No matter what many people might tell you, being a primary parent isn't the hardest job in the world. Even being a great parent is not that hard. The hours are long, but the work is not especially physical. It doesn't take a lot of brain power. The skills are varied, but not difficult to learn. It's really not as difficult as so many mothers make it out to be.
However. Being a good parent is an exercise in putting others before yourself much of the time. When I cook breakfast, whether it's eggs or pancakes, I am the one who eats last, every time. If someone needs something during dinner, it is me who goes to fetch it from the fridge. My first child was born in 1994, my second 15 months later. From the moment my son arrived, drinking an entire cup of coffee while it was still hot became an impossible dream. It wasn't until May of 1998, during my first day back in the paid workforce, before I enjoyed that experience again.
Your kids will feel that their things are their things, but will presume that you will share what you have with them. Even now, if I come home from work with a meal--even if they've eaten, and even though it's sometimes after 9 at night--they'll swarm me like locusts and pick my plate half-clean before I even realize what's happening. Restaurant food is still enough of a treat to them that they want in on it, any time they can.
Being a good parent means the same shit, different day, over and over. It means telling your kids the same shit, over and over, until you sometimes feel like you're talking to a brick wall.
Being a good parent means you have to say no, even when it makes your kids scream that they hate you. Sometimes you have to make them cry, even though your child's crying is a wonder of evolutionary biotechnology designed to be psychologically painful to the people who hear it. And you know, even when you're doing it for their own good and they'll one day appreciate that your discipline taught them right from wrong and good decisions from bad, well, that appreciation is going to be a long time coming. It's a deferral of thanks for all the things you did that they didn't like at the time, and that you didn't like to do either, but that helped shape them into decent human beings.
It's an exercise in frustration. The number of times my children have clamored for a specific food they love--be it pizza pops, yogurt tubes, a specific kind of breakfast cereal, pepperoni sticks--only to decide they're sick and tired of it two days after it went on sale at Costco and I bought two months' worth of it...well. It's years of hearing "just a sec" whenever you ask them to do something, and "but I want it now!" whenever they ask you to do something. And while parenthood isn't as intellectually gruelling as many occupations, well, the work is boring as fuck at times. If it weren't for the internet and TV, I'd lose my mind some days.
And you don't get paid for your efforts for years. And I'm not talking money, I'm talking about the moment your kids realize the breadth and depth of the job you took on when you had them, and how thankless a job being a good parent is at times.
So until that day arrives, the day my kids say, "You know mom, all those times you pissed me off because you wouldn't let me do what I wanted, all those times you put me in time out because you loved me enough to not indulge my bad behavior, all those times you didn't buy me that designer whatever because it was too expensive, all those times you ate last...well, thanks," I'll take a day a year to let other people pat me on the back.
Happy Mother's Day to me. And to all the other moms and dads out there who are the primary caregiver to their kids, Happy Mother's Day to you, too.