Linda Stamper Boyne: The hardest job on the planet
Vail, CO, Colorado
There is no harder job on earth than that of being a parent.
Yes, there are challenging jobs, occupations that require years of school and training, work that takes skill, precision, expertise or perhaps sheer strength and physical endurance.
But there is no job that we take more personally or jump into with virtually no training or preparation.
We are literally thrust into parenthood, clueless, optimistic and scared.
I remember walking through the front door of our house when we came home from the hospital carrying the bucket car seat with our first son safely ensconced inside.
After the initial excitement of sweet dog Elliott meeting his new little person wore off, we all just stood there looking at one another like, “Well, now what?” It was, at times, terrifying knowing that this tiny little being was completely dependent on us for everything. Everything.
There are no instruction manuals for the little buggers. Sure, there are hundreds of books, but every little bundle of joy is an individual, presenting his or her own unique charms and challenges. The books are generalized representations of parenting. It’s like having a travel guide titled, “Visiting a Large European City” and then trying to navigate the Paris Metro based on the book’s broad sweeping instructions.
It’s the job you’ll have forever, with no retirement option, no paid time off and years of work before the possibility of a promotion. It’s a lifetime position.
When we decide we want to have a baby, I don’t think we give much thought to what happens beyond the baby stage. Maybe we’re designed with infant-near-sightedness because if we were really able to look ahead and see some of what lies beyond infancy, we might stop propagating the species altogether.
The enormity of the job, of developing and nurturing a human being into adulthood, can be intimidating. I want my offspring to be kind, respectful, interesting, funny, successful, well-educated young men. The fear of messing it up still creeps in from time to time.
With the passing years, I still find myself asking, “Now what?” as each new development comes my way.
Sometimes I’m prepared for things. Having learned from the others what to expect or remembering my own childhood, I’m able to empathize with my kids.
But other times, oh, Lord! I just get broadsided, knocked off my feet. I’m wholly and completely unprepared for the situations.
I can’t imagine there is a parent out there who feels like they’re acing their performance review every time. We all have our moments of glory, but then there are things we wish we could rewind and do over differently, to change the outcome or take back something that came out of our mouths carelessly.
But we are human, and all we can do is love them, do our best, forgive ourselves when we slip and move forward to parent another day.
It’s the most emotionally challenging job on Earth. You take everything personally because it doesn’t get more personal.
Your child is a piece of you, a big chunk of your heart, out there in the world, riding his bike without training wheels, winning or losing the tennis match, being teased by other kids, getting an A on his math test, getting his heart broken, being suspended from school, leaving for college on the other side of the country, suffering in a hospital bed.
There is nothing more excruciating than seeing your child hurting and the feeling of helplessness knowing you can’t do anything about it.
We want to give our children everything they need, not just material things but also self-confidence, security and a strong system of morals and values.
We want to give them every opportunity, every chance to succeed.
We want to give them the world, but we can’t always do that. So we just keep loving them.
It is the most stressful job in the world. It is the most emotionally, physically and intellectually challenging thing a person can do. But with high risk comes high reward. And even through all that, it’s the most rewarding job in the world.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, writes weekly for the Vail Daily. She can be contacted through email@example.com