This is Parenting.

Via Lynn Shattuck
on Jan 18, 2016
get elephant's newsletter


"Adventurers," Ian D. Keating/ Flickr

The first years of parenting knocked me on my a**.

I had postpartum depression twice, and our son was a colicky baby.

As an introvert who values my freedom and space, it took me a few years to truly acclimate to parenthood. Then, just as we were starting to get into a groove, we added a second child to the mix. For many months after our daughter’s birth, I was triage parenting—constantly trying to figure out which child needed me the most while the other one cried.

More than anything else, early parenting felt like chaos.

But now, we’re crawling out of the trenches. And I’m mourning how fast it’s going. I want to freeze time a bit. I want to savor these days. These days of watching our son learn to love books, or sit at the dining room table coloring, or practice his Tae Kwon Do routine to loud techno music, darting around the living room. And our daughter, who only has a few short years left before kindergarten squeezes the baby out of her, before her spine straightens, and her sing-song preschooler voice fades.

Time is slipping away. And as the chaos fades into something more like fullness, I am seeing how damned sacred it all is.

To watch someone come into the world, to know them before you even know their name. To attend to their cries, their hunger, their fear. To feed them. To bathe and change them, to witness them in all their vulnerability, all their naked humanity. To accept them as you’ve probably never accepted anyone before. To watch your own brain rewire, connecting you to a chain of parents throughout time, turning you both stronger and more vulnerable at the same time.

To feel the muscles of your heart stretch and hum and grow so you can love in a way that is different than any other love. To use that strong heart to forgive them when they frustrate you, when they test your limits over and over again.

And even more, to forgive yourself when you’re empty on patience, when you think maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole parenting thing.

Underneath all the trappings of life, the costumes we wear, the possessions we surround ourselves with, the titles we hold— beneath it all we are human creatures who breathe and shit and love and fear and die. In the same way that watching someone leave their body is sacred—so is watching someone live. Watching them enter the world, grow, shedding their skin over and over again, stepping into new versions of themselves, with or without grace. To discover that when someone arrives in the world, they are already exactly who they are meant to be.

It’s hard and hilarious and humbling.

And it’s sacred.

Not in the Enjoy every moment you are so very blessed way. Not in the Isn’t it all just so magical? way. But in the way you can go from ohmygod if somebody says mommy one more time I’m going to Van Gogh my ears to a few hours later as you watch their sweet moon faces sleep and you hear yourself whisper aren’t I the luckiest person in the world?

Parenting rearranges us, offers us new lenses to see the world, lenses we were born with but that got shattered or lost over the decades: like when my son races outside to smash ice with his boots, and I slow down enough to join him, finding pleasure in that sound that ice makes as it begins to surrender beneath our feet. Or how ecstatic my daughter is when I return from the grocery store, lugging her favorite fruits.

Our kids remind us to squint and see the world with fresh eyes; sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes we are just too damned tired and rushed to take it all in.

Parenting is to know all the previous versions of someone, to hold them inside your mind as they grow, as they unfold. It’s slowly learning to let go on the outside as their lives begin to take shape, separate from your own, while on the inside, in your strong, tender parent-heart, you never let go at all.





Relephant favourites: 

Parental Overload: A Parenting Lesson from the 1980’s.

Jada Pinkett Smith Nails Motherhood in 6 Minutes.




Author: Lynn Shattuck

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: “Adventurers,” Ian D. Keating/Flickr 


About Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.


15 Responses to “This is Parenting.”

  1. Jessica says:

    Lynn, YES.

    As a fellow introvert mother, I am SO with you on this. My son recently turned one, and wow, the first few months of his life were pretty difficult for me. The vision I had of what motherhood would be like was just patently wrong in so many ways! It was sooo much harder than what I had pictured. As my son has gained independence day by day, and the intensity of the first few months has given way to a more relaxed mommy and daddy and we regain bits of our old pre-babe lives little by little. What our babe has given us has already been so monumental–parenting is a heart-breaking, heart-opening, amazing revelation on a daily basis.

  2. Lynn says:

    Thanks Jessica! Parenthood has gotten much better over time for me~ and I hope the same for you! Take good care.

  3. Christine says:

    Wow….I feel like you wrote this about me! haha! Totally relate 🙂

  4. Kristi says:

    Thank you for this. As I started reading it, my daughter came up to me with her arms full of baby wipes and a gleeful smile. So frustrating yet so adorable! It made it resonate so much, especially as I had severe PND after her birth. The difficulty, the love, the million tiny dramas and million special moments – you've really captured it.

    (Meanwhile her older brother has come in from playing in the backyard complaining that his teeth hurt. It turns out he's been eating the dog biscuits again. Kids!)

  5. Trisha says:

    This! Absolutely this! This article found me at exactly the right moment. After I had just told me husband at 5:45 pm “here, I don’t want to hold her for the rest of the evening.” I immediately felt guilt spring up as I sat in the bedroom scrolling Facebook for a moment of peace and distraction. She wasn’t even at her crankiest today, but I was on empty for sure. There is always such a paradox of emotions in me when I feel like I can’t take it anymore. Because I know how quickly it will all pass. I know she will grow up and I will yearn for this moments. But in THIS moment, it’s just all too much. So, thank you for your words. Parenting absolutely rearranges us. What a perfect way to put it. And ALL of it is sacred. Even the overwhelming bits. Thank you for the reminder that it’s okay to be. Just be.

  6. Lynn says:

    Thans Christine! Glad you could relate.

  7. Lynn says:

    Kristi, you made me smile with your son eating dog biscuits! Thank you for your kind words. My best to you.

  8. Lynn says:

    Trisha, you nailed it on the paradox of emotions. I can so completely relate. Thank you.

  9. Rolene says:

    Thank you for this beautiful piece. I can also relate to many of the emotions.

  10. Lynn says:

    Thank you, Rolene! So glad you could relate.

  11. Sandy says:

    Thank you for these wonderful words. You have painted an authentic picture i recognise so much. Parenting is a rollercoaster of intense feelings. You go up and down. And you grow into the parenting thing. But my daughter is 3,5 now and i still think

    ‘maybe I’m just not cut out for this parenting thing’ quite often. But I’m thankful for experiencing it..

  12. Lynn says:

    Thank you Sandy, for your kind comment!

  13. Barbara says:

    I overheard my darling kindergarten son tell his friends that my middle name was She. When I asked him about it and told him my middle name was Ann, he asked “then why do you always say ‘ this is She’ when you answer the phone”? For some reason your article made me think back to this time and smile again. (He is now 28.) Parenting was hard but oh so mnay laughs.

    You captured it so eloquently.

  14. Lynn says:

    Barbara, that is an adorable story! Thank you for sharing it. My best to you.

  15. To wake up and have this be the first thing I read was a gift. What a beautiful, honest look at motherhood. I am in the same season you describe here- I have come out of the trenches and I’m realizing how sacred it is and want to hit pause.

    Thank you.