"My 9-year-old is a somewhat enjoyable human now but holy sh*t was it touch and go there for a while."
An image of a mom cuddling with her daughter.
Credit: Getty Images.

Being a parent can feel like a thankless job. The responsibility, stress, and sleep deprivation reach levels you never even thought possible before. Even with all that, though, it's one of the most life-changing and rewarding things you can possibly do.

But when, exactly, do those super fulfilling moments start happening? When does parenting really become "worth it"? That's exactly what this Reddit parent wants to know.

"When do the rewarding and worth it parts kick in?" u/OoklaIsMyHomeboy questioned in the Parenting subreddit. "Because I'm 6+ years deep and daily tantrums and 6am wake ups and no free time of my own and my non-existant [sic] social life and lack of my own friends is really beating me down. I'm not seeing any of these supposed rewards I was promised."

As some Redditors were quick to point out, some of the original poster's (OP) issues—temper tantrums, no real free time, a lack of a social life—actually can be worked on. Clear boundaries, reaching out to trusted friends or family for help, and setting yourself and your needs first some of the time can make the world of a difference. But things like 6 a.m. wakings and feeling a little less independence once you have a child? Par for the course.

Putting some of OP's bigger issues aside, parents can relate to those overwhelming feelings of stress and fatigue—at least some of the time. There's no downplaying how hard being a parent can be. The good days can be so, so good, but the bad days? Watch out. Between sleep regressions, new developmental milestones, the Terrible Twos, and cranky kids testing boundaries, it's not easy to go through the ups and downs of parenthood.

And there will be ups and downs. Here, Reddit parents share what finally made it all "worth it" to them or when they truly saw some light at the end of the tunnel:

  • "We do have 2 neurotypical kids, but they came after many miscarriages so I know my gratitude in having them at all can tint my view of parenthood. I'm not saying this to piss off any overtired parent, but if those about to become parents are reading that it really isn't all stress and tiredness. So many things are a phase and that phase passes. Your kids telling you how much they love you and smiling up at you is wonderful." — u/justkeepscrollindown
  • "My 9-year-old is a somewhat enjoyable human now but holy sh*t was it touch and go there for a while..." — u/b-parker-balls
  • "My 3-year-old is often exhausting (and still doesn't sleep through the night, so I am constantly sleep-deprived), but [I] enjoy him as a person. We're still in the tantrum and irrational demand stage, which is normal at 3 but definitely annoying and draining. Sometimes I just long for one day without having to hear any demands or whining. He's creative, funny, clever, and sweet. Yesterday he said he loved me 116% percent. I'm not over here saying it's fun and rewarding all the time, but he's a great little human." — u/harpsdesire
  • "I'm a single mom, my ex moved across the country before the lockdown. I feel you on the lack of social life. I set the boundary that when I have my daily call with my best friend they play quietly. It has helped having that hour of grown-up time. It's hard. Parenting is like gardening, you won't really get to enjoy it until they're grown." — u/abycatgrl

As many also commented, what's considered rewarding is really subjective. It could be a cuddle, a new memory or activity shared with your child, or the first time they say, "I love you." Even when the days are tough and long it's important to look on the bright side as much as you can or reach out for help if you're really feeling hopeless and down. Sometimes you won't realize that the moments that really make it all "worth it" are all around you—and you might just miss them one day.

But as for the tantrums or sleepless nights? Nah, not gonna miss those one bit.