Some folks may think this is a "parenting: you're doing it wrong" scenario. Aren't children supposed to change us? Aren't they supposed to be the little people through whom we live our hopes and dreams for the future? Aren't they supposed to be our number one priority when we have them?
I think the answer to this is maybe, though I lean more toward "yes and no".
Yes, they are supposed to be and do all those things. To an extent.
Our children aren't here to turn us upside down and inside out. We can be parents without suddenly morphing into soccer moms and Stepfords, or becoming addicted to our sweatpants.
They're not here so we can live vicariously through them, though I think that's a toughie for many parents. Many of us say, "I won't make the same mistakes my parents made" or something similar. That can turn into a form of living vicariously through our children. It's one thing to decide not to push your children to go to church, because your parents were ultra-religious and forced it on you. Or to rear them to respect all people, regardless of skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc., because your parents were or are incredibly racist, and you know that's just not right.
It's another to decide your daughter is going to be a ballerina, cheerleader, or beauty queen because that was your dream that you never got to fulfill. Or your son is going to be an artist, engineer, or athlete because, again, you could have and should have done that with your life, but never did.
And I think most parents realize that - that we're not here to create little clones or "this is how I should have been" versions of ourselves. We're here to guide and set an example for our children, and help them find their own way. At least, that's how I see it. My children are their own people and I'm not here to dictate what they should do, think, or believe. Instead, I'm here to help them figure it out for themselves.
Then there's the number one priority idea.
I think that's what hits us hardest - harder than the responsibility of being a guide to a person who needs to learn pretty much everything there is to know about being a human.
Some parents have a philosophy that they put their children first, for whatever reason. It's their point of view that that's the way parenthood ought to be. This is what they choose.
I choose the philosophy that my children come second. I have to continue to put myself first, if I'm going to have anything to give them.
But I've found that even I get lost in Parentland with a little person in the house.
It's not something I noticed with Gavin, because after he was born in December of 2002, his father left in March of 2003 for a year in Korea. Now, those first 3 months after Gavin was born, I stayed in my pajamas and just breastfed and changed diapers, day in, day out. That's pretty much acceptable when you have a newborn.
After that...? Well, to me, life was simple. It was me and kiddo, and that was that. Nothing "changed", because I'd adapted to another change - my husband leaving for his remote assignment. So I didn't deal with relationship changes.
And that's the biggie, I think.
When I was alone, having a baby was easy. There were only two people who needed attention - me and the baby.
The second time around, I'm learning about the impact a baby has on a relationship. "The baby" is the usual excuse for why it's difficult to do things together, whether it's intimacy or just hanging out, doing something entertaining (then again, intimacy can be entertaining, but that's a different topic).
Sometimes giving each partner what they need is a losing battle - a battle being lost to a pint-sized person, damn it! It's like you entered Parentland as a team, and got separated by the obstacles.
I guess how a couple handle this depends on them. Some probably accept it and remain lost in Parentland - maybe accepting that things will come back around in a year or two or more.
Others may fight it, and that's what we're doing. We're fighting it. We are not letting the Parentland claim us. We want to be the rulers of our personal Parentland!
How parenthood can bend and twist a relationship is surprising. You don't realize until later that the sounds baby makes during her midnight feeding are annoying your spouse. Or maybe the other parent resents the fact that baby is more bonded to you, than to him or her. Then there's just wanting to be "back to normal".
A smart couple realizes they'll never be back to normal, but also that the very needy phase of infancy doesn't last forever. So they may make some concessions here and there. Maybe parenthood means less time spent on video games as a team, and more time spent encouraging your child's first steps together. Maybe you choose watching a sitcom over a movie, because you know your child won't give you more than a half-hour of uninterrupted snuggle time.
So you find places in Parentland to work with what you've got.
This is how it goes, because once you're a parent, that's it. There is no going back. You learn to work with the changes it brings into your life. Sometimes, it can feel like sink or swim.
I'd rather float. It's much more relaxing.
Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan