Forget night feeds, tantrums and potty training – my number one parenting struggle is trying to navigate the constantly conflicting emotions that any mum or dad faces every single day. This is the side of parenting that nobody warns you about, presumably because it is almost impossible to explain to non-parents.
You think you understand your emotions before you have children. Sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re excited, sometimes you’re sad and sometimes you’re angry. Simple, right? These emotional urges are what make us human beings. What I didn’t realise was that the moment you become a parent all of those emotions are instantly magnified to a point that your pre-child self seems like a zen robot.
These little people possess the innate ability to take us from a bubble of love to a raging maniac to tears of overwhelm and back again, sometimes within the same 15 minute period. And this is exhausting. This is what makes parenting the most difficult job in the world, not just the physical or financial challenges you imagine before your baby arrives.
The best way to explain this is to give examples of the jarring emotional ride parents experience every single day.
You are jolted awake by your toddler’s shouts for toilet/drink/lost toy at 6.30am. After he has already been up half the night your body feels like a wreck and you are unable to open your eyes fully. You avoid your bedroom mirror in fear of the monster staring back at you as you stumble towards the door. The twelve hours before bedtime loom ahead of you and you wonder how you’ll ever make it without slipping unconscious.
Your wide awake child greets you with a big grin, a sloppy morning kiss and some amusing inane chatter, and you feel a rush of adoration and affection which helps to steady you for the day.
Your child takes ten minutes to pick a breakfast cereal, and once you’ve poured it he changes his mind. He insists on leaving the table no less than five times during the meal to use the potty. After a full breakfast he says he’s hungry and wants chocolate.
At his toddler class, your child gets fully involved with the tasks and is so funny and cute the other parents and class leader look on in awe. Your heart swells and you can’t stop grinning.
Your child has a nuclear grade meltdown on the bus because you won’t allow him to continuously press the bell. You hold back humiliated tears while he struggles in your arms and old ladies tut and stare.
If you have to do one more puzzle or build one more Lego house you’re convinced your brain will disintegrate. You only spoke to another adult two hours ago but it may as well be a week.
Your child empties every single puzzle box while you’ve nipped to the loo and has mixed up what took you two hours on Sunday to sort out. You tell him off and he flies into a rage requiring the naughty step which only exacerbates the issue until you have to give yourself a time out too.
He asks to snuggle with you to watch a movie and randomly kisses your cheek. You stroke his hair and think about how perfect he is.
Bath and bedtime story complete, your little one finally snuggles in bed and tells you he loves you. You close the door, release a satisfied sigh and turn on your favourite boxset.
None of these emotions alone are enough to break you but the rocketing combination and the way your mind is flung violently from one to another, in as little as a single day (or hour), is the epitome of the perfect emotional storm that we call parenting.
Fortunately, bedtime always comes. And with it, wine.
This post was originally written for The Huffington Post, please feel free to follow me over there by clicking here.