You Can’t Do It All
In our fucked up (civilized) world we have come to believe that we can be both (good? great? the parent you want to be?) parent and employee/business owner/worker bee. No, we cannot. It is impossible. Oh sure, we can go through the motions. We can work at a job, whether at home or elsewhere for hours a day, collect or generate income, have children and … hire a nanny/ babysitter/ day care to parent them when we’re not around. A whole lotta people do it so it must work ok, right? Incorrect. How did we ever come to think this was not only feasible but actually beneficial for us, for our children, for our families?
If I take shortcuts with my health, I suffer. If I tax my body with excess stress, lack of sleep, overeating, over consumption of toxic substances, I definitely see the results: illness, degenerative disease, weakness, insomnia, lack of libido, for example. My body stops working optimally. It fails me. If I take shortcuts with my (self) education, I suffer as well. If I focus on a core curriculum set by another or someone smarter than me (ha!) like a university or college, or follow in another’s footsteps, my career is most likely to see the results: I have a job I find dull or tedious, I feel unfulfilled, I discover I am sorely aware of doing work that does not match my real dream/intelligence/ability.
If I take shortcuts in my parenting, not only do I suffer but my children and family do as well. If I abdicate my responsibility to challenge myself as a parent and pass that responsibility to another, I see the results: lack of ability to understand and connect with my children, a focus on managing or controlling my child instead of flowing with their ever-changing desires, interests and readiness, inability to discover what my children are here to do – teach me how to be a parent. My child suffers as he learns that MY JOB takes precedent over HIS WELL BEING. I might use the softest, most respectful words I can come up with to help him understand this…. I am working so I can pay for our house, food, clothing, toys, for example. When my child takes his first step, says his first word, begins piecing the world together in his own unique ways… I am likely out of the picture if I am working… elsewhere. When we are together, after my job hours have ended, there are so many things to do, to accomplish, to keep up with … that I am still likely to miss out on his unique and intelligent and ever evolving relationship with the world. With HIS world. With a world that I am really not much a part of. Because I made a choice – money, career advancement, stuff, whatever – made more sense than immersing myself in the life of my child.
We’re not talking about helicopter parenting here, we’re talking about partnership. Experimenting, learning, flowing, expanding and evolving in ways that allow us both to feel loved, cherished, respected and listened to. Of course I have a life that is separate from my child as does she from me. The terms of that ebb and flow from day to day, moment to moment even.
As time goes on in this life with both a job and child, life becomes entirely perfunctory: a structured system of schedules, dos and don’ts, shoulds and shouldnots. As long as we follow the program, we think it is working. As long as we’ve managed to enforce enough behavioral controls to keep it running smoothly (rewards and punishments), life seems to roll along ok. Kids are very capable as intelligent human organisms of learning how to jump through untold numbers of hoops, just as you are, and may, in fact, do every day. They can get good grades, say the right things, please mom and dad, get into colleges and universities, get married and start the cycle all over again with their own families. It seems to work, at least on paper, doesn’t it? (Except when it doesn’t, but that is another topic.)
Don’t kid yourself. You know it doesn’t work because you can feel it. You know you’re supposed to feel something more. You’re supposed to feel more alive, more resilient, less whiney, you know it should be easier to love and receive love. It should be easier to listen to your heart and follow it. Seriously now, does our general discontent boil down to how we parent our children? Well no, not necessarily, but becoming a parent absolutely gives us an opportunity to listen to our heart and say yes to it. There is so much power and mystery and magic in saying yes to the heart. So much to learn from our children. They have so many gifts to share with us and things to teach us about how to be alive in the world. Are you listening? Do you know what your child is trying to teach you?