I want to talk about a club that I belong to and, if you are reading this, you probably belong to as well. It’s an unusual club because the members are all so diverse and made up of different ages, colors shapes and sizes. It’s not exclusive to age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or socio economic background. Sadly, some don’t even want to be members of this club but they are. This club is called parenting.
Being part of this club reminds me of the expression they say at my eight-year-old’s school, same same but different. They talk about how people and families may seem the same but also may be different. I think that saying also applies perfectly to parenting– there are so many things that we are all dealing with that are the same but then we all have our own experiences, backgrounds, lenses and challenges that make it different for each person.
Parents span from teenagers to centenarians. I remember when I was pregnant with our first child and we did the hospital walkthrough in Berkeley, California. I looked around and saw women of all ages– someone who was probably a teenager, lots of folks in their 20s and 30s and some few folks in their 40s.. These were the folks having the babies. Their partners may have spanned even more years, anywhere from their teens up to their 80s.
Parents can be parents in so many ways—being a birth parent, being the non birth parent, fostering or adopting a child, marrying someone with kids, etc.
Even though there are so many things that are different about us as parents, there are so many things that are similar. We all have the challenges of trying to do our best to raise our kids, working to afford to have kids, wanting to give them as good or better a childhood we had, trying to mold them into productive members of society, waiting for them to get out of the house and then crying when they do.
Even though some of the challenges of raising children are the same, each of us has unique challenges of our own that other parents may not have. Here are some of the challenges that parents I have talked to in the last year have told me things they are going through:
- Middle school aged daughter suffering from extreme anxiety
- Death of a spouse, parent or sibling (either by natural causes or suicide)
- Stay at home mom with a spouse who travels a lot internationally
- Two working parents juggling work/family
- Spouse who is suffering from depression
- Challenges of moving kids to a new town
- A teenager who tried to commit suicide
- Mom going back to work after being at home full time for years
- Job layoffs/unexpected loss of income (pre and post COVID)
- Having a kid with learning disabilities or medical issues
- Dealing with divorce
- Distance learning almost breaking them
- Taking care of aging parents at the same time as raising young kids
- Supporting a spouse who received a tough health diagnosis
- Divorced mom whose ex is a jerk but she has to play nice because of their kid
- Son was in a ski accident and was paralized
These are real life examples of what people I know are going through and most of us can relate to at least some of them. It’s a good reminder that we parents are dealing with so many things at once and often the challenges are not always obvious to an outsider looking in. I am working on trying to be more open and supportive to what others are going through and be less judgmental. Although we are all in this same club of parenting, we all see and experience life through our own lens and are dealing with our own challenges in different ways.
When we see a child who is melting down, instead of judging, let’s consider what that child (and the parents) may be going through that we don’t know about and be more understanding and compassionate. When a mom loses it in the grocery store with her kids, we need to remember that we don’t know what led up to that moment that made her lose it. Sometimes a supportive comment like “I’ve totally been there so please let me know how I can help” might make a big difference in someone’s day.
I think we should all make an effort to reach out to someone who is obviously struggling (whether it be at school drop off, at work or on the sidelines at kids sports games) and try to connect to let them know that they are not alone. Maybe the family just had a bad morning and the mom needs to vent to another parent or maybe it’s bigger than that and you can offer some kind words or pass on a healthcare professional who has helped you. Let’s remember to ask questions to fellow parents to see how we are all fairing in this crazy life and then…listen. We all need sounding boards and parents sometimes just need to tell other parents how hard it is.
As members of this club, let’s try to be compassionate and make the effort to connect with each other. I know it’s hard in our busy lives to try to connect with new people but I find when I do, I get a lot of joy from it. We can lift each other up and help each other get through another day. We are all in this parenting club together with the same goal of raising happy and healthy kids who become productive members of society. Remember that as parents we are all same same but different.