Parental Stress can be over-whelming. It keeps changing its form as your baby progresses from childhood to teenage to adulthood. Before you can be free of the stress of being a parent, you need to understand it at a deeper level than what we generally learn from talking to other parents or reading books about parenting.
Parental Stress when a Child is a Toddler
Parental stress as well joy starts the moment your baby is born.
Unconditional Love for Your Child
From the first moment you lay eyes on your newborn baby, you fall in love – the kind of love you never felt before. Naturally, you make your baby the top most priority in your life.
You change diapers, prepare special baby food and give baths. Soon, you start to understand the baby’s needs simply from the sound of their cry. For example, you can distinguish their cry for food from the cry when they have too much gas or the cry when they’re wet. You carry them in your arms and walk and sing till they stop crying and fall sleep. Then, you gently lay them down in the crib to make sure their sleep isn’t disturbed because you know how easily they can wake up and start crying which means you’ll have to walk another half hour.
At work, you proudly talk to your colleagues about your wonderful child. You can’t wait to get home and start playing with your baby. It brings you and your child such sheer joy. You don’t mind crawling on your knees, sitting in awkward positions in their playhouse and drinking lots and lots of imaginary tea. When they get sick, you feel all of their pains: your chest hurts when they coughs and your heart bleeds if they get a cut.
Teacher, Parent and Friend – All in One
You play with them as well as teach them things they needs to learn, such as brushing their teeth, brushing their hair and taking a bath. Naturally, you help them learn to walk and talk. You teach them how to play in the park. At bedtime, you read stories to your child and rub their back until they fall asleep.
You want them to have a lot of fun as well as learn everything that other kids are learning. Therefore, you celebrate their birthday in the best possible way you can. You also take them to the birthday parties of other kids so they can have fun as well as acquire social skills.
The Endless Path of Worry Starts
You also feel an intense desire to protect your fragile and innocent baby from any danger. “Nothing bad should EVER happen to them.” Even the idea of any possible harm to your baby keeps you awake at night. Deep in your heart you know you wouldn’t think twice to sacrifice your life in order to save the life of your child. All these thoughts put you on an endless path of parental stress in the form of worrying.
Beginning Of Guilt Adds to Parental Stress
You and your baby get bonded together. Then one day, you take them to Day Care. You feel the agonizing pain of guilt as you leave them behind as they cry miserably and this happens every day until they slowly mellow out. Then, one day you have to leave them with a baby sitter. You re-experience the intense pain of guilt when they grabs you and beg you not to leave.
Schooling Takes Parents’ Stress to a Much Higher Level
Then comes schooling., which gives you a lot of joy but also adds to your stress. Whenever you can, you volunteer in their classroom as well as school activities. You help them with homework, get ready in the morning, drive them to school and pick them back up after school. In addition, you get them involved in all sorts of after-school and weekend activities such as gymnastics, dance, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc.
Episodic Sadness Begins
You make friends with the parents of their friends. Now you happily entertain not only your own kid, but also their friends and families. Then one day, they ask to sleep over at their best friend’s home, which you permit, but when you get home after dropping them off and realize your home is so quiet without your child, a shiver of emptiness runs through your body. You miss your child, but manage to sleep through the night. This is the beginning of episodic sadness which adds to a parents’ stress.
Instillation Of Concepts into the Growing Acquired Self of Your Child
As your child grows older, they start to learn all sorts of concepts, good and bad, mostly from their friends. You see their needs changing. You continue to provide them with guidance. At times, their innocent questions shake up your concepts and beliefs, but you manage to come up with answers that satisfy their curiosity.
Sometimes, they want things their way and will not listen to you. Then, you are left with no option but to discipline them. Inside, you don’t like to punish your own precious little child, but you have to do it for their own sake, so they grow up to be a better person.
Most of the time, your child provides you with a lot of love. They make you feel like the king of the hill. You feel proud to raise such a happy child. Also, you are proud of their achievements. You are there to provide support, guidance and comfort. You feel so much “in demand” which boosts your ego.
Parents’ Stress when a Child is a Teenager
As a parent, your stress gets in high gear as your child becomes a teenager. Slowly, your castle of happiness starts to crumble. Your loving child, who was so attached to you, doesn’t want to have anything to do with you anymore! No more playing together or going to park or mall together. They don’t like to watch movies with you an more. In addition, they don’t even want your help with homework. Now, they want to do everything with their friends and you are not welcome.
They don’t even want to talk to you much. Each time you try to have a conversation, it ends with one or two sentences such as “I’m not a child anymore.” They sit with you in the car, but prefer to listen to their own music or text their friends. You feel like a cab driver. Sometimes, they may even make insulting remarks to you. “I know what I’m doing and don’t need your lecture.” They may even judge you to be outdated, because you don’t know anything about what’s going on in the world. Your loving child, who constantly gave you hugs and kisses, now runs away if you try to hug or kiss them.
Sadness, Bitterness, Isolation, Jealousy and Worthlessness Sinks In
What happened to my loving child? You feel so bruised. Your heart aches.
Sometimes, your teenager may be nice to one parent and not to the other. Then, you experience the gnawing pain of jealousy. The favored parent may even take advantage of this preferred relationship, which slips you deeper into the dark hole of isolation, bitterness and worthlessness. “What happened to the united front we are supposed to have in front of our children?” you ask. You may disagree with your spouse about “how to deal with this teenager!” Spousal disagreements lead to frequent heated arguments. Your loving home changes into a pit of hate and anger. You are stressed out at work and stressed out at home. Life becomes unbearable. You may seek refuge in a divorce which brings on its own demands and challenges.
Your teenager may be doing fine, but you are not. She may have good grades, a lot of friends, and no trouble with teachers or police. She is a good teenager. So why are you stressed out? There is no satisfactory answer to your parental stress.
Frustrations and Anger Adds to Parental Stress
Or your teenager may have problems in school: failing classes, fighting with other teenagers, breaking the rules. They might even have trouble with the law, have irresponsible sexual behavior, alcohol abuse and/or drug addiction and their horrendous consequences. This obviously adds to your frustrations. You become a frequent visitor to the principal’s office. Then, you may decide to attend seminars on how to improve your relationship with your teenager, how to deal with alcohol and drug addictions and how to discipline your teenager. However, in the end, nothing seems to work.
You feel like a failure. The more you try, the more you lose control. You often stay frustrated and easily get into a rage. Unconsciously, you may lash out at your colleagues or customers at work, snap at your spouse, get into road rages, etc. You also have to work hard to fulfill your teenager’s financial needs. Often, you have to work long hours and don’t have much social time with your teenager except on weekends, but then on weekends, your teenager has their own plans and you’re not included. Sometimes, you feel like nothing more than a “financial support system,” which makes you bitter inside.
Worry Gets in High Gear
At the same time, you worry a lot about your teenager’s career. You realize that one has to have a college degree, preferably from a reputable university, in order to get a good job. At the same time, you see how competitive it is to get into good universities. You feel like you are in a race, which builds up intense pressure inside you. In addition, even if your teenager gets into a good university, it is very expensive. Thinking about the finances can be overwhelming and can rob you of a good night of sleep.
Health Consequences of Parental Stress
The ever increasing load of parental stress often starts to affect your health. You may start to suffer from insomnia, anxiety, forgetfulness, stress eating, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks. Your physician may put you on a sleeping pill, blood pressure medicines, diabetes medicines, heart medicines and anti-anxiety as well as anti-depression medicines. In addition, rising medicine costs, escalating health insurance premiums and unrelenting doctors’ bills further add to your parental stress. Now you constantly worry about your health in addition to worrying about your family’s future. In summary, you are in a big mess and don’t have a clue how to be free of it.
Excerpts from ” Stress management for Teenagers, Parents and Teachers.