“Just you wait until you have kids of your own,” my aunt chided softly, but ever-so-surely, “You will lose this ammunition you have for all your little side-projects.”
I looked at my her quizzically and asked, “Why do you act as though the person stops being, learning or growing simply because they become a parent?”
“Because they do,” she snapped back, with the confidence only a boomer can exhibit, “like I said, when you have kids, you will stop doing so damn much.”
I wish I could say that she said all of this while chain-smoking, with hot rollers in her hair, but that is simply not true. Though this story did not have the Hollywood flair that I would have liked it to have, but the impact was just the same.
One thing which is true about this story is how much parents blame their children for their own shortfallings.
Honestly, I was really nervous when I started preparing to write this article, but I really do feel that this a discussion we all need to be having.
When an individual, who happens to have children, does not accomplish something they really want or talk about non-stop, why are the children to blame?
Prior to having children, were you climbing Mount Everest for the fun of it during the weekends? Were you preparing five-course meals on a Thursday evening just because? Perhaps you were running ten-miles on a Saturday afternoon with little to no effort.
Do those things suddenly disappear just because a child arrived?
I find that very hard to believe.
Or perhaps were you a so-so ambitious person before kids and now that you have them, they are the perfect scapegoat as to why you are not progressing.
Let’s hear the arguments:
You can’t lose weight because you have a picky eater and they will only eat chicken fingers and fries, so you only eat chicken fingers and fries as well…well, that’s a nice excuse you’re totting around with you in life.
You can’t go back to school because you have a toddler at home and when would you have the time to study? Well…my mom did it; she went back to school, as an ESL student and attained her nursing credentials with three girls under the age of ten at home, so no more excuses people.
You can’t apply for that promotion because you simply will not have the time to juggle work and your home commitments? Liar, liar, pants on fire; there are countless women killing it in their profession and are still successful parents at home.
Also, I am not chastising the parents who are dealing with a child who has higher needs, that require greater daily attention. Children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, anxieties or anything and everything else in between, I applaud you and am cheering you on in all of your thankless endeavours.
What I am saying is don’t use your children as the crutch you cling to as to why you are stagnant in life.
It isn’t fair to blame your children for your own shortcomings.
If you want it bad enough, you would make the time for it.
As a parent of a child under the age of one, who is working full-time and doing their doctoral studies, I will tell you, from my lived experience, that you can make it all work.
I think that there are a lot of supports and privileges I have right now, which allow me to be successful in many areas of my life, but I also have the mindset that tells me it cannot be any other way.
You can be whoever the hell you want to be, with or without a baby hitched to your hip.
If you are honestly content and happy with where you life is then when you feel threatened, insecure or defensive, do not bring up the child angle. Own your shit; if you are happy and do not want a promotion, say it proudly. If you are fifty pounds over your ideal weight and do not care, share it without shame. If you are living for the weekend and living binging on Netflix shows, who cares? Own your story my friend.
Own your narrative and understand that children are not an anchor to said narrative. Sure, they might slow down the ride a bit, but blaming them for the halting of any progress? I am calling bullshit on that.
If you want to run a marathon this year and you have six children, you can make it happen. It will obviously be easier if you have a supportive partner, decent finances so that you can throw money at a few of life’s problems and the grit to get out of bed in the morning, especially when you just don’t feel like it, but you can still do it.
What I am frustrated about, or the basis of this internet-based rant is that we should not be laying the blame for our own shortfalls on the existence of another being. Yes, kids and responsibilities can slow us down, but they do not sputter us to a complete stop, without some help (or lack thereof) from our own ambition, wants and true desires.
I think it is poetic, parents who live solely for the sake of their children, but I do not actually believe this type of existence is real or should be applauded. Parents are people and they are busier, in certain spheres of life because they are parents, but they are not the busiest people on the planet. They have chosen their bed themselves and they/we should be willing to happily lie in it.