Parents Bemoan Lack of Time, Space to Vent Frustrations

Right now I’m on deadline for a Counseling Today article about therapist moms and dads – how they balance work and family, and still find time for continuing education, supervision, and – gasp – the relationships that made them parents in the first place.

In my interviews with counselors across the country I’ve heard so many creative stories about what’s required to be a good parent and a good therapist. But what’s most interesting to me is that these conversations sound a lot like what my non-therapist friends have said about the struggle to just simply be a parent and a productive member of society at the same time. The biggest obstacle to keeping up with current events/continuing ed/marriage? Time. We just don’t have the hours in the day to keep up with all of our obligations.

Excuse me. I had to interrupt this post to calm a sobbing 3-year-old who was upset that the dog was hiding behind a chair…but this illustrates my point. Pre-parenthood, I could have 15 solid minutes to write a quick few paragraphs. Pre-parenthood, the process of returning client phone calls didn’t require scheduling with a babysitter. Pre-parenthood, deep, intellectual conversations with my husband didn’t only happen at 6am (or not at all). Pre-parenthood, I simply got a lot more done.

Recently a friend was admitting his frustration at not feeling like himself anymore – at least not the self he used to be before having kids. He’s a doting father of two, a caring husband, a committed environmentalist, a high-powered government worker, and a fantastic friend. He’s also exhausted a lot of the time, isolated, and feeling like even when he’s working as hard as he can, he’s only at about 70 percent of what he used to be capable of doing. At the end of our lunch, he said he did feel better having been able to talk with other people who are also in “the parenting zone.” He noted that it would be great to have more opportunities to be honest about how hard all of this really is. I could not agree more, and again, time really is the issue.

Who has time to meet regularly with like-minded adults to talk about the real struggles in parenting? And how do you put aside the worries about being labeled a “bad parent” if you complain about your situation “too” much? Do neutral forums really exist? According to what I’ve learned in my conversations with other therapist parents, the online world might be our best bet (outside of having an individual therapist – an option I obviously support as well), since brutal honesty seems to appreciate faceless anonymity when keeping others’ judgments at bay. We all need a forum to process our experiences, and when that processing has to happen between feedings or before the mad rush to pick the kids up from school, the internet is a good avenue.

So far in Washington we have the very excellent DCTherapistMoms forum and the much-maligned DCUrbanMomsandDads group. Maybe the next hot listservs will be DCLawyerDads and FederalWorkerParents?