A peculiar combination of infertility, hyper-fertility, and some questionable choices led me to have three babies in four years. Three boys. When people see me out in public wrangling these three, looking exhausted and dead in the eyes, I often hear remarks like, "You've sure got your hands full" or "Bless you." I politely smile and nod, but what I really want to say is: You don't even know the half of it. Most days, I feel like I'm drowning.
So, I decided it was time to call in professional help. I started seeing a parenting coach—and her guidance and insights have truly changed my life.
Before I hired this coach, parenting, to me, consisted solely of triaging various mini-disasters that were occurring simultaneously. In our house, each day brings a new dumpster fire of buffoonery. So, to mitigate the damage to my own psyche, I adopted a parenting style that could best be described as "Lord of the Flies."
Meals were almost never what the kids wanted, even though I had prepared exactly what they asked for initially. The youngest had a penchant for drawing on walls and furniture. The middle kid drank ketchup straight from the bottle and spoke with a thick Boston accent despite having lived his entire life in Dallas. They tore the leaves off my plants. They assaulted each other with household items. They crushed crackers on the floor for fun. The Legos were dumped out and spread from here to Timbuktu. Where did this leave me, you ask? I was a mess inside and out—and judging by how terrible I smelled, in desperate need of a shower.
Yet despite all the chaos, I am besotted with all three of these kids and adore them to the point of absurdity. The loving-them part comes naturally to me; it's the day-to-day part that left me scratching my head (and tearing my hair out). I knew I would be expected to feed and clothe these kids and whatnot, but it turned out there was much more to parenting than that—and I was wildly unprepared.
But before you take me for completely clueless, know that I am an only child; my upbringing was quiet, peaceful, and uncomplicated. In contrast, all three of my boys possess a deep abiding lust for hand-to-hand combat; I spend the majority of the day refereeing and breaking up fights. Our house is basically a preschool Fight Club. The rules are: There are no rules.
I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Being 100% overwhelmed was my baseline, and almost every day I would find myself in an utterly baffling situation, muttering obscenities and pondering whether one of my kids was, in fact, a sociopath because he fed the goldfish pencil shavings as a snack.
Enter the Coach—and cue the angels singing.
A parenting coach serves as part parenting coach and part therapist. I come to her with varying scenarios that have gone awry, and she tells me why that happened and how I should handle it differently going forward. She gives me meta-answers and offers me practical solutions for my parenting woes. Additionally, she is a certified play therapist and has worked in tandem with my son and I to resolve some issues he was having.
Her main job, of course, is to talk me off the ledge. I like to play a fun game I call, "think of the worst-case scenario that's highly unlikely to happen and ruminate on it all day." Instead of erring on the side of reality, I like to err on the side of catastrophe and assume everything will end in disaster. My frustrated toddler throws a marker at a friend. My worry-brain immediately concludes he is destined for a life of crime.
Our Parent Coach debunks my ridiculous theories. She helps me see the error of my ways and offers me useful tools instead of my old go-to yelling. Previously, my main mode of communication with the kids would be to ask nicely nine times—and then scream like a deranged maniac on the tenth time. (I would rate the success of this technique a zero out of five stars. Would not recommend to a friend.)
So, Our Parent Coach serves as the proverbial angel on my shoulder whispering sage advice: less talk, more action, no more giving out dozens of warnings. Now, I often hear myself reciting "Our Parent Coach-isms" to my kid in times of turmoil: "We do not use our hands or our words to hurt people," "If you make the choice to do that, you are making the choice to lose screen time." Now, when a sticky situation arises, instead of panicking, I take a deep breath and send Our Parent Coach an email or speak to her about it at our next meeting. Just knowing I have her in my corner as a secret weapon gives me peace and confidence that I can handle whatever malarkey these kids throw at me.
Previously, I just assumed the kids were being "bad"—but in reality, there are so many scenarios where this is simply not true and there is something much deeper going on. Learning the psychology and physiology behind how the adolescent mind operates, for one thing, is endlessly fascinating and extremely helpful. Understanding why certain behaviors originate and persist has been key to getting to the root of problems. Our Parent Coach has also given me some invaluable acumen into how birth order and temperament impact personality and the dynamics between kids.
The truth is my current reality is much different from how I grew up—and from how I initially pictured motherhood. Our Parent Coach has helped me come to terms with that difference and loss and let go of those preconceived notions. She reminds me to celebrate the small victories. Without her, I might have missed some of the miracles born from the banality of the mundane daily grind. (My toddler, for example, who previously subsisted on popsicles, pickles, and rock-n-roll alone, now eats an array of foods. Hooray!)
Of course, there's a downside to Our Parent Coach: My insurance does not cover mental health, which is appalling to me. So, this is all cash pay, with each appointment costing $150.00 an hour. But, I am able to use my Health Savings Account to cover some of it.
Yes, a parenting coach is expensive, and some might categorize it as an extravagance. But for me, it's been worth the investment tenfold. I've come to view this sacred time with Our Parent Coach as essential to my mental health and wellbeing—so I prioritize it financially and am more than willing to cut back in other areas to ensure I can afford it. For me, this is money that isn't going towards shopping or dining out or vacations. It's money well-spent because I am investing in my kids—the best investment I can think of.
The assurance and wisdom I get from my weekly sessions with a parenting coach have not only helped me immensely in my parenting journey; they've been instrumental to my growth as a person as well. Parenting is the one thing I care about excelling at, and I would sell my kidney to foot the bill if it came down to it.
Plus, Our Parent Coach helps me to look past the turmoil of this phase to see the bigger picture. She even assures me that someday, I will miss all this—and that over time, the horror stories of the wrecked house and my own exhaustion will morph into fond recollections of hilarious anarchy that I will cherish. This remains to be seen, of course, and the eternal pessimist in me is forever skeptical of this type of positivity, but I do hope she is right. She has helped me recognize and appreciate the humor in all this child-chaos—because if I can't laugh about it, it's quite possible I will crack.
For me, parenting has been one heck of a wild ride, complete with unthinkable lows and highs so high that I think I surely must be dreaming. It has been the most extraordinary adventure and having a tour guide to help me navigate the journey has made all the difference. Thanks to Our Parent Coach, I now feel like I can survive—and maybe, just maybe, even thrive in this parenting gig. Our goldfish's survival, however, is another story entirely.
Credit: Parent magazine, revised.