July 13, 2010

Why Parents Hate Parenting- A Response

Headlines like this are good link bait, "Why Parents Hate Parenting." It is the title of an article that many of my friends have been passing around via email. I kind of rolled my eyes through half of it. It is somewhat reminiscent of the uproar that was created from Ayelet Waldman's piece. I blogged about that in Does Having Children Prevent an Active Sex Life which used to have a ton of great comments, until I removed Haloscan, but I digress.

I am not a genius. I don't consider myself to be abnormally insightful or profound but I knew that having children would change my life. It never occurred to me that I should be surprised by how much work is involved in raising them. Never struggled because they meant that I couldn't do things because I expected things to change.

That doesn't mean that I don't have moments where I feel like tearing my hair out. I love these kids like nobody's business and I don't exaggerate when I say that sometimes I feel like I am killing myself to give them the life they deserve. No kids and I drive a different car, go on better vacations and eat nicer meals.

Sometimes that sounds good but I wouldn't give up being a father...ever. It is a huge part of who I am, but it is not all I am. Based upon some discussions that I have had with other parents I think that our identity plays a huge role in all this.

We all need to find a way to retain some semblance of self. You aren't just a husband/wife/father/sibling/child. You are a person who has interests and needs that are specific to yourself. And while it is true that once you commit to a relationship you give up some of your independence it is also incumbent upon you and whomever you are with to find ways to address those needs.

Sometimes you need to be selfish so that you can be selfless in other areas. And that my friends leads into my favorite quote from the Parents piece.

"About twenty years ago, Tom Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell, made a striking contribution to the field of psychology, showing that people are far more apt to regret things they haven’t done than things they have. In one instance, he followed up on the men and women from the Terman study, the famous collection of high-IQ students from California who were singled out in 1921 for a life of greatness. Not one told him of regretting having children, but ten told him they regretted not having a family."
I have relatively few fears in life but that quote provides a great summation. I have a lot of wanderlust in me. I sometimes wonder about the road not taken and have worried that sometimes I have given up on something that could be great because I was fearful. I try to make a point to live a life that isn't controlled by fear. I want to live life not wish life.

And that is something that I am trying to pass along to the children. You work to live not the other way around. You get up, go out and do. And when it comes to parents I think that one of the challenges that is specific to our job is expectations.

Expectations of what life should be like impact so many things, parenting is no different. And our expectations of what our children should be like is part and parcel of the overall parenting experience. Frankly I think that the reason some of my friends get so crazy is that they have expectations that are completely unreasonable. Johnny and Sally aren't going to be pro athletes, Rhodes Scholars or Noble Laureates.

And just in case their parents read this let me state that I agree with you that we cannot dictate nor determine their future based upon ten, twelve or 15 years of their lives. It is possible that they will surprise us and show something special that we had no idea existed. It would make me exceptionally happy to be proven wrong, but statistics show that I have the more realistic position.

So you may ask if I am suggesting that we lower the goals and standards for our children. The answer is no. You don't lower the bar just because you don't think that the kids can meet those objectives but you adjust your expectations. You tweak things and say that your goal is for the child to do the best that they are capable of doing.

But that is a different post than the one I started here so we'll set it aside for a different time. What do you think about all this?

Posts that may or may not be related:

Pressured into Parenthood- A Guest Post
The Search For Happiness
What is A Family
All Gave Some, Some Gave All
Father’s Love Their Daddies Too
Dad's Most Important Job
If You Died, Who Would Take Care Of Your Children

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