Parent Props: Why Parents Should Be Appreciated
This week's blog isn't about how to parent. Most of my blogs do focus on that in one way or another, but this week I just want to remind parents of how important they are, and to give them some props. It's a job that gets so little in the way of public affirmation, and all to often, plenty of criticism when things go wrong.
Here's what we should all remember:
#1 Being a parent is the most important job there is.
That's a big statement, but here's why I'm saying it. Parents have the daunting responsibility of raising, shaping, growing and facilitating the development of little human beings into adults that will one day share in running the world, make do or die decisions, take care of the elderly (which will be all of us), keep the globe afloat, and continue our survival. It's not a little job, and when you think about it, it is the most significant job. It's what makes us thrive (or not). It's a HUGE responsibility!
#2 Being a parent requires giving, without thought of getting a lot back.
In a world where people want to know "What's in it for me?", parents have to focus on what's in it for their children. Their focus is not on what they get back, but what they give out.
To be a parent is to remain a parent your entire life. Even when your kids are grown, you are still a parent. You still worry. You still give. You are still involved and want the best for your kids. It is a forever job. You can't quit it, or retire from it.
Parents do often get a lot back, but that's not a parent's primary goal.
#3 Being a parent means a constant awareness of yourself and where you are stuck.
Nothing will show up your vulnerabilities like becoming a parent. Worse, there's no let up. Kids are like mirrors. They constantly show you who you are, where you need improvement, and where you're vulnerable. Without knowing, kids also require that you face those vulnerabilities because they need you. You must be present, emotionally available, and connected. To do that, you often have to deal with your historical hurts, immaturities, fears, self image, and personal flaws. There's no escape. Not if you want to be connected to your kids. It's an ongoing process that comes at you and continually challenges you.
#4 Being a parent requires living with great fear.
Whether admitted or not,
Every parent is afraid their child could die, or be lost forever. That is simply a fact, and it's awful.
We worry about their safety daily, and as they get older and need more independence, the fear escalates. They are oblivious to our worries about safety, and often scoff at them. They want more and more independence. It's a natural drive and necessary for their development. As parents, we know this and encourage that independence, but all the while secretly worry about getting that phone call that informs us something has happened we couldn't prevent. Most of the time, we keep those thoughts far in the background. Have to, because otherwise, we'd never let our kids out of the house. The truth is that it's hard to love them so much and know that we could lose them. But that is part of being a parent, and a part we have no choice but to accept.
#5 Being a parent means we can't ignore the future.
Our children are going to be here long after we're gone. That means we have to care about what is happening on the planet, because they will inherit the problems we are leaving behind. It's much harder to put your head in the sand if you have kids. Environmental problems, political problems, economic problems, and every thing that affects us all become more personal and more important when you imagine your kids as adults grappling with them. Being a parent makes the future a front burner problem that can't be ignored.
#6 Being a parent means becoming a master multi-tasker and juggler.
It's one thing to take care of yourself, work, make enough money to pay your bills, and focus on your own needs. That's hard enough. It's quite another to do all of that and do the same for your kids and family. Just the daily output is tremendous. It can feel like running a never-ending marathon. It requires you to wear many hats, be organized, plan ahead, and be ready for interruptions to your schedule and have to scramble to make everything work. It requires consistent, ongoing output, even when you don't have it to give.
#7 Being a parent means considering someone else's needs 24/7.
For many of us, this is the hardest part of being a parent. When you have children, especially during the first 5 years, your kids are highly dependent on you and need your love and attention by the minute. No one can really describe that early dependency and what it's like unless you have experienced it first hand.
I remember working for an agency that offered parenting classes, and several of the teachers had not yet had children. We often debated about that, because unless you have been a parent, you can't really know what kind of help parents need. I still believe that is true. You can read all about it, but experience is the real teacher when it comes to parenting.
You know as a parent how it feels to be emotionally needed and connected to a young child 24/7. It is wonderful in many ways, but also difficult because it is continuous. You don't have time to have your own moods, down time, or self interests. Your little one needs you. You snatch moments during naps, or for a few minutes before bedtime, or sometimes even while you're at work. It's possible because there is so much love, but for most everyone it is challenging, and it's not like anything else you will ever take on. It stretches you.
You Are a Gift
It's amazing how we take parenting for granted as though it's just something we all do. It is in fact an amazing, complex, and awesome responsibility. It requires us to stay open, to be raw, to love with our whole being, and to be intimately vulnerable. It requires courage. It also is an experience that can elevate you emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually in ways you wouldn't expect.
So to all of you who have taken on parenthood, I salute you and remind you of just how important you are, and how much you contribute to us all. Your devotion, love, empathy, courage, and sheer determination keep us all afloat and make life worthwhile. You are a gift. Thank you!