Entertainment And News

Dad Opens Up About The Dark Side Of Parenting & The Constant Pressure To Make It Seem Joyous — 'This Is Not How Actual Parents Feel'

Photo: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock / @Jayacunzo via Twitter
parents holding baby and @jayacunzo dark side of parenting tweet

To view it on social media, you'd think parenthood is nothing but laughter, catharsis, and endless moments of enraptured joy. But one candid conversation with any parent will quickly disabuse you of that notion, and podcaster and father Jay Acunzo is tired of pretending otherwise.

The dad says parents are pressured to hide the dark side of parenting.

Acunzo posted his experience on Twitter, where it instantly went viral among his fellow parents who immediately resonated with his perspective. He wrote that he was moved to post his thread after spending three days with "dear friends, all of whom have kids ages 8mo to 4y."

Photo: Twitter / @jayacunzo

Their conversations validated his feeling that "what the culture shares and even demands you share about having kids/being a parent...that it's precious, it's a gift, it's a joy, etc... is not what actual parents talk about or how actual parents feel."

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Acunzo confessed that 'every dimension of our life goes worse' since becoming a parent, and that the only good part is the love he feels for his children.

Acunzo tweeted that rather than spend their time together talking about the joys of parenthood, they commiserated about how having kids has made their lives exponentially more difficult.

"We talked about the fact that our physical + mental health had gotten problematic," he wrote, going on to say that their careers, friendships, finances, and even their relationships with their spouses and partners had all taken major hits. "One person summed it up as: they're basically just the other parent I live with," Acunzo wrote of one of his friends' marriage.

Photo: @jayacunzo / Twitter

Acunzo went on to quip that he and his friends "didn't sit around writing Hallmark cards to the joys of parenting," but rather discussed their amazement at how being a parent is "impossibly hard" and how "every dimension of our life got worse...EXCEPT a new dimension called Loving Our Kids."

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The dad says that he and other parents should be able to be more open about the dark side of parenting because hiding it makes them feel 'ashamed.'

Acunzo admitted that even as he was tweeting his thoughts, he heard himself saying, "Walk it back, man." But he says his thoughts are those of parents everywhere.

"This is parenting," he wrote. "It is multiple things, fully. Terrible and great. Crushing and uplifting. At once."

 Photo: @jayacunzo / Twitter

But he says parents are made to feel like they can't express how crushingly hard parenting really is. "Parents ought to be given more permission to say multiple things are totally true at the same time, because we feel ashamed to feel bad about our experiences otherwise."

Acunzo was quick to point out that it wasn't regret that made him feel this way. "We wouldn't trade it," he wrote of his and his friends' decisions to become parents. "I routinely drop everything to console or play with them. I would, w/o thinking, take a bullet for them... But ALSO? This highway is underwater."

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Parents on Twitter found Acunzo's thoughts instantly relatable, and many felt relieved that they could speak about it openly.

Recently, I was visiting one of my best friends, who has a three-year-old son and one-year-old twin boys. We were laughing about how our formerly booze-soaked get-togethers now consist mostly of me playing with her twins so she can go use the bathroom in peace for once when she suddenly started crying.

"I love them and I wouldn't change any of this," she said, "but I miss my life. I miss being a person, who did things."



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All over in the comments below Acunzo's Twitter thread, parents expressed similar dichotomous feelings about their own parenthood. "Thank you for saying this," one parent wrote. "As parents of 4, we've been roasted by non-parents for saying things like this. ... Then they had kids of their own."

Photo: Twitter

One dad on Twitter summed the situation up perfectly. "Being a parent is the only thing wonderful and rewarding enough to be worth how exhausting and disruptive it is," he wrote. "It is the best thing you'll ever do, and that's good, because it's also the hardest and most draining thing you'll ever do." Hang in there, moms and dads, you got this.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.