Embracing our Role as Parents
Recently there has been a reemergence in the realization that spending time with our kids as parents plays a vital role in their character development and personal fulfilment, both for our children and ourselves. That the idea of having babies and sending them off to daycare or the care of a nanny, so that one can go back to work as soon as possible – is perhaps not the ideal vision of what we call ‘the successful life’.
Many of us parents are realizing, that being a stay at home mom or dad – is a fulfilling position to take – even if it goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, even if it does not provide you any income, any fancy title to your name or having the trappings of a ‘successful’ and ‘productive’ life to show off for.
While this resurgence is great, we’re still left to live in the cultural and economic context that’s been the new normal for a long time. A context where staying at home to take care of your children and stand as that central point of their universe for them to orient themselves, comes at the cost of sacrifice or needs to be earned – it is not a given.
It’s as if we’ve become lucid in the middle of an absurd dream that goes against all natural laws, yet having to keep navigating this absurd terrain, while being fully aware that it doesn’t make any sense.
For some it is easy to embrace the new vision (or rather, the old vision that we’ve forgotten), as they have the individual maturity that matches the vision as well as the financial and social means to make it a reality in their corner of the world.
More likely – and still lucky at the same time – are those that have the means, the resources to some extent, and may or may not have some social network of support. This makes it harder to manifest our new vision. There’s also the psychological aspect involved. The clinging to the old, to ‘what is’ and ‘what was’. As we try to step out of the old, into the new – the old emerges as a demon. Its moralities, fears and desires grip tighter unto our feet. Cautioning us that we’re stepping off the well-trodden path, that we’re throwing away any hope for our dreams and successes, that we’re foolish and surely are to crash and burn. That if we decide to go through with this, we’re on our own. That if we fail – we’ll get reminded that ‘we told you so’.
Then there’s those whose hearts burn with this vision, yet lack all financial or social means to make it a reality. The voiceless and forgotten people of the world, who have been bearing the brunt of the side-effects of our collective backwards ways. They’re left with the few moments a day with their children where they aim to give the best of themselves – fully knowing that they’re like a fish swimming against a stream that’s much stronger and ancient than them. That despite their best efforts, they may still lose their children to the lure of our dysfunctional system. But it’s all they can do, so they do it.
We’ve all been dealt a different hand
In the game of life, we’re all handed a different set of cards. We’re being put on a monopoly board that’s been going on for centuries – not one where we all start with ‘equal opportunities’, where the results of the game speak of our personal wit and determination.
At any given moment, we each have our unique set of cards that represent our financial variable, our emotional and mental well being, our family, the relationships we have and their supportiveness, our location, our physical weaknesses and strengths.
We can shuffle them around a bit, trade one of for the other and through time create additional means and cards.
My optimal card formation and balance will look different than yours. And my formation will shuffle and need to be revised at time progresses – as will yours.
Yet so often, we push our formation, our decisions unto other parents and families. That – because this works for us – it must work for you. That if you don’t place your cards of different variables and values in the same formation, that you must be disagreeing with how I and my family do things. That maybe, you’re hinting that I’m possibly doing it wrong.
When we go there, it’s those old demons resurfacing again. It took courage, sweat, blood and tears to change our ways – only to end up comparing ourselves to others, being questioned all over again and being gripped by the fear that ‘maybe we’re doing it all wrong’. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. There’s what’s best and optimal given your circumstances, the ones that are set – the ones that are changeable, and your ability, capacity and willingness to change those that are flexible. And I think it’s great that we’re all so different. That we can’t find peace of mind in sameness. That we’re utterly forced to be accountable to ourselves for our own fulfilment and satisfaction. Otherwise, how easy it would be to become a follower once more!
Let’s take the example of whether or not we send our children to school, to daycare, to a friend, family – anything from a few hours to ‘full-time’.
You can have five different families, all equally passionate about creating the best and most supportive environment for their children and themselves. And each of these five families will be doing something different. In one the mom may opt to stay at home full time, relying on the husband to bring in income while giving up a great career herself. Once in a while, she gets caught up in her old success, in the sparkling glamour of achievement – but she’s able to bring herself back. When she feels the urge to send them away because of time pressure and being only able to do ‘so much’, she may opt to hire a cleaning lady instead to help reduce the cleaning load, so that she can still focus on what’s important to her (shuffling and trading off those cards!). She reminds herself of what is important, knowing the family has everything they need financially and allow herself to be fully present with her children.
In another family, a mom may have opted to stay at home and homeschool her children. Because this is what she realizes is part of her ideal vision. Her husband brings in enough income to make this happen, but on a personal level, she’s struggling on a day to day basis. The kids push her buttons every single moment, of every single day. She had a rough childhood, and its effects are present to this day. As much as she wants to change, as much as she wants to be the mom who is wholly present – she’s suffocating under the constant chain of reactions. She ends up sending her kids to school for some time, to give herself some space to introspect and reflect. To get support in working through her old traumas that we’re being triggered daily without respite. She fought and resisted the idea of sending them to school, as it’s now what her vision of potential looked like. But neither could she deny that she was doing the kids more harm than good in her current condition. That while they may be at home and spending more time together, it was anything but the perfect vision she had imagined. It was a tough decision, but one of great personal honesty. As she managed to reconnect with herself and heal from old wounds, they went back to homeschooling. Sometimes, we can have a vision, an ideal potential – but there’s a gap between where we’re actually at and where we want to be. We can’t simply ‘cut and paste’ the ideal unto our current situation and expect us to live up to it. We need to walk the steps to get there. We need to shave off what doesn’t serve us, reshape and mould ourselves into a new person. All the while, our very being and body want nothing more but to stretch back into what it once was, back to our familiar identification and self-beliefs.
Another couple may not have the financial means to stay at home for either one of them. Both far removed from family or any support network, they send the kids to public school. They know it’s not ideal but they also acknowledge what’s within their reach to change and not change. In the evenings and weekend, they push to give the kids their all. They make sure to connect with them, hear them out or simply be in their presence. The kids too know that this is not ideal – but they see their parents’ love and determination in action and honour them for it. As they start to reach more financial security, make new friends, perhaps start their own business – they can start living more of the life they envisioned for themselves. They’re not there yet, but they’re doing what they can with the cards that were given to them.
Honour Your Path
We’re all on this journey together, while on different paths. We may never fully know or realize the cards someone was dealt with, what is within or not within their reach to change. But we’re always very aware of our own situation (unless we’re so focused and obsessed on what may be in other people’s hands that we miss what’s right in front of us). Get to know your cards in and out, find out which ones you can and can’t change. Find out for yourself what’s an absolute necessity and what falls under preference. Walk your path for you and your own family, because you want to be true and honest with yourself. Support others where you can, but never assume to know it all.
Have a safe passage – and I hope we all get to create our destinations in our own lives, as light beacons and guideposts for others who are still dormant to the new vision, for those who are on the fence, for those on their way in need of encouragement and embracing that they’re not alone.