My Kids Are Not My Life

As most of you know, I have two daughters. One is twelve and one is thirteen. Yes, I do want to put my own head through a wall, thanks for asking!

I often hear other parents say, “My kid is just my life!” More than that, I see other parents practice what they’re preaching. Their kids really are their lives. They would do anything for their kids, everything for their kids. They tend not to make plans for themselves, with their friends or spouses. They don’t give their children chores. If there’s an issue at school with a classmate or teacher, that issue becomes the parent’s issue.

Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? When you have a child, your life stops being about you and starts being about them. Right?

No, not right.

I love my kids more than anything in this whole big world. I’ve never missed a practice or game. I help with homework. If an adult is being unkind to them, I step in big time. But my whole life does not revolve around them. This is not for my benefit, though I do benefit from it. It’s not because I’m selfish or because I have other priorities. When it comes to my kids, I have no higher priority. But it’s what’s best for them and their lives long term. Here are some reasons why.

Other people matter.

My children are the most important people in my life. But they are not the most important people in the whole world. So we don’t do things like accept cuts in line in the bathroom or take up seats on a crowded bus when there are older people or toddlers. Mind you, my kids are older. But I’ve instilled in them, not respect, but courtesy toward their fellow man. You open doors for people who are carrying heavy things. You help the older person off the bus. You pick up the dropped wallet and return it. You give up your seat on the bus to the exhausted woman who obviously just got off a long shift. You help when you can. Not because of praise, but because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

If I do things for them, they don’t learn to do things for themselves.

I was one of those kids everyone hates. I had no idea, when I moved out on my own, how to take care of myself. I couldn’t work a washing machine, didn’t have the discipline to keep a home tidy, had no idea how to make a budget or shop for groceries. I couldn’t cook, that was for damn sure. (I still can’t cook, but we won’t get into that.) I was trying to learn how to keep house with a baby.

I figured it out, through a shit ton of trial and error.

I don’t want my kids to go through that. They take turns making dinner. They know how to run the vacuum and use the washing machine. Now that they’re older, I’m making them sit down and watch me figure out the bills at the start of the month and at every pay day. They don’t like it, but that’s fine. I don’t like it either. It still needs to be done. They need to not only know how to get things done but to have the discipline to do them on their own.

My children need to learn from me that self-care is a priority.

I talked about this before, when I discussed the importance of filling your own cup before you serve others. But I’ll rehash it here, just in case.

If my daughters see me pouring all of myself into them, keeping nothing back for myself, that’s what they’ll think is expected of them as mothers. If they see that I take the time to look after myself, they’ll do the same.

Think about it. Do you want your kids to miss doctors appointments, work themselves sick, stay up until three just to keep the house clean? Should they never buy themselves new clothes, wear the same sneakers until they fall off their feet? Should they neglect their emotional and spiritual needs just because it might take time away from their families?

What would you say to them, if they were acting like that? Now go say it to a mirror.

Someday they’re going to leave home, and then what will I do with myself?

You know that your kids are going to leave home and not need you one day, right? When that day comes, what are you going to do?

Hurry and make some friends? Take up watercolors? Call your kids and meddle in their lives?

I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to write more. I’m going to take long baths, with and without my husband. I’m going to go to hockey games. What I’m not going to do is fuss after them. They’ll have their own lives to live with jobs, homes, and families of their own. While I’ll always be their mom, they’re not always going to need me. I need to be able to handle it when that day comes.

I do kind of like my husband.

That man who lives in my house isn’t just my co-parent. He’s my husband. We didn’t start this family together, but we did stitch it together because we love each other. And I want to keep loving him. So we need to take time for each other now and strengthen our relationship. We have to have more in common than the day to day parenting stuff. Otherwise, I’ll look over in bed and find a stranger there one day.

I won’t always be there for them.

I mean, let’s be realistic. I’m going to die one day. My hope is that by the time I do my kids don’t depend on me for anything. What if that day comes and my daughters are bringing me their minor sewing repairs still? I’ve known grown adults who couldn’t be responsible for their own budgets. They’d give their parents their paychecks, their bills, and leave it at that. Their parents would give them an allowance out of their own money. I know some people who do that with their spouses too. I can’t help but wonder if you don’t know how to budget yourself, what are you going to do when they die?

Losing a parent has got to be tough enough. The last thing I want for my girls is to find that with me gone, they suddenly have to grow up.

What do you think? How much or little do you do for your kids? Let us know in the comments below.

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