The Vulnerability of Parenthood

As parents, we control many aspects of our children’s lives—the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the education they receive and even the values we impart. Other facets of life remain completely out of our control, from their temperament, their health and well-being, and the darker days that we wish we could protect them from.

The vulnerability of parenthoodWe’re vulnerable to whatever life has in store for us.

In many ways, vulnerability offers several advantages. When we allow our kids to struggle, we help build their strength and determination to keep trying. In witnessing their disappointment, we know that they’ll likely appreciate what they have and continue to learn from their mistakes. Even getting hurt or heartbroken—emotions we’d rather not have—can lift them to greater heights.

Then we feel vulnerable to unthinkable circumstances that no child—no adult—should experience; yet throughout the world and sometimes even closer to home, many do.

There is no insurance or guarantee to completely shield kids from any and all harm. No command-Z “undo” should anything horrifying happen to our kids. And one of the more painful feelings of being a parent is realizing that we can do our best, and that’s all we can really do. The rest lies in the choices our kids make and what life brings.

So how can we help ease the vulnerability we often feel when we realize that our babies are growing and will eventually face the world on their own?

  • Empower them with resiliency. Bad news can easily plunge a person into a downward spiral, where negativity begets negativity. Those with the resiliency to pick themselves up from the dust have better chances to thrive and remove themselves from a potentially negative cycle.
  • Build a stable home with set routines. While we could all use spontaneity here and there, most of us hold better with routines, especially when change—positive or negative—takes place in children’s lives.
  • Be the anchor in their lives. Kids need to know that they can turn to their parents and loved ones for support, guidance, and information, and often draw reassurance from us to quench their fears and frustration.
  • Embrace all their emotions. Whether your kid is afraid of dogs or is struggling through a traumatic change, acknowledge their emotions as real. Label them. Discuss them.
  • Don’t live in fear. So many terrible events can happen in a given day without warning, yet so much goodness can flow as well.

Every mom is vulnerable. From the moment we’re pregnant, we’re left with the possibilities of what could go wrong, such as hoping to just get through that first trimester so that we’re “safe.” Then we realize that parenthood doesn’t really have a safe zone where anything is guaranteed. Even as one worry passes, another one can easily come. After all, anything can happen to our children at three days old, three months, three years, even thirty years.

The vulnerability and worrying over all the “what if’s” would be so much easier if we didn’t pour our whole lives and hearts to our kids. It can be painful to love so much, not knowing just how everything will turn out.

But it’s so worthwhile, this whole parenting thing, even with your heart on your sleeve.

I used to think that parenting babies and young kids is a one-way street, with parents giving and giving. Who wouldn’t, with all the sleepless nights and endless needs and demands. Yet I eventually learned that it’s actually the other way around: my son has given me more in return, even at three years old. And that is worth the vulnerability of parenthood.

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This post is dedicated to all children who continue to touch those around them in ways only a child can. Thank you for teaching us adults a thing or two about life.

How do you handle the “what if’s” and worries that could happen to your kids? What lessons have you drawn from your kids?

Nina

Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.

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  1. Steph says

    *Sigh* Like you said, the possibilities of things going wrong is endless – starting when they are in the womb. I try to remember not to borrow trouble – each day has enough of its own. And to remember all the goodness each day brings. Small children have a way of reminding of us of that with their smiles and kisses and snuggles.
    Steph recently posted..Relational LimitsMy Profile

    • says

      We’re in the same boat, Steph. Now with all the talk of mental illness, I have a new “what if” floating around when I think about my pregnancy: what if the babies have mental illness?! It’s seriously endless and I make a conscious effort to stop thinking that way.
      Nina recently posted..The vulnerability of parenthoodMy Profile

  2. Ana says

    This post is a great read especially after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Although Lucas has no idea what happened, I still felt so much anxiety and uncertainty of him returning to school that following Monday. I literally did not sleep thinking about it. But like you wrote, going about with your routines and acknowledging emotions totally helped me. But, I am just glad and relieved Lucas didn’t see any of the news ( I was careful to watch them on my laptop with my headphones on and not on tv) and he has no recollection of what has been going on this week. As a parent, my vulnerability increased after these events but coping and going on with life has helped me tremendously.
    Ana recently posted..Relieved.My Profile

    • says

      Hey Ana, this was pretty much one of my responses to the Sandy Hook tragedy. That following Monday, my husband took our son to his preschool orientation, and of course it crossed my mind, “What if something happens?” Then I realized that letting fear set in and preventing us from living day to day lives can’t be all that much better. And on that Friday, I had to reprimand my son, and I thought, “Wait, aren’t I supposed to be cuddling him and appreciating every single second with him?” Then I realized that the thing he needs most is a mom, and that includes a mom that won’t let him get away with shenanigans 😉
      Nina recently posted..The vulnerability of parenthoodMy Profile

  3. says

    Such a timely post and so needed by so many of us parents that have the Newtown tragedy weighing on us. We can’t help but question how can we protect our children. You give us some great foundations to lay.

  4. says

    “what if?” the most easiest and scariest words. I’ve been thinking about it times to times, when some unexpected events occurred. something like my little one ran towards to the intersection, what if i wasn’t fast enough and reached her back? what if on that day, there was no one on the spot where my girl jumped into the 2 meters deep pool. gosh, i just don’t want to think about it, and how sad and how much “faults” I’m gonna put on myself. what helped me a lot is buddhism. I’m a buddhist. basically, many things and one’s action depends very much on your own karma. I just try to live the moment the best I could, cherish every minutes, be more careful in every steps of life where it is concerning my kids. well, this subject is an endless thought. But, absolutely nice post. ..