in this season and we know that. We were so used to parents being ‘too much’ for us that we question every action. When a parent is unemployed, promises get broken and children lose trust. From being excited after every achievement, kids wil opt not to tell parents what they want or need because it becomes apparent that the parents cannot fulfill the promises. Apart from parental distrust, it can cause trust issues outside the home.

2.      Pregnancy

Pregnancy is tough. Especially when it is not planned.  You have to deal with hormones while nurturing a baby inside the womb. The stress it brings to parents are remarkable! Not only should you worry about your growing toddler but you have to be careful with the baby you’re carrying, too.[9]

When an only child suddenly gets a sibling, you’ll be dealing with two different people. They differ in personality, preferences, and progress. One can be easy, the other may give you fatigue. Because you’re dealing with two (or more) different little people, it is hard to adjust every minute to pacify your children.

                When raising children while pregnant, it is hard to discipline, connect, and bond with your child. This can cause the siblings to be jelous of the new baby. Negative effects on older kids can also be evident in attitude and behavior.

3.      Abuse

Whether you grew up in an abusive household or you are being abused by a family member, parenting is a lot harder. You have fear for your life and for the life og your kids. Paranoia can eat you alive and affect your parenting and how your child will grow.

I grew up with an abusive father and my mother was absent. She went abroad and found a loving husband while we deal with the abusive father we have. Now that I am a parent, the trauma is still evident. I would have panic attacks at night when I hear footsteps and voices like my father’s outside. I would still hear him calling for my name with his drunk voice and I would tremble.

I now have two boys, but whenever I panic when things in my head seems real, my boys would look at me with worry. They would verbally tell me that they do not want me to get hurt. They are now overprotective of me.

As a parent, when your child seems to conclude that they are supposed to be protecting you, it feels like you have failed. Thus, it makes parenting a lot a harder. 

How To Battle These Factors To Make Parenting Easier?

                We’ve talked about 3 factors that make parenting hard. What now? Should we go now and contemplate on our mistakes? No way! Let me share with you how to battle these factors and make parenting a tad bit easier. This way, we can spot the additional baggage we put in our hearts and remove them one by one.

How to Avoid Unrealistic Expectations In Life?

                Frankly, we can’t remove unrealistic expectations at all. It is a normal thing for everyone to set unrealistic expectations but don’t let that take the humanity away from you. Whether you’re setting expectations on yourself or on others, take the time to ponder on it. If these expectations are for yourself, try composing it like you’re gonna say it to a family member or a close friend. Would you still say the same thing? Or if the expectation is for another person, put yourself in their position. Will it help you be better? Or it will only discourage you? Being compassionate is the key. Fewer expectations on others, more happiness for you. Always have in mind that expectations should motivate someone to do better so be compassionate when you set them. I love the book “5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and it really touched my heart how our kids show love in their own little ways even though we are somehow giving them too much. Clear and acceptable expectations will not just rebuild your child’s confidence but also your connection with your child.

5 Love Languages Of Children: The Secret To Loving Children Effectively
This book will help you understand your child’s non-verbal ‘I love you’s and enhance your understanding on how kids view their parents.

How To Beat Anxiety?

                Someone told me to live the day as if it was my last. No more worrying about tomorrow. But I know that it will take lots and lots of practice. Before we go on the practicing part, I want to share with you how to start, first.

                Reducing anxiety is hard. It takes more than not thinking about stuff. It needs perseverance, discipline, and trust. You might wanna start easy. Make a routine, set the plan, and follow it. Make sure you get time for yourself whether to take your coffee hot or crochet– just take a time off. Live your day in a way that when you look back tomorrow, you’re satisfied with your yesterday. You should get your body moving, too. Exercise, eat healthily and make sure you get enough sleep. When your body is feeling great, your mind will feel great, too. Just make sure you give yourself some love as you cannot love others without loving yourself first.

How To Win Over Unexpected Circumstances?

                They say prevention is better than cure. That’s why I urge newly-weds to save up first before having children so you can prepare for unemployment, damages, and all sorts of things. If you are already a parent, save up little by little. Saving money this way might be slower than other options but slow progress is still progress. You can also prepare your children for those things by giving them their own savings account. It’s best to not let them know about it until they are in the right age. This would be a great present for their graduation.

                If you are pregnant, take it easy on yourself. Instead of saying no to everything, try saying yes. Whenever your child ask for something, ask yourself “Why not?” If you can’t see any reason not to say no, say yes. This will boost your child’s confidence and he will have the assurance that you trust him. Spend lots of time with low impact activities like reading the book When We Became Four’ by Jill Cayl Weiner, playing board games and always eat together. Spend lots of time with your child now before the new baby takes your attention for a while.

When We Became Four: A Memory Book for the Whole Family
This book will help your older child prepare for the arrival of the new baby, teach him how to manage his expectations, and assure the love of both parents toward your child.

                And for the abused, seek help. Let a friend know or if you don’t have those, like me, there are online abuse support groups that can help you. You don’t have to be scared about saving your life because it will save your children’s sanity, too. It will help them make right choices when it’s their time to raise kids, too.

                Unexpected circumstances might look intimidating but being knowledgeable on how to beat it will be worth it for your kids. 

One Last Thing

                Parenting is hard because we love our kids so much. Having you here on this page reading what seems to be going wrong is a sign that you care for your kids and you want to know better at raising them. Always remember, parenting is a journey. We make mistakes, we cry, we get disappointed, and we get tired but I believe that happy parents are raising happy kids. As long as your kids are happy, you don’t have to worry. The only parents who say parenting is easy are parents who never get to do everything for their kids.

If you are struggling with anything listed above, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for help. It takes a village to raise good kids, and it takes a company to keep a parent sane. In the meantime, enjoy all the hardships of parenting because I assure you that when these babies are finally grown up, you’ll miss caring for them badly. You may feel like you’re failing your kids but just do your best. You’ll be hearing from them soon how grateful they ar that you are their parents.

[1]  Kalmuss, Debra, Andrew Davidson, and Linda Cushman. “Parenting expectations, experiences, and adjustment to parenthood: A test of the violated expectations framework.” Journal of Marriage and the Family (1992): 516-526.

[2] Roubeni, Sonia, et al. ““If We Can’t Do It, Our Children Will Do It One Day” A Qualitative Study of West African Immigrant Parents’ Losses and Educational Aspirations for Their Children.” American Educational Research Journal 52.2 (2015): 275-305.

[3] Bornstein, Marc H., et al. Socioeconomic status, parenting, and child development: The Hollingshead Four-Factor Index of Social Status and The Socioeconomic Index of Occupations. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2003.

[4] Shapiro, Adam. “Revisiting the generation gap: Exploring the relationships of parent/adult-child dyads.” The International Journal of Aging and Human Development 58.2 (2004): 127-146.

[5] Budinger, Meghan Crosby, Tess K. Drazdowski, and Golda S. Ginsburg. “Anxiety-promoting parenting behaviors: A comparison of anxious parents with and without social anxiety disorder.” Child Psychiatry & Human Development 44.3 (2013): 412-418.

[6] Beidel, Deborah C., and Samuel M. Turner. “At risk for anxiety: I. Psychopathology in the offspring of anxious parents.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 36.7 (1997): 918-924.

[7] van Brakel, Anna ML, et al. “A multifactorial model for the etiology of anxiety in non-clinical adolescents: Main and interactive effects of behavioral inhibition, attachment and parental rearing.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 15.5 (2006): 568-578.

[8] Kind, Michael, and John P. Haisken-DeNew. Unexpected victims: How parents’ unemployment affects their children’s life satisfaction. No. wp2012n02. Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, 2012.

[9] Anderson, Rosemary. “Stress and pregnancy.” Perspectives in Public Health 125.5 (2005): 215.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas