Parenting is the hardest job on the planet.

Air traffic control? Super stressful job. Brain surgeon? Not for the faint of heart. But parents take on the most relentless and challenging work on Earth every single day. Here's what makes raising humans the toughest job:

1. The responsibility is immense, and the stakes are incredibly high — yet there is no manual.

The first time you hold your baby — the weight of their entire life in your hands — it's nearly impossible not to be overwhelmed. You question whether you're adequate for the task, and the fact that you have no real idea what you're doing hits you. This is a person's life we're talking about. How did you get put in charge of a life?


And no matter how many experts you talk to or parenting books you read, you discover that children always find a way to thwart their wisdom and keep you on your toes. What works with one child is totally ineffectual with another. Your job is to nurture these tiny humans physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually — and you basically have to figure it out as you go along.

A story for the ages . . .

Posted by Annie Reneau, Writer on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting — and there are no real breaks.

Unless you’re lucky, you start off parenting with months of sleep deprivation that you never seem to catch up from. Even after kids figure out how to sleep, they wake you up because they're scared, they wet the bed, their pajamas are "scratchy," they're dying of thirst, or 5 a.m. on Saturday seems like a good time to party. Later, they choose your bedtime to have their most profound, hours-long heart-to-heart talks with you.

And in this constantly tired state, you are expected to be "on" 24/7. You must feed these people several times a day, every day, or they'll die. Dealing with their bodily functions feels like a full-time job in certain stages. And those are just the bare basic physical needs.

Until you're in it, it's impossible to understand the mental and emotional work that goes into parenting. You field 583,417 questions — half of which are unanswerable — in a kid's fourth year of life alone. You have to teach kids to navigate social and emotional landscapes that you yourself are still figuring out, and inevitably, at least one child will exhibit a behavior that you never even knew existed and have no idea how to handle.

Who knew Guns n' Roses had such a bead on parenting?

Posted by Annie Reneau, Writer on Monday, June 6, 2016

Parenting taxes the body, brain, and heart — and it's nonstop. Even if you get a physical break, you're always thinking about their wellbeing.

3. If the exhaustion doesn't get you, the worry might.

When my first child was a baby, I watched an "Oprah" episode about child abduction, and I've pretty much been terrified ever since. Like exhaustion, the worry waxes and wanes but never really stops.

Before kids, my definition of "overprotective" was something totally different than it is now. And thanks to the internet, parents have a whole host of concerns that generations past didn't have. Technology can open awesome new worlds of learning and exploration for our kids, but literally one click can lead them into a world of sick and twisted depravity.

You don't want to be neurotic, but you need a healthy amount of concern in order to make wise choices. Discerning what's worth worrying about and what's not is a constant — and exhausting — balancing act.

If I had a nickel . . .

Posted by

Annie Reneau, Writer on Saturday, April 8, 2017

4. You don't get a paycheck — and in fact, this job costs you money.

Parenting comes with more responsibility and stress than any occupation, but there's no paycheck, no seasonal bonuses, no monetary compensation of any kind.

In fact, generally speaking, the more time you spend parenting, the less money you make. There's also no paid leave. You usually have to pay someone else to watch your kids so you can have "time off."

Your superhuman ability to multi-task, keen attention to detail, and devotion to the job will not be noticed by the boss and rewarded with a promotion or a raise. In fact, you'll be lucky if these skills and qualities are noticed by anyone.

5. Yet we do our best anyway because our love for our kids is unparalleled — and the rewards are priceless.

Honestly, if we didn't love our children, they'd be a lot easier to raise. We wouldn't worry about them or bother figuring out what's best for them. We'd sleep through the night and let them cry until they turn blue. We'd plop them in front of the TV with Cheetos and root beer to keep them quiet and go about our days in peace.

But we do love them. The heart-swelling, Earth-shattering, all-consuming love we have for our kids is what makes us get up at 3 a.m. to chase away bad dreams, dutifully wipe a butt for the 2054th time, and agonize over meal-planning and screen-time limits.

And that love is also the reward we get for a job well done.

Love creates the challenge of parenting yet makes it all worthwhile. It's the cause of our parenting woes yet also the cure. My kid could be driving me up the wall one minute, but when he lays his head on my shoulder and says, "I love you, Mommy," I fall head-first into that gushy cloud of kid-love that has propelled the human race forward for millennia. Those moments always remind me that the joy ultimately outweighs the hard.

As much as I don't like the occasional kick when BoyWonder climbs into bed with us in the wee hours, I do love waking up...

Posted by Annie Reneau, Writer on Thursday, June 4, 2015

So keep on keepin' on, parents. Here's to you and the vital, daily, unacknowledged work you put into raising good humans.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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via Pexels

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

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