I’m the proud dad of three young boys. I love them immensely and, like any parent, I want the absolute best for them.
I want them to be healthy and happy. I want them to have a great education and opportunities to participate in sports and any other activity they might be interested in.
So far, for the most part, I have been able to provide all of that.
But there’s something that became evident early on in my parenting journey that is more obvious every day.
Parenting is hard work!
I didn’t go into parenthood totally naive to the fact that it was going to require lots of sacrifice and rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. It’s just that there are times when I’m truly astounded at how much effort it takes and how tired I can be at the end of the day.
I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of my boys. But if I’m being honest, there are many times when I lament the loss of time and energy to do things that I want and to pursue what fills me up.
Sometimes it feels like slowly, almost imperceptibly my familial/parental responsibilities have crept in and crowded out the space I used to have to pursue my own interests.
Until recently, I thought that was just what happens, that being a parent meant putting your own needs, wants and, to some degree, your identity on hold for a while. I even thought living like that was noble.
After all as a father and a husband my family should be my number one priority right?
I’ve seen where that road leads and it isn’t pretty. It leads to a dad who often is so tired, stressed and anxious that he is grumpy at home. He often doesn’t have energy to play with his kids and actually pay attention to them.
Apparently I’m not alone. In her book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” Julie Lythcott-Haims makes some interesting observations on this subject.
During her time as Dean of Freshman at Stanford University she witnessed an interesting trend emerge. She saw parents who were more and more involved in their kids’ lives while the kids became less and less prepared to face the challenges of college. She calls this increased parental attention “over-parenting” and claims that it is harming us and our kids.
If you’re overfocused on your kid, you’re quite likely underfocusing on your own passion. Despite what you may think, your kid is not your passion. If you treat them as if they are, you’re placing them in the very untenable and unhealthy role of trying to bring fulfillment to your life. Support your kid’s interests, yes. Be proud—very proud—of them. But find your own passion and purpose. For your kid’s sake and your own, you must. – Julie Lythcott-Haims
I’ve experienced this tension as a parent for years and have long suspected that there has to be a better and healthier way for the whole family. Lythcott-Haims’ work is both reassuring and refreshing to me that my thinking hasn’t been far off.
If you’ve read my blog in the past few weeks you’ll know that the beginning part of 2017 for me is about reclaiming some margin for the things that fill me up. Learning to let go of the idea that I have to pay so much attention to my kids is just another part of that journey for me.
If you find yourself in the same shoes I hope that this idea will lift a weight off of you too and open the door for you to reclaim some space for yourself as well.