I’m bracing myself for the comments about to come my way, especially from those who may get upset at the title without reading what I have to say first.
Also, check out this bit from Business Insider about why putting kids first can harm everyone in the long run. It seems I am (thankfully) not alone in feeling this way.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little resentful about motherhood expectations. Particularly about what a dear friend of mine came to me to confess before heading out on a last-minute Christmas shopping outing. She had told me that she was feeling pressured by more than just a few people to cut back on occasional nights out with friends, concerned that she is not giving enough of her time to her husband and child. Meanwhile, her husband was happily playing Xbox with his friends online. Almost every. Single. Night. She was not the only friend of mine with kids to tell me this.
And boy, did that sound familiar to me… and it made me angry.
Why is it that when women go into motherhood, we are expected to act like nothing else exists in our lives? I’ll admit that there are certain “mom” stereotypes we most certainly fit now – the Target addictions, the yoga pants/messy bun combo, and the badge of honor that we wear on our clothing that can resemble spit up, poo, food stains, and the like. But why do some people still think that once we become mothers, that is our sole identity?
Why is it that when married women and mothers go out with their girlfriends, it’s a sign that she is having troubles or that her marriage is failing, but when husbands and fathers go grab a beer and bowl together, no-one bats an eye?
My name is still Jessie. However, I will be lovingly referred to now as PJ’s mom. (or another one that bugged me after I got married was Dan’s wife. I have a name, come on!!!)
Well, I am here today to let everyone know that I will not be guilted or pressured by anyone into sacrificing everything that is of me for the sake of raising PJ, or any siblings that may come after her. I understand that having children involves some degree of sacrifice and devotion to ensure the kid’s needs are met, but giving all of me, every day for the rest of my life is definitely pushing things too far.
Here are some things that would happen in my life (read: important!) if I decided to make my child the #1 priority.
1. My marriage would suffer.
I love Dan to death. He is my rock, my soulmate, and has been an amazing father. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to come along this wild journey of parenthood with. Just as Dan has made time for me in the past, I need to also make time for Dan too, as he is not just a father. He was a person with his own identity too before we got the news that would change our lives forever. And he still is.
The first few weeks after PJ came into the world were rough for me. Dan was there to make sure that I had what I needed while desperately trying to nurse our daughter and trying to recover from a tear I had acquired downstairs that had to be stitched up. Not to mention the hormones being all over the place, I was a wreck. He had to deal with that. Just as I have to deal with Dan when he has his moments where he feels like a wreck, too. I suppose that’s how marriage works.
And marriages need a lot of
work investment to keep things rolling.
We need our date nights. We need to spend quality time with each other. We need to be able to talk about things besides diaper changes and napping schedules with each other. If I put 100% of myself into raising PJ, I will have 0% left for my relationship with Dan. And that would be a recipe for disaster. This is why having a quality babysitter or a fantastic relative who is able to watch our child is worth their weight in gold. There should be no guilt in taking time off from parenting.
And if we’re happy, guess what? We can be that embarrassing pair of parents that smooch, be affectionate, and have fun with each other in front of our kid. I want our daughter to know what a healthy relationship looks like. Those to me are marriage and parent goals!
2. I’d lose myself.
Sure, having a kid involved a lot of sacrifices that needed to be made in my personal life, but I still need more than just food and showers to stay sane.
As a human being, I have needs, wants, and feelings just as valid as anyone else’s. I need some semblance of social interaction with others, outside of my house. Just as I had mentioned in a previous post of mine, I needed something consistent for myself to smooth the transition to parenthood and to keep a sense of normalcy in my life. And I feel that this will also help me develop healthy boundaries that need to be set so that I don’t feel completely drained of life at the end of the day. (I’m locking my bathroom door.)
You know the saying “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, it’s so freaking true. Taking care of myself will enable me to take better care of my family. Even on days where I just want to pack my bags and buy a one-way plane ticket to the nearest beach in California, I’ll still miss my husband and my kid at the end of the day and want to come running right back home to them. Absence does, after all, make the heart grow fonder.
3. My kid will have unrealistic expectations.
I don’t want PJ thinking the universe revolves around her. Or owes her anything. My job as a parent is to raise her to the best of my ability to live without me, not believe that she is royalty and deserves to be waited on hand and foot. She needs to realize that she is not the only being on this planet with needs. (And sure, that one may take a while before it finally kicks in.) I want to pass down the lessons I have learned from my mother about being a decent human being, and how to be considerate of others around her – without being a complete pushover.
More importantly, if she ever decides to have children of her own, I want her to know that her own struggles that she has while raising them are just as valid as they were for me while I was raising her. Of course, I will be there for her when she needs me, just as any parent should be, but I will not subject myself to be her on-demand personal dishwasher, chauffeur, or laundromat. Nor should her kids treat her that way.
So no, my daughter will not be my #1 priority, and that’s okay. And my priorities will change as I get older. As will hers. One day she will leave the nest, and I will be left to figure out what to do with my life once she is old enough to start leading hers. When that day comes, I probably won’t be ready for it. I will most likely bawl my eyes out. I will continue to support her when needed, and hopefully, take a few long vacations with all of the time that I will suddenly get back to myself. But I will still be missing her and loving her, no matter what.