Some folks were offended by this photo I posted on Facebook on the first day of school.
They were afraid it was upsetting to my children. Upsetting that their mother is happy to move on to a new chapter of her life. Upsetting that she has plans and dreams and things she wants to do after spending almost every hour of almost every day for the last 10 years focusing completely on them. It might be damaging to their self-image if they know I’m a whole person even when they’re not by my side.
I can say without a doubt my boys are secure enough in my love that knowing I like going to the grocery store without them doesn’t hut their self-esteem. My wanting to have a few uninterrupted hours every day to work on writing a book doesn’t make them feel unloved. Seeing me explore interests outside of parenting won’t scar them for life.
If you’re a parent — I won’t limit this to just moms, because being a dad is tough too — and you’ve never once felt frustrated because caring for your children stopped, slowed down or prevented you from doing something you wanted then you deserve the Lifetime Achievement Award for Parenting. Being a mom and dad involves a whole lot of self-sacrifice which isn’t something that comes naturally to the human disposition.
We do it out of love and old-fashioned it’s-the-right-thing-to-do-ness. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. We might hide it well because we’re grown-ups, but if we’re all honest with ourselves and each other, often we’re dragged along silently kicking and screaming. I can’t think of many adults who wake up in the morning and say, “I want to spend my free Saturday afternoon in a hot, smelly, noisy Chuck E. Cheese because I LOVE overpaying for mediocre pizza!” Oh, yes, friends, going to Chuck E. Cheese is a sacrifice. Can I get an Amen?
Here is what is natural, though. Children growing up, gaining independence and pulling away from their parents. The Bible admonishes us to “Train up,” our children, “in the way THEY should GO.” Not micromanage them and go with them. And it’s a whole lot easier for your children to gain independence if you step back, happily. Think about it. Do you want your kids worrying that you’re sitting around home moping because they aren’t there? How can they enjoy going to college, having a career, having a family and living their life if they think it makes you miserable? I know enough adults who have parents who do just that to know they can’t enjoy it.
Here’s an even more radical thought. What if it’s OK for you children to know that parenting isn’t all blissful sunshine-filled days at the beach? What if it’s OK for them to know what you gave to and gave up for them? Might it make them a little more appreciative and less entitled? Might it show them unconditional love in action? Wait, Mom and Dad still love me even though I can be a huge pain in the butt sometimes? What if you make it seem so wonderful and easy, and then they become parents who are completely shocked and thrown for a loop because, Oh. My. Word. This is hard!!!! Why didn’t my parents tell me?
What is so terrible about Mom and Dad having hopes and dreams beyond getting dinner on the table and mowing the lawn anyway? I can’t think of a better way to model creativity, goal setting and courage. What if you reaching for your dreams shows them how to do the same thing someday? What if seeing you not defined by your role as a parent helps them understand that none of us are defined by the labels society places on us? What if watching you gracefully accept change and cope with new experiences helps them learn to do the same thing?
I know. This is CRAZY. It’s revolutionary thinking. Especially for those of the helicopter parent persuasion.
Before he started kindergarten, I asked my five-year-old, “What do you think Mommy is going to do all day without you at home?”
He laughed then said, “Have a party!”
That was without any prompting. They already know. So why not be honest?
Actually the party was more like clean out and organize all the kitchen cupboards, the closets and bedrooms in a way that it hadn’t been done in a decade. And oh, man did it feel good!
If you’re a parent who works outside the home and you love you’re job, it’s OK to let your kids know. Your heart is big enough to love them and your work. If you’re a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, it’s OK to enjoy THE NOW and look forward to the day they graduate from your tutelage. You can be a loving parent and you’re own person at the same time. It’s not selfish.
God made us complex so we can fill more than one role at a time. HE made US in HIS Image, and he fills many roles: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Creator, Provider, Healer, Shepherd, just to name a few. He does all of that, and oh, how he loves us! Surely we can love our kids and pursue a dream or two at the same time.
You know that Proverbs 31 women that we moms all aspire too? I guarantee you she didn’t do all that with kids tied to her apron strings all day. Can you image taking a three-year-old to a business meeting about buying investment property? Yet her children called her blessed!
It’s early afternoon. My boys will be home from school soon. I’ve given a few hours today to my own pursuits. My cup is full. Now it’s time to close my computer and pour into them.