Parenting Is Not a Sacrifice

    Portrayal Portrait Crying by PublicDomainPictures on pixabayOn the comment section of an article about parent's 'sacrifice' for children, I kind of snapped. A bit. Well...anyhow...

    This is a subject that I find deeply annoying, because I was the parent who stayed home with the kids when they were little... and big. And teens. And young adults after the transitions out of the nest.

    It wasn't a sacrifice. 

    Later, I will get to what it was, but for now:

    Do you know what I also don't think is a sacrifice? Taking care of horses. And dogs. Farming. Ranching. Concrete laying. Medicine, especially for doctors who still do that old fashioned 'on call' thing. Operating a small business. Disaster cleanup. 

    Every single one of those has something in common with full-time parenting:

    • the need for responsiveness to factors far outside your control
    • a limited ability to decide the schedule for your tasks, and
    • a very limited ability to decide in advance how long and how far away from that responsibility you will stand in any given moment (or week), and a specific lifestyle involved in taking those responsibilities seriously.

    Sure, emergency surgeons who are on call can probably take a week or two (or a year) off if they feel like it ... at the cost of 100% of their income for the duration --good thing surgery pays a lot. Same as small business owners, generally (without the advantage of big money income, often). Farmers and ranchers don't get vacations, unless they happen to be in the very limited end of the pool: people who can afford to hire skilled replacements. Concrete you get to deal with in its time, which is variable based on current and changing weather. If you want to own horses and dogs, you can deal with their needs as they arise, including the need for routine care and training (unless you want them to be untrained in a year, in which case, go ahead and pretend training 'sticks' without constant use) or you can board them (at considerable expense) when you 'need a break.' Like children, animals of this kind cost money more often than they make any. If you are a project manager at a disaster cleanup company, you don't get to schedule the earthquake, the sewer backup, the flood or the fire. Not legally, anyhow... (setting fires for more work is frowned upon...) Baby Couple Wedding by Free-Photos on pixabay

    And yet, somehow, the work of parents who fully engage with meeting their kids' needs, as they happen most of the time, personally are doing something so noble, so self-effacing, and so impossible-to-imagine that the term for it is 'sacrifice.'

    It isn't sacrifice.

    It is hard work, and often thankless work (and, no, having people gush in awe about the noble sacrifice is not at all like feeling appreciated, or paid, for it). It is often work that will push a person over the far edge of what they thought they could do with limited energy and total exhaustion (the delightful side effect of nuclear families, and single-family housing and all this privacy we all suddenly have some deep need for) . . . but that's not much different from the well-paid surgeon who gets to work on someone for 14 hours straight (or lucky ER surgeons who get to work on a collection of someones for 34 hours straight.)  Have you noticed that no one gushes about the awe-inspiring ER surgeon's noble sacrifices? Or the 'sacrifice' of owning horses or dogs? Or a small business? Yeah... 

    at least what it may be, when it is chosen rather than foisted upon someone without any alternative-- a privilege.

    It's offensive, actually. Planet Mother Earth by Jordan_Singh from pixabay

    Instead of recognizing full-engagement parenting as real work and a valid choice, it's so Other Category of Mystical Living that normal humans have no access to it, as they are fortunate to live in 'the real world.' That makes full-time parents 'amazing' instead of simply hard workers. They're noble, instead of being diligent. They border on sainthood, that otherworldly loss of self in service to something huge. They're 'other' instead of being 'us.' Somehow not really real, and not really possible, and suspiciously dangerous to their kids, because, you know: outside the real world. 


    Which brings me to what full-time parenting is --or at least what it may be, when it is chosen rather than foisted upon someone without any alternative-- a privilege.

    I mean that in ever single sense of the word: for the blessing and boon of it, to the 'fortunate enough to be in any position of sufficient power to enable the choice.' Many people are not. As the aforementioned 'foisted upon' part isn't where people often discover (at least not usually while in the midst of it) the benefits or personal power within ... the privilege of being able to choose this lifestyle (being in a financial position to do so, including being both willing and able to make the financial choices that make it possible at a low family income or within a family business) brings along a lot of other benefits, some expected and some unexpected. See also: Pros and Cons of Attachment-Style Parenting -an insider's view... and, like any vocation, some difficulties and stresses.

    Suffice to say that far from being any kind of sacrifice, full-time parenting has remained the greatest gift of my entire life. Vybalovani darku s Bohunkou | Unwrapping Gifts with Bohunk by Honza Soukup / CC license: attrib

    If anything got sacrificed on the altar of attachment-style parenting in my life, it was my ego: my unfounded and rather naive belief that I was at all prepared for the challenges before they happened, or that I knew enough to avoid making the same mistake multiple times, and in multiple ways. Along the way, I lost the belief that I was naturally a wonderful parent who 'just understood' what my kids needed, as I was not-gently polished by the process of discovering in real time that I was wrong.

    I gained the belief that my kids 'just understood' what they needed, even when they conveyed it in immature ways (like the kind of behaviour I was modelling) and that I could trust them --often far more than I could trust myself.

    Suffice to say that far from being any kind of sacrifice, full-time parenting has remained the greatest gift of my entire life. 

    Let's continue the conversation: what do you think of the idea of sacrifice in parenting?



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