parent opinion

I’m in the ‘parental paradox’ and you probably are too.

I've almost been a parent for 13 years and while this hardly makes me an expert, it has given me well over a decade to come to grips with the fact that as a mum, two truths can absolutely coexist.

I can be head over heels in love with my two boys – my favourite humans and best creations – while simultaneously wishing I had more time alone.

Over the years I have known that this is a very normal parenting phenomenon, but today I read a term that encapsulates the whole rollercoaster experience: 'The Parental Paradox'.

Anna Whitehouse, otherwise known as the journalist and podcaster 'Mother Pukka', shared a relatable post explaining the paradox.

"I’ve found love on another level but wonder how much of myself I’ve lost along the way," Whitehouse wrote on Instagram. 

"I’m stronger but also weaker. Broken but also robust. I want it all to stop and, yet, am willing it never to end. To anyone questioning mind, body and knackered soul, the parental paradox is real."


How relatable is that?

It is very possible to miss them so much it feels physically wounding when I am away visiting family while also wishing they were at school when it's the school holidays (again). I can fire up quicky when one of them is rude and melt with pure joy when one of them says something sweet to the other.

As a new mum, I remember every 'old' mum or grandmother telling me to 'just enjoy it' or 'treasure every moment because it all goes by so quickly' and wanting to scream at them. Because when I was knee-deep in nappies and sleep deprivation, it felt like every minute lasted a lifetime. 

Until, of course, it didn't.

I wished so much of their baby and toddler years away because I was so exhausted, and now as I enter my 'old mum era' as they too get older, I wish I could have it all back again. 


Ah, the parenting paradox!

Watch: Laura Byrne on being a 'good mum'. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

As my eldest son is on the precipice of turning into a teenager I feel as though I am feeling this parental paradox more than ever. 

Where once I used to long for a full night's sleep and for my babies to grow up, as Whitehouse describes, now I miss the days I could simply pick my son up, pop him on my hip and cuddle him back to being okay. 

I am mourning the chubby cheeks, easy smiles and Insta-adorable phase that strangers cooed over while being grateful for not having to cook two separate meals or visit soft play centres on rainy days.

I've swapped pureeing baby food and cute gummy cuddles, for making school lunch boxes and intelligent conversations. 

I've swapped feeling angry about being touched out or sleep-deprived, for feeling angry about constantly having to stop the two of them fighting over a cricket ball. 

I might have more of the independence I craved when my kids were little, but the mental load and worry sometimes feel overwhelming.


As my eldest son's official childhood ends and he enters his teenage years, I am living in a state of permanent nostalgia – both for the past and for this very moment. I already know how fast time flies after 13 years as a mum and now I am aware of how quickly the next five years will go before he leaves home.

The thought of more future independence and time by myself or seeing my boys flourish into young men is a wonderful thing, but equally, I am petrified of what life will look like without them at home.

I have caught myself, after everyone is asleep, creepily standing in the hallway, listening to their breathing and thinking that one day, not so long from now, these bedrooms will be empty and I won't even know where my boys are, let alone if they are okay.

But then this is all part of the journey, right? I need to live more now and stop with so much nostalgia because every parenting phase comes with its difficulties and delights.

And what I am FINALLY realising – thanks to the parenting paradox – is that no phase is perfect and I will always want it to end... while willing it to never, ever stop.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Calling all Shopaholics, Retail Therapy Enthusiast & Glamour Gurus ! Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!