It seems that Parenting has become like that of a competitive sport. All children must excel at sports, academics and music. They must be in many and varied extra curricular activities – be beautifully dressed – socially responsible. As a Parent, you must be organized, involved, enthusiastic and gregarious. If you are a working mother, your job should be great, you should look great and you should be as involved as the Stay at Homes. The Stay at H0mes, must be dressed impeccably at all times, exercise, have an immaculate house, be incredibly involved and under the guise you will be going back to work. If you are not going back to work – then you must appease the masses by doing more volunteer work…………..
Our children are being brought up in a society where there is a sense of entitlement – that baffles me. It seems every child NEEDS a cell/iPod/iPad/DS etc. etc. They must be in various different programs. They must get straight A’s. They must have the BEST parties, the BEST presents, The Best, the best…the best. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a way for them to work for it. Your child must walk early, talk early. Your child must be the lead in the play. Your child must be the best dancer/skater/hockey player….athelete. Your child must be good looking and well dressed at all times. Your child must have every gadget/fad/toy/program etc. as the rest of their friends…….without question.
As a mother of 2, I see this a lot. I am guilty of it to. I know healthy parents who have a brutal time trying to keep up with the Jones’. So how in the Hell are we supposed to compete.
Although Parenting generally involves guilt, the Painie Parent gets an extra serving. I feel awash with guilt when I hear of parents escorting the class on field trips, volunteering in classrooms, coaching leagues, ski trips, swimming, horse back riding and tennis. All activites I did and planned to teach and share with them. Things I cannot do right now.
The pain started with the birth of my second. While they were very small, I tried so hard to be ”Normal”. I remember volunteering in a co-op preschool program and it almost killed me every time. I would push myself to go on vacations. I would push myself to have play dates. I would push myself to keep working. I would push myself to keep going. I pushed myself to be “normal”. I pushed myself too far.
The pain got worse and worse. I got fatter and fatter. I slept less and less. I cried more and more. I withdrew from people and kept to myself. I couldn’t face the other parents. I felt shame. I felt failure. I felt loss.
Anger – another emotion took hold. When healthy parents said: How hectic it was, how tired they were, how much stress they were under. I wanted to shake them and yell “YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT”. You and your kids are healthy. Doing laundry is a pain – but it is painful for me. A simple task like making dinner is a huge effort on some days – for them a nuisance. I stopped socializing. I couldn’t listen anymore.
For about 3 years, I pummelled through the days. I did my best to get through it. To ensure the basics were dones done, waking, feeding, dressing, laundry, diaper changes, walks, etc. etc. I went to some playgroups. I worked at my job as hard as I could, getting as much done as possible in one day. It is a complete blur. I don’t remember much.
I now have periodic panic attacks – fed by insomnia. I think to myself ‘God, what were they doing at that age? When did she take her first step? What was her first word? Why wasn’t I able to sit quietly and play blocks with them? Why wasn’t I able to do more?” Maybe I am not the only parent that feels this way. Maybe other mothers feel the same way. I don’t know. All I know is this – My whole life I wanted to be a Mother and I wasn’t doing it right.
Extra-cirricular activities are restricted by physical and financial limitations. On one income and my healthcare costs a drain, it is too much. My childrens’ peers have at least twice as many programs as they. It is heartbreaking to me. They won’t tell me if it is to them.
Reading other Blogs about Painie Parenting – I know I am not alone. We feel we have failed our children by being us. I know that I will have truly failed them – if I don’t change my perspective. I struggle – but have to believe that we as Painie Parents offer the following.
Here are a dozen ways Paine Parents Rock!
Attention – As we are immobile sometimes – we offer quiet conversation. Other parents are running around – with their kids but maybe not truly present. Painie Parents are captive audiences.
Independence – our limitations offer them no limits. They are able to learn skills other children don’t…..like dressing themselves, putting away laundry, setting the table, doing various chores. These are life skills that our children need….and we give it.
Compassion - our limitations make them much more understanding about others. They are able to see past the confines of our illness and see us. We are their Mums and Dads…they don’t know us any other way.
Empathy – our pain, medications, health make them learn how to ask how someone is…how to care for someone in need….how to feel for someone in pain.
Skills - I learned how to knit, sew, craft, cook, write…..all sorts of things. They watched me learn, fail, try again and persist. This is important.
Understanding - I have learned how to understand them a little more – because I need understanding. The same is true for them.
Humour - always a coping mechanism for me. My children have heard me curse out a Dr. in the car and they laugh and laugh. I make jokes about being a “Crip”….they joke and hobble around on my crutches or my neck brace. Not laughing at me….with me.
Persistance - They have watched me fight the good fight. They have learned that you must stick with something and see it through.
Survival – watching my husband and I navigate this illness as best we can – has taught them some survival skills – for their relationships, career and school.
Responsibility - they have responsibilities their peers don’t. They have to be home at a certain time. They have had to obey rules more closely than their peers – as I can’t be there to watch everything.
Love – They have learned love has no boundaries. I am ill but they love me. I am ill but I love them. I am ill but my husband and I love each other. I have scars, weight gain, swelling and redness – they still see me as beautiful because they love me.
Self Worth - As I fight this fight – I struggle with my self worth - it is an uphill climb – but I know that I am setting an example. Conscious of how they think – I tell them everyday that they are loved, valued, respected and that I couldn’t imagine having better kids if I had designed them myself.
We are all struggling as parents. With my dysfunctional family background I was already heading into parenting with a deficit. This made it more of a challenge. The pain has given me time for reflection. To really see my kids. To maybe be more aware about what I say and do because I am sick. I want them to know, everyday, how much they mean to me.
Onwards and Upwards!
Healthy parents take their lives for granted. I have seen some, not all, but some, parents take their kids for granted. They don’t know how life can shift on a dime and leave you in completely different circumstances. I listen to people talk about how tired, stressed and bogged down they are. Not knowing how truly lucky they really are.
Childhood is not something you get back – there are no “do overs”. Maybe this pain forced me to slow down. To truly appreciate my little poopers. To see their inner core. To listen to their stories. To snuggle them a little closer.
We are not deficient parents. We are not less than Healthy parents. We have been given an extra challenge and maybe that isn’t so bad? Maybe we haven’t failed them, but provided clear and profound life lessons. Ones that will carry them through their lives; making them better people. Sometimes a door is shut and a window opens.
It isn’t easy for us; but who said being a parent is?