Being a Parent Can Suck, but It Doesn’t Suck

Looking back as my daughter gets set to turn 18 and head to college

The other day, Ben Le Fort, who runs the excellent Making of a Millionaire publication on Medium, published one of the best stories about life, work, and being a parent I’ve seen in a long time for The Ascent.

It’s worth your time:

This article is a personal essay describing the feeling of burnout we all have felt since the onset of the pandemic, how I chose to cope with it and why my only goal right now is to get through the next 100 days.

Ben goes on to discuss becoming a new parent in February 2020, just before the pandemic locked down most of the world:

As tiring and stressful as it has been learning to become a father during a global pandemic, I am eternally grateful for the hundreds of extra hours and countless moments experienced with my son that I would never have gotten the opportunity to see if I was working in the office…

However —

13 months into the pandemic, I definitely feel like I’m running on empty.

It’s important to note that, as far as I know, the part of Canada Ben lives in remains locked down.

Anyhow, reading Ben’s very personal story got me thinking that he and I sit on opposite ends of the spectrum.

His experience brings back memories for me. I hope my experience can help inform his.

I have a 17-year old daughter set to head to college in August. Same goes for my girlfriend.

The other day when my girlfriend and I were laying together, trying to take an afternoon nap, my daughter texted:

I called and reminded her that when I was over on Thursday, I told her I wasn’t coming on Friday, but would be over on Saturday to take her to buy her mother a Mother’s Day gift.

Her response:

You were here yesterday?

That made me sad for a few minutes.

She didn’t remember I was there!?

No shocker.

She finished her schoolwork early. I figured she’d want to hang out.

Instead, we took care of one college-related task and she was in the other room, glued to her laptop watching a livestream.

As my girlfriend likes to say when our kids blow us off:

They’re over us.

So true. And this is a good thing.

My sadness turned to happiness.

You want your kids to be over you when they’re 17 going on 18. As long as they’re not hate you, over you, it means you probably did something resembling a good job.

Amid having no clue how to do it, you achieved your goal of raising a child who would become a capable and confident adult, set to go out into the world on their own. To be independent.

As Bruce Springsteen said during a 1992 concert, right around when he was starting a family, when you have a kid, “you see the future pissing on your leg.”

That’s a good way to put it.

Lots of people refuse to admit it, but being a parent can suck, especially early on.

Being a parent doesn’t suck. It can suck. That’s an important distinction.

You have no time to do the things you want to do, especially when they’re babies.

And you’re always worried about the future.

When they’re infants, the future is like the next minute as well as all the time after that.

As you get a little more used to being a parent, you worry about more far-off futures. The various stages of development and rites of passage all kids go through.

Then, before you know it, those things happen. Then, suddenly, you’re figuring out exactly when and how you’re going to get them to college — like logistically. At that point, you’ll still worry about the future. Just in a different way.

Part of it is because you see a different future for yourself. A future with more freedom. Traveling. Coming and going as you please. And this is exciting. As it should be.

But, even when you live this new exciting life with your kids out on their own, you’ll still worry. At least I assume I will. It’ll just be a different flavor of worry.

One thing Ben also said was that staying at home meant he was able to have moments with his son he would not have otherwise had.

This resonates.

I spent most of daughter’s infant, toddler years and a bit beyond as a stay-at-home dad.

When I was pushing her in a stroller through the hilly neighborhoods of San Francisco, I didn’t think those would be the times I’d look back on with a bittersweet fondness.

As a parent, with the future always pissing on your leg, you don’t necessarily realize you’re living through the good times. You don’t realize it until your kids start blowing you off. When they’re over you.

It’s a crazy ride. One I still can’t quite believe I went on. Sometimes it’s weird to think I have a soon-to-be 18-year old daughter.

It’s probably a good idea for Ben to take parenting during the (hopefully) last leg of the pandemic in a 100-day chunk. But he should make sure he keeps enjoying it, as stressful as it can be.

One day his kid will not need him quite the same way he does now. He will have to prepare to worry differently. From afar. A more hands-off approach to worrying — and parenting.

It sounds cliche, but when this starts to happen, you realize that time really does fly.

I write about doing life and personal finance, focusing on the psychology of our relationships with other people and money. I’m anti-guru, pro-empowerment.

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