Do we owe our children?

“The most precious jewels you will ever wear around your neck are the arms of your children.”

We have all heard this. We also have ‘liked’ it every time we have seen someone post this on Facebook and smiled when we have received this as a forwarded message. And then we have thanked our stars for being parents and gone ahead with whatever it was we were doing at that moment. Even so, I am sure all parents agree with me when I say that there is nothing more precious to a parent than their children

No matter how fussy, troublesome or even annoying children can be, there is no possibility of imagining life without them!

When we decide to become parents, our world changes forever. Simple, everyday routine things change in deference to the little bundles of joy that take over our lives – our work, our hobbies, our life takes a backseat when we welcome a little baby in our homes. We become cautious. We become responsible. We become parents.

But as our children begin to grow, we see them getting more and more independent. We see them start comfortably spending time without us in schools and on their playdates – even an occasional sleepover – and we start to realise that this leaves us with a little spare time! If both parents have been working since the baby was young, they find themselves with a little more time on hand now, because their child is now able to entertain himself for some time. A stay-at-home mom finds that since school began, she has a bit of extra time on her hands, now that her child spends half the day in school and the rest playing with his friends or, lo and behold – by himself!

And then we start getting ideas. We find ourselves looking for things that we can do when the children are busy. We feel we should see if, now that we have the time, we can maybe do some of those things we set out to do in our youth – things which, maybe, took a backstage when our children were born and we dedicated ourselves to them completely. But of course, only for that little time when children are away at school or playing by themselves! We don’t mean to ignore them after all; we are just trying to get back to our lives as they were when the children weren’t born. Our intentions are pure.

But as is always the case about doing things, we get caught up in what we start in that little spare time. Our activities – that were meant to be occupying our spare time – begin to spill over in our family-time, or the time that we would’ve otherwise spent with our children exclusively. Initially, we try to work our schedules around to see that this doesn’t happen. But then sometimes, it is inevitable. We feel bad then, really guilty….But the second time isn’t so hard. And by the third time, we have a justification ready for ourselves – ‘I deserve to take time out to do what I like too!’

We tell ourselves we have earned the ‘me time’ for ourselves, considering all that we have done for our children so far. And since we work all week, the only time we can arrange for this leisure time for ourselves, is on the weekends! So then we arrange for sitters, to mind them while we go watch a movie. Or we arrange for our parents to come, be with our children, while we, with our partners/spouses go on ‘date night,’ or a ‘girls’ night out.’

I know many moms will take me wrong here, and maybe some dads too! ‘What’s wrong in taking time out for ourselves as parents?’ they will say. ‘Why should we feel guilty that we are doing something that makes us happy?’ ‘After all, isn’t a happy parent in a better shape to raise a happy child? ‘If we keep feeling pressurised all the time, we are going to snap! And then that will all come out on our children, so at least, this way, we are saving our sanity and coming back revitalized from our leisure time, so that we can spread the love and happiness to our children too! What’s wrong with that?’

Well, really speaking, nothing wrong in that. I agree. I appreciate my freedom just as much as the next parent. In fact, I also believe that we have to have that free time for ourselves, we must do what makes us happy, in any way that it makes us happy! So, no. I don’t say we should feel guilty at all about doing what makes us happy. We all need to do what keeps us sane; there are no two ways about it!

But at the risk of sounding too condescending, does that give us the right to leave our children to be minded by sitters, in the time that they expect us to spend with them? Why can’t we adjust our timings such that children never actually feel that we are taking some ‘me time’ or ‘time away from them’? I mean, we want to take time off for us, we never want to take time off from them! They are our children! They are here, because we wanted them in our lives. We made that decision consciously. We knew what we were getting into when we had them….

I know we are not getting any younger day by day. And we all had dreams of a certain kind of life we wanted to lead, which sort of got lost somewhere along the way. But then it was also our own decision to have children. We wanted to be a family. When we got married, we made a promise to our husbands, or wives, that we will stick with them for better or for worse. And they were adults. Then think of our little ones, who were born helpless, clueless in this world, because we invited them here. Didn’t we make a promise to them too? Don’t we then owe them anything?

After all, parenting is a choice we make – the choice to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own.

Image courtesy: Picture Quotes


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