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"I Cried For An Hour": Parents Over 40 Are Revealing The Hardest Parts About Having Kids, And It's So Eye-Opening

As the oldest of four, I'm sure it was difficult for my parents to navigate parenthood — and I certainly didn't make it easy for them (shoutout to late-teens-me). Recently, redditor u/frogonet asked the older adults of the Reddit community to share what they thought the hardest part about raising kids was, and some of the responses made me appreciate my parents even more. Here are some of the most honest responses:

1."Watching them make decisions that are clearly detrimental to their future and being unable to help them."

u/UtterlyBored

2."The day-to-day juggling of finances: Paying for soccer instead of buying things for myself, going without buying myself clothes so the kids have new things, driving used cars so we could afford a house in a good neighborhood. And during really tight times, going without eating so the kids could eat. My adult son told me he was resentful and ashamed of our old cars and my appearance growing up. Meanwhile, both my daughters are very grateful and successful in life. It's wonderful when your sacrifices are appreciated and very heartbreaking when they are not."

Child holding a trophy on a soccer field with players in the background
Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

3."Without a doubt, it was teaching them how to drive. Next, it was watching them drive away without you for the first time."

u/TopHat80

4."One thing I found hard was the absolute lack of control. You try to make plans with friends, and the kids get sick. You plan a trip somewhere and think it will be fun, and then the kids don't like it at all. You try to run an errand, and your kids decide to have a giant tantrum in the middle of the store. It was all worth it, of course, but it was so hard retaining patience and sanity each day."

Young child in princess costume is crying
Robyn Breen Shinn / Getty Images/Image Source

5."When you are in an empty house after they are grown and you have to figure out what to do with your life now."

u/NefariousnessOk5602

6."For me, the troublesome mid-teen years. While some people will find the move to independence the most troublesome, I enjoyed it. Not because I got my own space back, but because I knew my daughter would do well."

A boy focused on his handheld game with an adult standing beside him, gesturing as if speaking
Fotostorm / Getty Images

7."The hardest part about having kids was trying not to pass down the traumatic child-raising techniques I was raised with. There were times during my kid's teenage years when my automatic responses were to hit, mock, or withdraw. I had to find a way to do the opposite without avoiding the responsibility of parenting. I tried to be present and open and exercise my authority without having a clear model of how to go about it. I think it went well, though. All three of my kids are amazing people living interesting and happy lives. They exceeded me in so many ways. The second hardest part was when they moved out, but that's because I loved the day-to-day interactions, and having a house full of cool young adults, keeping me culturally informed and relevant. As my kids make their way through life, I'm now their consultant and cheerleader."

u/gardengirl0

8."Assuming they'd go to college when it turns out they want no part of that life — and accepting it. It was easier for me than my wife because she actually uses her degrees, but I was a kid who should have done something other than college after high school."

Graduate in white cap and gown smiling outdoors with a house in the background
Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images

9."Knowing that they'll get hurt and you won't be able to protect them from everything. I'm not talking about when they're little (though they'll get hurt then, too), but I'm talking about the big hurts that will happen later. It might be a car accident, it might be a nasty divorce, or it might be a miscarriage. You don't know what will hurt them, and you don't know when it might happen. But it will, and it's inevitable."

u/candlestick_maker76

10."Navigating my divorce from their father, who was addicted to alcohol and emotionally abusive. I wish I could have done more to protect my kids, or at least help them deal with his nonsense in healthy ways. There are scars that will never heal, and it breaks my heart."

Two people sitting across from each other with their hands folded near wedding rings and documents on a table
Bymuratdeniz / Getty Images

11."The sheer exhaustion of the infant and toddler years. It sucks, though, because even though they are so cute during that time, you can't really appreciate it as much because you are constantly tired."

u/HazyDavey68

12."My first kid is an introvert, and I suffered so much watching her struggle to have friends. My second is an extrovert, and I suffered watching her be everyone's friend, no matter how poor the quality of their character was. A mother is only as happy as her most miserable child. Now, I'm an old grandma, and they are both fine. But, there is some suffering in watching them suffer with their own children."

Young girl smiling with pigtails, wearing a knitted cardigan indoors
Ridofranz / Getty Images

13."Making decisions that will ultimately affect their development and future. My daughter has autism, and it was impossibly early on for her to attend school full-time, have working parents, and receive all the recommended therapies. So, we focused heavily on speech, ABA, and traveling experiences. We allowed her to choose team sports and music lessons over additional after-school therapies as a teenager. She's 17 now, and my partner and I stay awake at night, hoping we're setting her up for a healthy, happy, and independent life."

u/No_Practice_970

14."The hardest part is always letting go, and you have to do it every time: the day they start kindergarten, the day they get their learner's permit, the day they go off to college, the day they get married, etc. You have to learn how to let them go so that they can grow up and make good choices."

Two people sitting closely on a bed, looking into a cardboard box with visible affection
Fg Trade / Getty Images

15."When they decide they hate you."

u/Unhooked-

"The first time I was told that, I went to my bedroom and cried for an hour."

u/Butter_mah_bisqits

16."Letting them be independent and do things for themselves. As parents, we spend those first two years or so doing everything for them. Then, it seems like it happens overnight when they start choosing their own clothes, dressing themselves, and pouring their own cereal. Next thing you know, they're graduating from high school and going out on their own. In the blink of an eye, they've gone from being this helpless little baby that you napped every day with on the sofa to a full-grown adult. It happens so fast."

Man feeding a child in a high chair; both are indoors with vintage decor
John Eder / Getty Images

17."Not having any family locally. I really could've used the support, especially when my kind were younger. I'm currently not liking my almost 14-year-old son going through puberty. The mood swings and poor attitude are worse with him than it was with my daughter (not to mention his stench). I make a conscious effort to try and maintain a connection with him, even if it's him showing me the game he's creating on Roblox or family game nights. I cherish those moments when I glimpse my son's 'normal' personality."

u/Robospammm

18."The constant praying that your kids will be at your funeral and not that you will be at theirs. My brother was three when he got sick and passed; I was one. Being a kid or a parent is not easy; being a grandparent seems like the best deal."

Older man in glasses smiling at young girl holding flowers. They stand close, sharing a happy moment
Jena Ardell / Getty Images

19."Missing that cute little toddler. I love my adult kid, but I'll never see that toddler again."

u/freebleploof

20."I thought society was equal, but nope! School districts differ. 'Good' school districts are in expensive areas, so you gotta move and pay. It affects everything. So the question boils down to: Stay in the cycle of poverty or break your kid out early? There are privileges made from such decisions, and the people born in them aren't even aware."

Students in a hallway interacting and accessing lockers
Maskot / Getty Images/Maskot

21."The discipline. Children need to be guided and corrected. Doing so doesn't make you popular with them, but what is best for them often isn't what they want at that moment. Raising children in their best long-term interest takes great discipline for yourself and them."

u/OldAndOldSchool

22."Hearing all the idiots telling you how to raise your kids: Do this, don't do that, this school is better, that school is worse, don't be friends with that kid, only let them do this, etc. Shut the hell up."

An adult and child with shaving cream on their faces are laughing together
Jacoblund / Getty Images

23."Tempering your own insecurities as a parent. Mine was an overly excessive focus on them being perfect or great — whatever that means. I corrected myself eventually, but it's my biggest regret."

u/itchman

24."Spending the first few years teaching them how to walk and talk, and then spending the next 20 years telling them to sit down and shut up."

Toddler crouching on a tiled floor with sunlight streaming in, looking to the side
Oscar Wong / Getty Images

25.Last but not least: "Wow. What isn't a challenge? I suppose it was hard to watch their bodies become adult-like, even though they aren't adult-like at all intellectually or emotionally. Guiding the grown-up bodies that believed they were mature and could make appropriate decisions exhausted me. I remember being 15 and 16; I knew my mother was correct when she said I didn't have the experience to make grown-up decisions, but I felt and looked grown up. I did my best to listen to my children as they justified their actions because my father hadn't been keen to hear me out. I did my best, I succeeded, and I failed."

Three people in a selfie, two young and one middle-aged, smiling on a city street

If you're a parent, what was the most difficult part about raising your kids? What was a part of parenthood that you didn't expect? Let me know in the comments, or you can anonymously submit using this form!