Parenting the inner “YOU”
It has been more than three months and ever since I have started writing this column, I have been addressing the issues and concerns parents face while raising their children, suggesting some specific and some generic ways to handle children and their problems. The strong desire to see our children grow up to become responsible, respectable, cultured, comfortable, healthy, happy or rather perfect individuals makes us completely engrossed, obsessed with parenting where we even forget ourselves, we forget that parenting is just one of the several aspects of our lives, our life starts revolving around our children and their needs where we completely ignore ourselves, our desires and our goals as an individual. I am not denying the fact that as parents we have certain responsibilities towards our children and they definitely are our priority, we need to do what it takes us to support them but that does not mean complete negligence or ignorance of our own self.
Let that be a small wish or a bigger goal, each time we choose to avoid it for the sake of our children, knowingly or unknowingly, a feeling of sacrifice seeps in our minds which cumulates over the years and is expressed out when our parenting skills are no more needed, when our children are independent. “I have sacrificed my life for you”, “I left my job only to raise you”, “I could not pursue my career because I had you”: these are the statements which we blurt out of frustrations when we suddenly find ourselves in a void where we don’t have to raise our children anymore and we feel we add no value.
I am sure most of you can connect to these statements especially mothers. This feeling of sacrifice raises expectation where we start expecting from our children and when expectations are not met the way we want, there arises the conflict, conflict with our children, conflict with ourselves and the end result is no peace, neither within you nor around you. My question to you is why even bring this situation? Why sacrifice? Is it so difficult to prioritize? Is it so difficult to take that extra step to take care of ourselves along with our children? Is it that difficult to think of a life beyond our children? Are we being fair in neglecting to parent a wonderful person “Our self”?
Here I would like to share a personal experience with you which might help you to align your thought process or perceptions. As a student, as a teacher, and as an employee. I have attended many of these motivational sessions and have read ample self-help books Dale Carnegie, Shiv Khera, Robin Sharma, Chicken Soup series and many more where most of them summarize to just one thought of "Chasing your dreams", "Doing what you like", " Being Happy in what you do in your life”.
I had always believed all these statements sound good when a skilled trainer narrates it so well or a skilled writer writes it so well that it ignites us temporarily but as we start facing the reality, we start understanding the complexities of life. All these starts diminishing and we either settle down for something that fetches our basic needs or we compromise on our dreams because we have family and children to take care. "Chasing your dreams becomes chasing to meet monthly expenses”, “Doing what you like" becomes "Forced to like what you do”.
I would have believed that following the passion, doing what you like in your life, all these are for people who are either born with a silver spoon or those who are so lucky that life just gives them everything that they want until it really happened to me when I realized, Yes I can also follow my dreams not only in Prof. APJ Abdul Kalam's words but also in my own life. All it took me was to identify my fascinations, understand what makes me happy, take that extra step to prioritize, put a lot of efforts and of course a lot of support from family and friends.
We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the family. Here are few challenges that drains us as parents and few suggestions to manage them:
No Time off
One of the biggest challenges of parenthood is the fact that there is no break time, no vacation, weekends are all the busier and Sundays are the busiest days. Sometimes it may leave you feel trapped and depleted. Repetitive monotonous job that makes you carve for some time for yourself. Can we (especially mothers) have the time off? Absolutely! Provided you have to learn how to create one for you. If you haven’t had time for yourself, think about the activities that would refuel you. Once you have determined your strategy, do whatever you need to make it happen. It will almost always require the help of other people, a baby sitter, your spouse, your parents, a friend or neighbor. The rewards are well worth the effort, however. You need it and your family needs it too.
Very Little Sense of accomplishment
Most of the tasks associated with parenthood could be described as mundane and repetitive. By the world’s standards, it might not seem as though we have accomplished much. However, the world’s standards don’t apply to the profession of parenthood where small things are big things: snuggling an infant, changing diapers, playing peekaboo, driving toy trucks, attending tea parties with dolls, listening to a saga of teenage break up and the list goes on. These are the accomplishments of parenthood. They don’t earn you a raise but they definitely do matter. You might have priorities now but never forget your dreams or stop working towards them. You and I cannot look for a sense of accomplishments on a daily basis. We have to look for it over a long haul.
Taking care of one’s health
With demands of family and work, many of us do not make health a priority. I would say, this is because of two reasons, too many other commitments that take priority over personal health and we are not exactly sure about what to do to ensure personal health habits. I would suggest include small steps or health habits as a part of your daily routine for example, taking stairs instead of an elevator, packing an apple or any fruit for snack, walking during lunch hours and many similar ones.
Your children and your family are your strengths and should never become a weakness or a reason for you to sacrifice what you have always wanted to do with your life.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)