Parenting is an attitude, not a biological function.
In my book, Easy Parenting For All Ages, I wrote that parenting should never be considered a sacrifice. Rather, it is a compromise.
If like me, you came into parenting high on idealism and realised that ouch, it costs a lot in terms of your personal ambition, energy and resources, the biggest mistake you could make it see parenting as a sacrifice. The “I could have done that if I didn’t have you” mindset breeds resentment which is not a healthy environment for children to grow up in with that burden to bear. And as I am fond of saying, it only takes ONE parent to screw children up.
I was shocked to realise that even with one child, my carefree hedonistic life and burning ambition was over. My friends went off for exciting gap years or to university whilst I stayed behind working in my local hospital lab which was kind enough to take me on. Later, when I finally started university (by then pregnant with my third child), I realised that my student life was so different from my friends’. They were talking about cool bands and cheap beer in the student union, I was too exhausted with exams, assignments, project, house cleaning, cooking, childminding and part-time job. Of course resentment crept in.
But my children’s father was always joyful. He the reluctant father. And therein lies in our successful parenting story – he had always been genuinely happy to be nothing more than a parent. Yet he had to sell his boats. Yet he had to move 250 miles north to Manchester away from his mates and sailing in the south coast. He took up fell running in the stunning Peak District instead, which he learned to love. He began loving the northern mountain town of Kettleshulme. He made new friends.
His happy state of mind is infectious. I woke up then to the fact that life now for me was better than it could have been despite our financial hardship, challenges and being away from my family and friends in Hampshire. So parenting wasn’t a sacrifice though I could not live the life I envisaged. It was a compromise. Some would say, it was a better life with my large brood of small children with their father’s trademark chuckle and the silly “Are we having fun yet?” family mantra.
Thirty years later, he still has the same attitude. There he was late one night a few nights ago. He was due in for knee surgery the following day, he had a lot to wrap up before going to hospital the next day and he was also meant to be going out for a short while. She was crabby from a long day at school. She asked him to help her answer a tough question in physics. From where I was sitting, I could tell that it wasn’t an actual question: she just wanted her Daddy to soothe her ruffle feathers. Of course he knew that, being a qualified teacher with 30 years of parenting experience. But he indulged her and stood there patiently debating Entropy with her. Because sometimes, all our children want is our time, which is the main lack in many people’s psyche. We feel that to fit into the 24 hours and 7 days and 12 months, we have to cut out a few things, be it us or the children. More often than not, we cut us and feel resentful towards our children for forcing us to prioritise them.
Parenting is not a sacrifice. It is a compromise. Here is another example. A few Saturdays ago, we were in my daughter’s empty school during the school holidays, patiently waiting for her whiling the hour away. This was all because she decided she needed to go into school to do her project. There were other things we could have done instead of sitting in an empty classroom on a glorious Saturday morning in Phuket, but we went out to the marina afterwards and had a wonderful lunch together. She was her bright sparky self and we lingered over lunch with a bottle of wine in a sweet Italian restaurant. Spending that time with our youngest child was a good compromise, not a sacrifice. It is the best thing we have ever done, to be parents to her and her siblings who enriched our lives so much ❤
First published in www. raisinghappystrongkids.com