Better Parenting Through Selfishness
The other day, Elizabeth told me that a friend of hers "aspires to be like you when she's a mom."
|Photo from a recent hike:|
I do those for myself too!
First of all, I was not previously aware that I had made any impression whatsoever on said friend. To be honest, I wasn't even sure that if I saw this girl somewhere without my daughter in tow, she would know who I was. Second, what could she possibly be basing this aspiration upon? How well I pull up to the parking lot to pick Elizabeth up from soccer practice? The food I bring to games when I miraculously remember we are on snack duty? My mad sideline cheering skillz?
Before I got too puffed up about inspiring the younger generation, I had to ask: Why, Elizabeth? Why does your friend want to be like me?
Turns out, she aspires to be like me because I "do pilates" and take violin lessons and otherwise do things for myself and not solely for my children.
Here we are killing ourselves to do ALL OF THE THINGS for our kids and gnashing our teeth over whether or not we're doing it all right, and it turns out, the children like it when we take care of ourselves!
This is very good news. Never mind putting the needs of the child first. Don't worry about those permission slips and nutritious lunches (unless they are for you) and clean, matching socks. Release yourself from carpool duty and school supply shopping and bedtime/bathtime routines. Really, the key to parenting success is to treat yourself right. Have drinks with friends, go to baby goat yoga, play an instrument, train for a 5K fun run or for a marathon -- the world is your oyster! And if you wanna eat oysters -- with or without horseradish -- DO IT!
It makes sense too: it must not be that interesting for kids to watch parents who have no lives beyond pick up and drop off, who make adult life look like it's solely about doing stuff for other people. It turns out, kids want us to be happy. It helps them look forward to adulthood and see family life as more than just years and years of impossibly hard work. They will surely figure that part out for themselves.
So, to those of you who have lists of things you need to do this weekend for your kids: shred that thing immediately. Start over, and this time, make a list filled with fun things that will make you happy.
Do it for the kids.