Parenting Isn’t About Being Happier

Michael Levine once said, “Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” While some may own but hate a piano, a pianist only has true gratification and unconditional love for it.

A recent article in the New York Magazine, titled “All Joy and No Fun: Why parents hate parenting“, contemplates on the bewilderment around parenting. It’s a much debatable subject, that can get quiet sensitive for a lot of people.

Going through some of the reader comments at HN on the article, two candid comments struck me as something to remember. Rather than elaborating on the comments, I think it’s best to just preserve them in original as a source of insight:

Like everything in life, the thought of doing it, trumps the actual doing it. Finishing the basement, writing a novel, building the next great web app, raising kids all seem like great projects to embark on. But it’s the dark night of the soul, when you’re up for the 10 night in a row (or you have writer’s block or you realize you shouldn’t have cut that pipe, etc, etc).

Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Speaking as a member of GenX, our lives are so damn easy most of the time, when we run into problems, we don’t know how to handle it. However, we adjust.

I just can’t imagine how grandma raised 9 kids with no ER or acute care and little money. Wars, the great depression, death of a child, she went through it all. And they did hard physical labor every day.

The thing is we adjust, it’s hard at first, but we persevere.

When you watch your kid doing something you taught him/her, that’s just not a feeling you get from purchasing a new iPad. When you sit in structure you built or use a product you built you’ll know the feeling. It’s hard to explain but in the end, it’s worth it.

In all honesty, at times I too succumb to the mounting pressure of parenting. And I wonder, like millions of baffled parents, why is parenting hard? Humans have been having babies for thousands of years under much more difficult situations, so why is it now that parenting has suddenly emerged as a stressful chore?

The lens through which parenting is viewed here is too narrow. Parenting isn’t about being happier. It is about being a bigger and better person. Children make your life BIGGER. You feel moments of happiness like you’ve never felt before. You also feel moments of anger like you’ve never felt before.

It really is indescribable and not for the faint of heart or the selfish. The beautiful thing about parenting is that it shows you who you really are (not who you think you are), and gives you chances every day to grow.

It makes you see what really matters in life, assuming you actually come to this realization. I’ve seen plenty of people not realize this and fight to keep their identity, their original idea of what they wanted for themselves while also trying to be a parent. That doesn’t work.

Part of parenting is a certain amount of ego destruction. You have to go through that if you want to genuinely care for another human being.

This is what makes the experience of parenting so great. It is a kind of Zen experience of making yourself better by destroying your concept of self (and putting another ‘self’ first more than your own self would like).

Patience is an important catalyst in parenting, just as it is in learning to play the piano or doing anything meaningful in life. Happiness, is just a by-product. I feel that parenting is not just about loving your kid, spending quality time with them, being there when they need you and providing for them. Parenting is also about letting go of self-obsession.

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