If you’re reading this, I already know that one of your goals is to be a good parent. Kudos! On behalf of all of us who will share this orb with your children in their lifetimes, thank you!
One of the single most important things we can do for our children is to model positive adulthood.
As simple as that sounds, it is so very easy to slip out of perspective. As intentional parents, we spend a lot of time actually thinking about our parenting choices. In that passion, it is easy to lose focus and to stop being whole women and men first.
It sounds so noble to say that our children are our top priority. Ironically though, if we want to raise healthy enough, balanced-enough adults, our children cannot be our top priority. We need to first foster a healthy adulthood for ourselves in which our children are members of our little home community, but not more important than any other member of the community. Otherwise, we set our children up to believe that people around them are there to cater to our children’s will. That’s a serious problem!
In general, women in most American cultures are praised and exalted for ignoring their own needs and sacrificing for their children for being a mother first and a woman, last. From my observations, this sets our children up for a skewed and insecure sense of their place in the world, and sets mothers up for heart attack, obesity, depression, stress-related illnesses and early death. None of these serve our families well.
Fathers in American cultures are under pressure in this area too, but it looks a little different. Decades of Women’s Rights be damned, by and large, our fathers are still exalted for providing for their families. They often make sacrifices as well, including overwork, working long-term at jobs they hate to keep the provision coming, and often being pulled in far too many directions trying to succeed professionally and still be available to their children. This leads to… heart attack, obesity, depression, stress-related illnesses and early death. This is not any more helpful for the family than when these things happen with moms!
Over-giving also sets us up for supreme disappointment with our lives. While being a parent is an incredibly rewarding part of our lives, it is just that; a part of our lives. It is ONE role of many that we fulfill, and that fulfill us. When our sense of identity becomes too wrapped up in the single role of parent, we become out of balance and necessarily disappointed with our lives. (It also leaves us utterly lost when our children actually grow up and become independent.)
The disappointment is there to prompt us to do something different! If we hold this paradigm that says being a parent is the be-all and end-all, we lack internal permission to candidly face our disappointment and make changes. We often just stuff it down and try harder to pretend we’re satisfied when we aren’t because we believe we are supposed to be!
Many of us bury our disappointment, even to ourselves. We give and give and then get to middle age and ask ourselves, “Is this all there is??” Without the internal permission to actually address our discontent, we tend toward destructive behaviors like affairs, family abandonment, reckless and selfish behavior and all manner of things that get too easily dismissed as “mid-life crisis.” Which also… does not serve our families well!
I have nothing against sacrificing for our children. I’ve done quite a lot of it myself in the last 19 years. However, when we give, we need to give from strength, not deficit. When we give from deficit, we deplete ourselves and model poor adulthood.
When we give from strength, we can give our very finest. When we commit to giving from strength, we will necessarily have to say “no” at times, even when it’s painful to do so. When our children receive an honest “no,” we are giving them gifts:
- They learn to be resourceful and get their needs met by multiple sources
- They learn that they are actually capable of meeting their own needs at times
- They learn delayed gratification – that they won’t actually fly apart at the seams when they don’t get what they want – and even sometimes what they need – right away.
- They learn to also give from strength and have a much better chance at having a balanced, fulfilling life.
When we give an honest “no” we also give our kids a model for authentic living. Authentic living requires that we share what’s actually true with our loved ones, not burying and subjugating our true selves until we can’t take it any more and either drown in depression of implode/explode our lives. We model the kind of emotional courage that is necessary for truly intimate relationships.
We teach our children that each person is precious, with both needs and gifts to offer the community around them.
So make time for yourself and your interests! Maintain nourishing friendships. Take a class. Learn a hobby. Express your creativity! Let them see the parts of you that have nothing to do with being a parent. Involve your family when you can, and be mindful not to let your self-nourishing overtake nourishing your children. It’s a tricky balance, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. We learn by doing.
If you want your children to become whole-enough and balanced-enough adults, and to couple up with whole-enough and balanced-enough adults, it’s time to be those people to whom they can aspire!
If you’d like some help figuring how to pull that off in your own life, please click on the Contact Tiffany button above. I’d love to talk with you. Let’s work together to move you from surviving to thriving!
“Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.” – Maya Angelou