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Stop Telling Parents Their Problems Are Just ‘Normal’

Jul 28, 2017

I spend a lot of time surrounded by other parents. I see parents at the park, the pool, local playgroups, the museum, the library — and that’s just parents that I don’t even choose to hang out with. I try my best not to convince people that everything at my home, especially with my kids, looks like an episode of Fuller House. Repeat after me: kids are hard.

But there’s this common battle cry that I hear from parents (and even more so from non-parents) when those of us in the midst of family strife and conflict reach out. They say, “that’s totally normal.” Here’s the thing; that hurts.

I know so many moms who feel guilty that they don’t love every single moment with their children.

I write about parenting a lot, and while I completely love my children, most of what I share is about the struggle. It’s about the day I yelled at my son so loud that he cried, and how I cried, and then we just hugged for an hour. It’s about the day we decided that we needed to take our son to a psychologist because we needed the extra support, and how I thought that it meant I was a failure as a parent.

But the most common response I get from people who aren’t parents about my posts is unrelenting laughter. They think my stories are hilarious. And there is inherent comedy in your son pooping on the floor in front of your dinner guests because you were trying bare-bum potty training, or in prying your daughter’s eyelids apart following a super glue accident. Sure, it's funny, but the response I get from parents is much different.


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I hear, “I didn’t think anyone else felt this way.” I know so many moms who feel guilty that they don’t love every single moment with their children. When they hear that their children's behaviour is normal, they think, “if they’re normal, am I not?” I had a mom last week tell me that when she sees and hears people talk about “the joys of parenting” she feels absolutely lost. She believes she’s a failure and that she’s not normal. But of course she is, because the great thing about normal is that there’s nothing normal about it.

Parenting is a hard and often lonely task, so I try to be a friend.

Every experience is different. Every child is different. Every parent is different. And when you combine parents that are all unique with kids that are all unique, you end up with exponential possibilities. There is no normal, from what I’ve seen, and when we tell parents that their kid is “just acting like a normal kid,” we’re basically asking them, “what’s your problem?”

Instead, when I’m speaking with parents, there are a few things I try to do: I try to listen, I try to empathize and I try not to project my own experiences onto them.

Parenting is a hard and often lonely task, so I try to be a friend. “That sucks,” is a perfectly acceptable response to a story of parental pain. I may suggest that they talk to professionals where appropriate. But most importantly, I never tell them, “that’s normal.”

Article Author Mike Tanner
Mike Tanner

Mike Tanner is a full-time, stay-at-home father of two and small business owner in Halifax, N.S. He is 37-year-old, married, and the father of a 5-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. When not trying to stop Wrestlemania from breaking out in his living room he builds websites, manages social media accounts and produces content for a variety of organizations.

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