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The Peaks and Valleys of Parenthood

Throughout our lives, we take on a lot of things that require a serious level of responsibility. We work stressful jobs, we become homeowners, and we enter into marriages. We want to be successful in all of these areas and of course, each of these things will have their own up and downs over time. For instance, you probably have weeks at work in which you close record amounts of sales or you take on a handful of new clients. Maybe every student in your classroom does well a test. These weeks are the best – you impress even yourself and you feel like a success. On the other hand, there are times when everything feels like a challenge. You get stuck in rush hour traffic and miss an important meeting. You spend three months losing ten pounds and you gain three back after one indulgent, irresponsible weekend. Or maybe your furnace kicks the bucket. Either way, these are the weeks when you want to crawl into a hole and hibernate for the remainder of this god awful winter.

And raising children, my friends, is no exception. In my short experience, I’ve learned that parenting is a long road filled with peaks and valleys. The good times go something like this: You get up early enough to work out AND cook a homemade breakfast for the kids before they wake up. You enjoy a large cup of fresh, hot coffee first thing in the morning because you remembered to pre-set the pot the night before. You have time to shower every day. You get everyone to school on time and you even have a few minutes to enjoy a second cup of coffee before starting your day at work. You’re on top of your game at home. The laundry hampers are empty and the clean clothes are neatly folded and put away. You even remembered to send thank you notes for your child’s birthday party in a record amount of time. Your kids sleep through the night for several nights in a row and you (almost) feel well-rested.  Such months (or days, even) are amazing. You feel like supermom. You’re so put together during these times that you might even consider having another child someday…….. Until you hit a rough patch, that is.

The months when everything runs smoothly are like the calm before the parenting storm. Something will inevitably come your way and throw wrench into your routine. You might recognize a rough patch to look something like this: The baby cuts a tooth, and thus spikes a fever, keeping you up all night for at least three nights in a row. You finally get him back to sleep around 5:00am only to wake up to your alarm a half hour later. You hit snooze these times, then fall back to sleep accidentally, causing you to miss your morning workout and your shower. You drag whatever kids are still asleep out of bed, throw clothes at them, and shove them into the car since they clearly missed the bus. You hand every one cereal bars for breakfast in the car as you head to the daycare, only to realize that you left your work bag, your purse, and your coffee at home. Mornings like this tend to snowball, causing you to become so exhausted that you can barely stand by the end of the long day. The kids will eat dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets or hot dogs and you will choose to skip dinner because you’re too tired to cook anything substantial. The laundry is overflowing, the floors haven’t been washed in weeks, and no one can remember if they’ve fed the dog.  Your children are fighting so much that it seems as though they might kill each other, and you’re considering allowing that to happen simply because you can’t take anymore fighting. Times like this make you wonder why you ever decided to raise children in the first place, and you daydream about your childless life as you wash off two-day-old mascara from your face. During a rough patch, there isn’t enough coffee on the planet to keep you from falling asleep at any given moment due to downright exhaustion.

You’ll have one or two moments when you feel like you can’t take another second of craziness, when you reach that point of no return. You’ll feel like you might need to lock yourself in the bathroom for a very long time solely because you haven’t peed in peace in months, and it’s usually at that exact moment that the parenting gods decide to take pity on you and throw you a bone (and a large glass of wine). Your schedule stabilizes and everyone seems to stay on routine once again. The kids quit annoying the hell out of you and the baby finally gives you a straight eight hours of rest. It’s amazing really – one or two nights of good sleep can make you feel like normal, functioning human being. And as quickly as you had fallen into your parenting pothole, things calm down.

Like everything, parenting is going to have its up and downs. My advice is this – enjoy the good times. Celebrate when things are calm. Don’t take the quiet moments for granted. And when you feel like the house is starting to get a little hairy, prepare yourself. Pre-set your coffee maker for a strong 12-cup pot and prepare for the cyclone of crazy children to come swirling through for the next couple of days. And if worst comes to worst, you can do what I am doing at this very moment – grab your wine glass, lock yourself in the bathroom, and hide in the tub until the rough patch passes.