A while ago a colleague asked me what being a parent was like. I was having a bad parenting day and immediately said, “Oh, it’s awful!” She laughed, but later I felt bad about it. What if being a parent was her dream? What if she’d been struggling for years to be a parent and was broken on the wrack of infertility or adoption bureaucracy? I apologized later, but she said, “No, it was perfect! I appreciated your honesty!” In that spirit, I present this entry.

Being a parent is showing up on good days and bad.

Being a parent is accepting that you may not get to do everything you had imagined for your life–at least not now. Or maybe ever. And that’s OK.

Being a parent is understanding that you may feel like your heart has been ripped out and stomped on, but that it’s just your ego and your false belief that you can control everything that has been ripped out and stomped on.

Being a parent is realizing that your relationship with your spouse or partner has to change, and the change may not always be what you would prefer, and that’s OK, too.

Being a parent is knowing that some days are just going to suck and suck until you have nothing left, and then they’re going to suck some more. But you’ll survive.

Being a parent also is knowing that the days that suck for you also suck for your kids, and maybe even worse and for reasons that they can’t begin to articulate or understand.

Being a parent is looking at photos of happier, more innocent days and believing that those happy kids and babies and parties happened, and that the present doesn’t diminish the fact that they happened but just sets the joy in sharper relief.

Being a parent is grasping that bad things that happen to you don’t just happen to you. They happen to you and your kids and your spouse or partner.

Being a parent is also grasping that your happiness is not the sine qua non of your existence, nor that of your kids. It’s the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee of happiness, that Jefferson promised.

Being a parent is being happy with the fact that happiness is a gift, and one that often comes in strange and unexpected wrapping. Be surprised. Be happy. And don’t let the fact that it won’t last–because nothing good or bad ever does–detract from the joy in the gift you have found.