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By James Prenatt

I’m more frustrated than I should be. Or at least I’m more frustrated than I think I should be. Most of the time I’m thankful for all I have: a decent paying job with benefits and retirement, a beautiful baby girl, loving wife and hilarious stepson. I don’t like when parents complain about what a burden it is to them or how hard it is because of course it’s hard. The best jobs always are. It’s not parenthood that troubles me. I am, as always, my own worst enemy.

I’m frustrated because my job is my career. I’m frustrated because I don’t have as much time to go back to school and even if I did, my benefits are too good to give up. I’m frustrated that I’m not writing anymore, that my creativity feels stagnant and I worry every day that I’ll never actually make it the way I want to. Sometimes I think every word I write will be all for nothing by the end of it. I’m frustrated because I want more alone time with my wife and that’s always conflicting because I can’t be two places at once. I get frustrated of feeling secondary as a stepdad and not having more time with my stepson and yet the time I do have I feel I have to be extra strict with him.

Sometimes I think, well, that’s just being a parent. It’s not easy. Anything worth doing rarely is. But I’m not sure that’s a useful way to look at it. Maybe what bothers me most is that I’m conflicted. I have everything a person should want, why fret? Because I want more and I don’t want to forget the hard work I put into my writing and education. I don’t want to forget the bigger picture. Looking at it from the angle, it doesn’t sound bad. What’s a few years of frustration in the grand scheme of things? What does my life look like now, versus two years ago. The answer is incredibly better.

So far I think there’s a few rules it’s safe for me to abide by in order to keep myself in check. Rule number one: enjoy the little things. Most of adult life, parenting or not is pretty boring or at least, exhausting, even if you’re doing what you love. Enjoy a good meal with your family without a phone in front of you. Go outside on a nice day, even if briefly. Most people work inside and stepping out to get air can break the monotony. My favorite ‘little thing’ right now is seeing my daughter smile. That can make the worst of days brighter.

Rule number two: Never work when you can relax. Yes, to meet your goals you’ve got to push yourself and get up early or stay up late working on you craft. Free time needs to be used productively otherwise there’s no progress. But lately I’ve been giving myself time to play videogames, to read, to escape in any matter for an hour or two and while it may not earn me money or get me published, it keeps me sane and as the head of my household, that’s a good thing.

Rule number three: play with your kids. If you’re not parent, get in touch with your youth somehow. Kids are a great reminder of how you can enjoy the little things. Their endless questions and vivid imaginations can bring us back to simpler, more innocent times and while you may have to be the responsible, rule oriented one most of the time, there’s nothing forgetting about life for a while and running around the playground or wherever you have the privilege of spending your fun time.

These are only a few rules of which I often forget. They’re not set in stone. They’re not anything special or unique, certainly all parents have thought about them or heard them a few times. But they help. I’m not sure I ever want to stop being just a little angry, at least with myself. Anger is a great motivator, an emotion that can be manipulated into something useful, but when left unchecked can become immensely destructive, especially within a family. Sometimes I get even angrier at myself for feeling the way I feel, but it’s just emotions. The lessons we learn as children don’t mature much as we get older. They pretty much all still apply, especially in this case. Some emotions are worth fighting for. Other’s aren’t.

James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and stepson, who tells lovely stories about bunnies and crabs. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee.


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