“I Love My Kids, But I Don’t Like Parenting”

Jul 16, 2021

In this episode, I comment on a blog post I saw on todaysparent.com that I couldn’t ignore. “I love my kids, but I don’t like parenting—and I know I’m not alone”.  So I’ll unpack my thoughts on that by first exploring my opinion that many parents may feel like this because they are not properly equipped. Second, I explore how our reality as parents and our expectations as parents might be too divergent, and this is what’s causing some parents to experience these feelings. 
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Podcast Transcript

Hi, I’m Dr. Brenna Hicks, The Kid Counselor. This is the Play Therapy Parenting Podcast where I give you insight, awareness, and enlightenment about your parenting and your relationship with your kids. Today I wanted to share my thoughts on an article that I read. It was actually in Today’s Parent where I saw the article originally published, and the title (I’m summarizing) but the title basically said, “I love my kids but I hate being a parent.” And when you train parents, when you work with children, when you’re a play therapist, an article like that is not something that you can ignore. So I wanted to share my takeaways from that and tease apart some of the premises upon which that article was written, because I think that that is something that I personally can’t allow as a belief system. And I would hope, and encourage you not to allow that train of thought to take root either. So we’ll look at some of those components that I read about, and some of my thoughts, and the bottom line in my opinion is I can’t embrace something like this. I think this is something where people with family values, people with a love for their children, people who care about our country, people who care about our society, and the future generations of our country, this is not a stand that I’m willing to take. And it’s not something that I can swallow, because I feel that this is too much of a stretch to make the assumption… This is actually a quote from the article, “I love my kids, especially when I am not with them.” Let me say that again, “I love my kids, especially when I am not with them.”

I think the entire notion that “I love my kids, but I hate being a parent” and “I love them, especially when I don’t have to deal with them,” I think that sets a tone. And it sets an expectation, and there’s a foundation of disregard, and discounting, and demeaning our children. And I just, I can’t stomach it. It literally frustrated me to a point where now we’re talking about it together on a podcast, because it goes along with something that I just witnessed a couple of weeks ago. And maybe you’ve been familiar with this before – I sometimes feel that I’m protected or something, I don’t know, like people say, “Okay, you’ve never heard of that?” And I’m like, “How did I not know?” But we were driving not too long ago and we pull in behind a car and there’s some reference on a bumper sticker on the car in front of us to a crotch goblin. And I literally had to go home and look it up because I was like, “What in the world is that supposed to mean?” And that’s actually the term that this bumper sticker was using for children. And I thought ‘This is where we are. People spend money, that they work for, to put a sticker on the back of their car that references their children as a crotch goblin. And I’m just so taken aback by stuff like this. And you might have already been well aware of this stuff and you’re saying, “Brenna, you live under a rock.”

But I see, “I love my kids and I hate being a parent” in a news feed and I just can’t wrap my brain around it. So let’s look at this, let’s unpack this together. So I want to talk about a few things with you today. So first being, in my opinion, and I know that my opinion isn’t necessarily the only opinion out there. By the way, I welcome comments, I welcome thoughts. If you are on the total opposite side of this argument, if you say, “I absolutely understand the notion of that, here’s why, here’s my defense of my position.” I would love to hear from you, so you don’t have to agree with me to reach out. I’m actually very happy to have a discussion, a dialogue, with someone who has a totally different perspective.

But to me this is an absolutely illogical notion to say “I love my kids, but I hate being a parent” and I’ll explain why, and how I think that just absolutely makes no logical sense. Second of all, I believe that if you hate being a parent, the root of that is not being equipped to parent effectively and that is solvable. That is fixable, and that is doable. So to me, if you’re in a state where you say, I hate being a parent, I suspect you hate being a parent because it’s difficult and you don’t feel that you are effective, or you don’t feel that you know how to handle things, so we can we can work through that. That’s not the problem. And then finally, I think a big piece of this is our reality as parents versus our expectations as parents. And I would enlarge that to as humans. I think we always wrestle with our reality versus our expectations. So we’ll look at that a little bit together as well.

The path to calm, confident, and in control parenting starts now.

Okay, so this idea of “I love my kids, I hate being a parent” seems so illogical to me because in my mind, by default, by circumstance, by choice, if you are a parent, that means you have children. And if you have children, you are a parent. So to me, these are not something that you can separate. These are absolutely intertwined. They’re inextricably woven together. You have children and therefore you are a parent. And you are a parent because you have children. So to me, to say, “I love my kids, but I hate being a parent,” in my mind I liken that to “I love going to school, but I hate being a student.”

You can’t really love going to school and not like being a student, because by default, being in school means you are a student. So maybe also “I love going to my job, but I hate being an employee.” You can’t have one without the other. So, in my mind, this is something that just as a notion, as a premise, as a foundational belief or a guiding principle, it doesn’t even make sense. And here’s what I’ve learned about our thoughts, our things that we allow to take root in our minds: They can set us up for success or they can set us up for failure. And I believe with my whole heart that if you go into each and every day saying, “Wow, I love my children, but I hate being a parent,” you are allowing thoughts to take root and feelings to take hold that are going to cause you to fail. Because you can also conversely set yourself up to succeed by saying, “I love being a parent, I love my kids, I love knowing that I am taking care of humans and helping them to become healthy happy adults. I want happy kids who become happy adults. I am working very hard day in and day out.”

Is it thankless sometimes? Yes. Is it overwhelming sometimes? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Can it be stressful? Yes. You can acknowledge even all of the tough things that we go through as parents. But to say, “I love being a parent even so.” That sets you up to be successful because it’s the way that you choose to view the situation. And so I think that to set ourselves up for success is a powerful way to combat this notion of loving our kids, hating being a parent. They go together, they can’t be torn apart.

Secondly, when you think about hating being a parent – This article referenced quite a bit, the author interviewed a lot of parents and got a lot of feedback, so a lot of these parents are acknowledging the difficulty of bedtime, the difficulty of tantrums, the difficulty of helping kids with homework, just kind of the daily routine of difficulty related to behavior, and reactions, and the daily grind. And they talk about these tantrums and meltdowns and arguments, which leads me to my belief that it is because you need skills so that you know how to handle those things. Because think about it: when we are frustrated with something, when we feel defeated, when we are annoyed, when we’re ever in a negative state, it’s typically because we don’t have a solution. We don’t have a way to fix the problem, at least one readily in our minds. Sometimes we find it eventually, but we don’t often allow ourselves to get to a frustrated or upset state of mind if we deal with something and we just know what to do. So my argument stands. If you hate parenting, I think it’s because you feel ill equipped, you don’t feel confident. You don’t feel that you’re able to handle things appropriately and effectively.

And that’s what the Play tTherapy Parenting Podcast is. That’s why I put these episodes out. It’s to equip you with effective skills and tools that allow you to connect on a relational level. Because as I mention all the time, everything stems from the relationship that you have with your kids. So build a healthy relationship and you get appropriate behavior. Build a healthy relationship, you get positive interaction. Build a healthy relationship, you get in control, well behaved children. So I believe that the skills, the reflecting feelings, the choice giving, the encouragement, the limit setting; all of those play therapy pillars that I’ve talked about, those equip you to handle anything with your kids. If you are equipped, if you’re confident, if you know that you have a tool that you can use in any given moment, no matter how your child reacts, no matter how defiant they can be, no matter how taxing it is to wash the same lunchbox every single day, just to have them say they want a new one. You know, whatever, on a whim your child says or does at any given moment. First and foremost, I just love my kids and I love being a parent and this is part of the task. Secondly, I know that I can handle anything that comes my way. It totally changes the whole perspective of those daily interactions.

And then finally, we have to consider that our reality and our expectations can’t diverge too greatly or the gap becomes too wide to bridge. And what I mean by that is, they have done lots of studies; and the more deviation you have between your reality and your expectations in any scenario… this is not unique to parenting. This is, you know, entire lifespan, all of the issues. If you have a huge gap between your reality and your expectations of what that was going to look like, you are more likely to have depression, you’re more likely to have anxiety, and you’re more likely to struggle with whatever that scenario is. So the more realistic your expectations are – in other words, if you got married, and got pregnant, and decided to have a child, and you had this idyllic vision of what parenthood was going to be like. “Every day, my child is going to tell me how much they love me. And I’m going to be so fulfilled, and I’m just going to feel that this is always what I’ve been meant to do. And they’re never going to talk back, and they’re going to be obedient, and they’re going to be helpful. They’re going to be kind.” If that was your view of what parenting was going to be like and then your reality is very different from that, it is far more likely that you’re going to struggle, it’s far more likely you’re going to be resentful, it’s far more likely you’re going to be defeated. And so when you have that huge gap, it creates unnecessary conflict. So it’s really important to keep in mind we have to manage our expectations. Children are learning, they’re growing, they’re developing, they’re absorbing, they’re modeling, they’re watching – it’s such a daily, even sometimes moment by moment, learning process for them, growth process for them.

So to expect them to react in a certain way, to behave in a certain way, to respond in a certain way, if we have too elevated and too high and too unrealistic of expectations, it sets us up to be really frustrated. So sometimes it’s about an internal management of our own expectations. It’s not their fault. They’re kids,]. Kids are inherently good. Kids are always learning and developing. And if we can keep that perspective in mind, it equips us to love them unconditionally. And that is truly what I believe is the fault in this premise of this article. “I love my kids, but I hate being a parent.” It screams of conditional acceptance. I can only accept my kids if they behave a certain way. I can only accept this parenting thing that I’m doing if things go a certain way.

In my opinion, it’s selfish and it does not honor the fact that children are incredible people, and they deserve respect, and they deserve unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance. “You know what, I’m choosing to love you and accept you even when you smart talk me. I’m choosing to love and accept you even when you disobey me. I’m choosing to love and accept you even when you’re not grateful for something.” It’s a willful decision that we make because it demonstrates unconditionality in the way that we treat them. “I’m not going to force you to act a certain way before I can like you. I’m not going to expect a certain type of thing from you before I can say that I love being a parent.” That’s conditional. And in my mind, everything about the relationship hinges on unconditional everything.

So here’s my challenge to you. When we think about loving our kids, we also have to love being parents – they go hand in hand. So the separation of those doesn’t make sense. We have to be equipped and we have to have manageable expectations. So my challenges… I would love you to share with me your takeaways. So let me know if you think that this is something you struggle with? Do you think that this is something that you have found a solution for? Maybe you used to feel frustrated and you have come up with a way to manage that? I would love to hear from you. So please shoot me an email [email protected].

But above all, if you catch yourself getting frustrated, if you catch yourself being a little bit resentful if you catch yourself saying, “oh my gosh, this is such a grind. I hate doing this.” There’s always an opportunity to reframe a situation, there’s always an opportunity to say “I’m choosing, in this moment, to be unconditionally accepting and loving of my kids. And that means I unconditionally accept this scenario right now and it’s okay the way that it is.” Do we want to work on things? Absolutely. Do we want to, you know, move toward healing and whole and healthy and happy? Yes, of course. Always. But whatever moment we’re in, “It’s okay because my kids are amazing and I’m choosing to love them no matter what.”

So don’t also forget thekidcounselor.com/newsletter is the way to stay in touch with me. If you haven’t already signed up, make sure that you do that. This is something I’m really passionate about because I believe that we as a society, we as a culture, we as a nation, we have to stand up for our families, stand up for our kids. I’ve had so many people recently, in talking about children in general, say things like, “Oh, those cranky little wretched things” or “Oh my gosh, you know those little brats over there” and they say it in a pseudo laughing way. There’s truth in every joke, and I believe that when we say things like that about our kids, when we make statements, “I hate being a parent” that trickles down to the state of what we believe about the up and coming generation. And we have the opportunity to do everything we can to create an absolutely amazing future generation. But it takes us taking a stand and not letting the poison of an idea like this take root because all that does is set us up for failure, and set us up for resentment, and that is not creating the relationship that we want with our kids. So that’s my challenge for you. This week, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me [email protected].

In a future episode, we will be talking through finding a balance of screen time for kids. Is it possible? How do we do it? What does that look like, finding a balance of screen time for kids? Thank you, as always, for being a part of the Play Therapy Parenting Podcast family. We’ll talk again soon. Bye.

Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.

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