Man, it’s hard spending a whole day entertaining a young child. How did our grandparents do it? The truth…they didn’t. 

One of the biggest struggles of parents today is that we don’t get enough help and guidance.

The whole idea of the nuclear family (a household of just parents and kids) is a recent invention. In fact, it’s one of the biggest experiments in human history. Our ancestors always lived in extended families (near grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.). 

For thousands of years, parents had the village to help them. In fact, when people from more traditional cultures hear about our spread-out families, they’re usually stunned. “You can’t be serious!” they say. “How can you raise a baby without your sisters, mother, aunts, and friends?” More and more, we leave our hometowns, have fewer older children to help out, don’t know the neighbors, and live in single-parent families or families where both parents work full-time jobs. Sure, we have lots of modern conveniences (like cars and washing machines), but they can never make up for the loss of family, neighbors, and community. No wonder parents feel overwhelmed. We are!

What is the result of these changes? Amazingly, today’s parents often work longer hours than most parents in past generations. That’s because they either have to supervise their kids 24/7 without help or spend all day working and then have to deal with a house full of undone chores.

The challenge of parenting is especially great today because, unlike parents in earlier generations who often cared for younger siblings or babysat the neighbor’s children, most of us have little to no experience raising kids. We get training for our jobs, and we take driver’s ed, but when it comes to parenthood, we’re supposed to just figure it out on our own. 

So please, give yourself a round of applause. You’re not a wimp if you use a babysitter or a housecleaner. You’re not selfish if you get away for lunch with a friend or take an exercise class. Too many parents undermine themselves with guilt. Give yourself credit for all the good work you’re doing . . . and get yourself some help. 

This struggle only feels harder when it’s coupled with daily battles that make us feel like failures. We proudly take credit when our kids behave well, so it is only natural for us to feel responsible when they misbehave. But before you rush to judge yourself, remember that limit-pushing is totally normal. Whether you’re a CEO or a four-star general, your child (and especially your toddler!) is going to break the rules.

Here’s one more bit of consolation for you: Kids save their biggest meltdowns for their parents. We’re the people with whom they feel the safest. So you might consider your toddler’s tantrums a form of flattery.

We all mess up sometimes, but failing every now and then doesn’t make us failures; it’s a normal part of parenting and can actually speed us along the path to success. And remember, you are parenting without the support network that families had for generations. 

So, relax and learn to look at your mistakes with a sense of humor. Believe it or not, these years will be gone in a flash, and one day you’ll miss them terribly. Take a big breath, and know that your love, respect, and guidance will help you finish these years with a happy, confident, likable human at your side!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.