I remember visiting my mother when I was a young mother of two. I was so busy with the children. We were trying to go shopping together with the kids in tow. As soon as we got the shopping cart ready, my daughter needed to go potty. No more had I gotten her to finally go potty than I started smelling my son’s need for a diaper change. Then of course he was hungry and needed to nurse. All of this took time. By the time I caught back up to my mother, she had finished shopping and was ready to go home. I had spent the whole shopping trip time in the bathroom with my kids.
I will never forget what she told me that day. She said, “don’t have any more children.” I was shocked! I asked her why she would say that, wondering all the while if she thought I was a bad mother. She said, “because you are too good a mother. There is no time left for you.”
I didn’t fully understand that message from my mother except that I did decide to make a bit more time for myself and get a babysitter from time to time. Today however, I can see the full impact of her statement.
I believe I was too quick to resolve everything for my kids at times. My mom wasn’t just talking about feeding and changing the children. She saw that I was no longer shopping for myself nor taking care of myself.
My kids were never allowed to be uncomfortable for long before I was making sure that their comfort was taken into consideration regardless of what I needed. I know there were times I was on the phone and one or the other asked me to play and I immediately hung up so that I could make sure and be fully present with my child.
I thought I was doing all the right things. I wanted to be the perfect parent for my kids. I mean, I watched my friends and their lives were dedicated to their kids and more over, I was also being scrutinized for what kind of parent I was by some of these same friendships.
What I now know is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. I was putting undue pressure on myself then to be the best and to create a perfect situation for my children. All the while, I was putting myself last and not practicing self-care or doing the very things for myself that I was doing for my children.
What I also know now is that we need to teach our children how to cope with being uncomfortable and not to immediately solve everything for them. This is how they learn to cope with an imperfect world and the stressors associated with it.
As I see many parents of children, I notice that they are trying to bubble wrap their kids from any pain or discomfort. I contend, that we are creating children who are unable to deal with stressors.
It’s okay to let them try to handle a child size or teen size stressor. That’s how they will learn to deal with adult stressors. If we continue to buffer discomfort for our kids or to be ever present for them, we are doing them a disservice. If we don’t allow them to self-advocate or problem solve, they won’t learn to do it and survive well without us.
In our current era, we are seeing more young adults failing to launch and we wonder why that might be. We compare ourselves to them and wonder why at those same ages, we were accomplishing so much more.
When a child is left to never have some sort of stressor to motivate them to figure something out, they grow reliant on someone else to do it for them. All the sudden they turn 18 however and our expectations are that they be as independent as we were at their age.
This generation will not be like we were. Their lives have been so different. Their stressors have been different. They have more pressure from school than ever before and that has created anxiety for them, but they also have been protected from so much more.
All this to say that what my mother was asking of me is to find a balance. A balance for myself to remember I was a person too and needed to model self-care as well. I needed to balance how quickly I responded to my children and allow them to figure some things out on their own. I did take her advice and stopped with two children but even today, I stop to think about how much I am giving others and how much I might need to fill my own cup first. If my cup is empty, there is nothing left to give anyone else. Hopefully in that lesson, it’s trickled down to grow my own children into adults who care problem solve and self-advocate and become independent of me.