Do We Put Ourselves Before Our Kids More Than We Realize?
It’s tough being a single parent. And in addition to sometimes feeling draining and overwhelming, it can feel “unfair” – like our parenting responsibilities are stealing precious time and energy from us that we’d prefer to spend on well…ourselves. You know – our careers, our social lives, our dating/love life, etc. “I didn’t sign up to be a martyr,” we might grumble to ourselves. Or, “When is life going to me more about ME?”
Now you can hate me for saying the above out loud. But the truth is that this internal conflict touches many of us. I’ve felt it too:
I’ve felt angry at having to pass up on a great job opportunity because it would demand too much time away from my kids. I’ve been sorely disappointed at having to (selectively) miss out on galas, girls’ nights outs, even travel, because in my heart of hearts I knew I was getting greedy with ‘me-time’. I’ve felt the sting of self-pity when I’ve chosen to pass on an exciting date with a man I really wanted to see. I’ll tell you, my dating life would have been a LOT busier — maybe even richer – had I not insisted on keeping it completely separate from my life with my kids.
But you know what? I’m five years into my divorce now, and I am so thankful that despite these grumbly feelings, I chose to consistently put my kids first. The payoff – my kids’ well-being — really shows.
I’m not saying I haven’t done stuff for me too, for I definitely have. But I easily could have done wayyyyyy more. For there were times when my pain and restlessness were great and my enthusiasm for parenting was low; temptations and thrills came on strong, and my heart and body’s resistance was weak. Add some convenient, self-serving justifications into the mix like “Experts say that kids are resilient, Delaine. They’ll adjust…” or “You know your kids are going to leave home one day, so you shouldn’t sacrifice your success and happiness for them,” and every logical and feminist bone in my body rallied against my commitment. Have YOU heard such justifications before? Were they coming from you or perhaps from divorced friends or family? And could it be that such justifications are, in actuality, dressed-up excuses for being less-than-what-we-need-to-be parents?
It’s a fine line; a balancing act. Maintaining our happiness versus that of our children, that is. But in today’s day and age, where an attitude of self-entitlement prevails, I think the me-focused attitude has become too common. I think a lot of people don’t even realize they’ve swung this way. They just compare themselves to the really bad parents they hear about in the media and think, “Pfft, I’m nothing like them. My kids are way better off.” Meanwhile, their kids have been with a sitter three nights that week and they haven’t spent one-on-one time with any of them in four months. Hello kettle? This is the pot calling.
When we became parents we made a lifetime commitment to prioritizing our children through every stage of their development. Think back for a moment to when you were married and your children were born – do you remember the heartfelt commitment you felt towards raising them? I do. It was a beautiful thing, too.
Let us not forget that. Our marriage may have ended but our parenting commitment did not. Let us not get distracted; we only have one shot.