This post was originally titled “Parenting Isn’t for Everyone,” but that sounded a little too negative. That said, it is still true; however, it is also true that anyone can benefit from parenting if they choose to commit to the path of parenting. Does that seem confusing? Let me try to come at it this way. It is possible for everyone to be a parent. We see this all around us. The act of, or result of an act, that ends in being a parent happens all the time. The difference is that some people choose to continue on the parenting path and others choose to quit.
This was my dad. He quit being a parent. He chose to let other life choices distract him from being the father and husband he had committed to be, and instead quit all of it. Since becoming a parent myself, it is becoming more and more real how he could have given this up, it is hard. Some days are VERY hard to parent. I mean there is the whole “I’m not adulting today” movement that has caught on. This is often related to parenting, but they are two very different things.
I am guessing this sounds likes a downer of a post but stay with me. The foundation for wading through this very real journey is that parenting is very hard and very worth it. I want to offer the four reasons below in hopes that they will help you, and me, be a better parent. My hope is that trend will then continue until you are done parenting – something many people believe doesn’t happen, but I assure you it does. You may never stop feeling like a parent, but your parenting will end maybe even sooner than you think.
These 4 tips aren’t about whether you should be a parent or not. They’re about when you are a parent and what you can get out of that. So if you haven’t had kids yet, use this as a way to decide how you will handle things if you do. If you have kids, use this to reframe or renew your perspective about being a parent.
- Parenting isn’t about you. This is one I am having a hard time with. My tendency is to take things personally. I want my kids to be a reflection of me. I mean people say this to us all the time, even my good church friends. “You can tell you’re good parents because your kids are so good.” Or some version of that. We really need to change this. Yes, there is influence and modeling, but your kid is their own person. They make their own choices starting at an early age, and it’s supposed to be that way. Our job as parents is to teach them values, character and morality. Then, it is up to them, and it’s not our fault if they choose to throw that stuff out the window. This also means we don’t get the praise if they choose to succeed. That hurts a little, but maybe it’s the way it needs to be.
- You can’t compare your situation to anyone else’s. This past January, we finalized an adoption. Our family grew, in less than 3 minutes, by 3 people. There are now 9 of us requiring a 12 passenger van to transport us anywhere we go. We have people tell us all the time, “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I could never do that. It’s a lot of kids.” You know what, you’re right. But you also need to know you have no idea how hard this is for us. There are many days that the only reason I make it is because I don’t quit. Does that make me a horrible person because I don’t love every minute of parenting? No! It makes me not a quitter. My commitment is strong and with that comes the decision to not complain and use “what if” phrases, which leads us to number three.
- Realize balance is about making everything equal. Many of us see parenting as something that gets in the way of us accomplishing what is really important in life. I know this because I have felt that and heard plenty of talk socially about that attitude. This was recently emphasized for me at a business event I went to. The speaker said, “Balance is not dependent on circumstance. It’s about what you choose to spend your time on.” This choice puts us as parents in the mindset that when I am choosing to spend time with my kids, it is valuable time. This also means that when I am choosing to spend time on work, that is valuable time. I once heard an interview that was highlighting a dad who had his 3 year old say that she didn’t want him to go to work, and he realized what was most important. WHAT?! No, she’s 3. Yes spending time with her is important, but she has no perspective. It’s just as important that she know her daddy is spending time working so that their family has their needs met. It’s also important so that she also learns to love work. I mean this with the assumption that you don’t become a workaholic. But we also have to realize that work, in it’s proper place, is a great part of life and needs to be seen that way.
- Parenting ends sooner then you think. Andy Stanley is a preacher and speaker who has a great perspective on this. He and his wife break parenting down into 4 stages. If you stick to these stages, you will have a greater peace about being a parent. If you try to jump ahead or skip a step, you will regret it – most likely in the teen years, the years I hear are the worst but that I am looking forward to. Why am I looking forward to them? Because I’m done parenting by then. I am working my butt off to work through the first 2 stages, discipline and training, so that I have the opportunity to then coach and be a friend to my kids in their teen years and beyond. What I’m saying is parenting is done at around age 12! This perspective has yet to play out for me, so we will see. What if you already have a teen? Is it too late? No! Start shifting your perspective and making small adjustments that let your teen know you are 100% there for them, but you are done trying to correct every error or miscalculation on their part. You want them to make the right choice every time, but they won’t. So offer to be there, but let go of hovering and trying to catch them at every corner so you can make sure they choose correctly. Instead, take the posture of coach. Remind them what you have taught and trained them in and offer to help them figure out how to get back on track, but ultimately it is their choice.
These 4 tips do not lead to parenting bliss. They are a learning process that I am guessing never ends but rather shifts and changes over the years. My hope is that reading through this helps you make a positive shift in your parenting so that you can be committed to the process to ensure the highest possibility of success for your child. In order for them to succeed, you have to stick to being the parent, and in order for you to feel like you have succeeded, you have to make sure you know what success looks like.