My daughter is on her school dance team and just came off of Homecoming Week. That should be just one huge pep rally, right? Fun, fun, fun!
Actually, I translate homecoming more into “Run, run, run,” as in as far as I can. But because I am a sucker, supportive team mom, I get roped into all kinds of volunteer activities, along with the other gullible supportive moms (and dads. This is an equal opportunity team). We typically decorate an office in the Theme of the Year, provide meals for various staff and students, and run around shopping for spirit pack goodies. This blissful week of non-stop fun usually ends with me comatosed on the couch. A gal can’t have more fun than that!
The Saturday before Spirit Week, dance moms and dads were busy decorating. One of the moms came at the end of the day. Her mortified daughter, as only mortified teenage girls can do, greeted her with these dramatic words, “Why weren’t you here? All the other moms are helping.” (Fact check: many, not all, were helping).
Ouch! Arrow to the heart. My poor, fellow mom! She is a nurse and had just come off of four, consecutive 12-hour shifts. This was her only day off before her next round of craziness. She also had a painful nerve condition in her neck and hands that was exacerbated by lifting patients all day long. She could hardly hold a cup, much less staple, glue and drill. After those words, she was in tears. She’s a wonderful mom who loves her daughter, but was exhausted and could not add one more thing to her plate. She’s a wonderful daughter who loves her mom, but she couldn’t see the real person behind the mommy role.
In our kids’ eyes, we are either
– Their personal ATM
– a Fun-Crushing, Joy-Sucking drill sergeant, or
– An irrelevant relic of a pre- iWhatever era.
I mean, how can personhood be conferred on any of those losers? We don’t really have our own lives, thoughts or dreams. We are merely a useful accessory to their lives, thoughts and dreams.
Well, parents are people, too.
Even the most loving child and most devoted parent forget this. We were bona-fide people before the kids came, and, if we survive, we will be bona-fide people when the kids go. Here are some areas where we, and the little nippers, would do well to remember the person behind the parent.
We need to maintain our own identity
Our identity does not revolve around our kids. Our schedules and free time might, but not our identity. I think this concept has eroded over the years. When we were growing up our parents had their own set of friends and their own social life. They were not enmeshed in our activities to the degree we are in our children’s. That may be perceived as good or bad depending on your own experience. I personally wish my parents had been more involved, so consequently I am an engaged parent.
However, we need to maintain healthy child/adult boundaries. They are on the team, not us. It’s their homework grade, not ours. I knew a mom few years ago who was constantly caught up in her daughter’s middle school boy drama and catty girl stuff. She thrived on that. It was hard to tell who was the parent and who was the child. She was so focused on her child’s world, that she was neglecting her own identity in an unhealthy manner.
We need to practice self-care
This goes hand in hand with saying no or asking for help when we are overwhelmed with parenting demands. However, it is also a little bit more. Self-care doesn’t mean just the cessation of useless activity. It also means intentionality on how to nourish your soul. We encourage our children all the time to develop their gifts and talents. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves?
Yes, we have less time to spend on ourselves while we are raising kids, but that doesn’t mean we spend zero time on self-care. Every now and then do something you enjoy just because you like it, not because someone asked you, or needs you to do it. Not decorating the office on our one free Saturday doesn’t mean we are horrible, horrible parents. That ain’t so, honey child. It just means we are people who get tired and need to recharge.
We need to plan for when our kids leave
We spend our parenting years preparing the kids for when they leave home. We ask them what they want to be when they grow up, and then we equip them with tools to achieve their goals. However, we don’t ask ourselves, “What do I want to be when the kids grow up?” That’s a legit question.
When you are busy giving up your Saturday to attend soccer games or birthday parties, it seems this is all your life will ever be. It won’t. The craziness does end. There is an empty nest on my horizon. In a couple of years, all my little birds will have flown the coop. They will be out discovering themselves. I will be reinventing myself. I need to resurrect dreams and goals that have been put on hold for nearly two decades. I need begin that process now and start equipping myself to accomplish those goals. This might impact women more than men, but every parent (and couple) goes through a transition.
What are some ways you need to remind yourself that parents are people, too?