The issue is the growing expectation that your children should be your whole life, not merely part of it, with no days off. Finch made the mistake of not only having a life outside motherhood, but actually celebrating her choice.
Look through some profiles on Instagram or Twitter and you’ll see a lot of individuals, generally ladies, announcing “I live for my kids” or “my children are my beginning and end” as though these are ordinary, solid approaches to live. They aren’t.
Look, I like my children quite a bit. They’re some of the best ones I’ve ever met, if I do say so myself. (And I do.) But just as I hope they never say “my mom is my entire life,” they’re not mine, either.
I have hobbies, I have friends, I enjoy travel (without them sometimes) and I love my husband. If I want them to be functioning, well-rounded adults, it’s something I have to emulate for them and not just immerse myself in their lives at the expense of my own. I want to model healthy behavior for my children.
It’s a good thing, too, because there’s a growing body of evidence that this all-encompassing devotion to kids isn’t such a good thing at all.
Miriam Liss, a psychologist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, conducted a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies on so-called “intensive parenting” and found that “women who believed that parenting should be child-centered had reduced life satisfaction.”
This makes sense. Who knows less about parenting than children? Yet we put up with faddish notions like “child-centered parenting” because we want to give our children everything and win some imaginary “best parent award” due to how much we’ve sacrificed. And if you let your children lead your parenting, there will be sacrifice.
It’s not good for the child, either, obviously.
“Helicopter parenting” is a term that most people understand to be derogatory — but it’s a first cousin of the intensive parenting we’ve come to expect ourselves and others to practice. If you’re meeting every single need of your child, you’re probably neglecting your own.
The same University of Mary Washington study found that trying to be this kind of perfect parent led to depression in mothers. How could it not? Subjugating our lives for another’s never seems like a mentally healthy option, even if you birthed the other person.
David Code wrote a book in 2010 on the subject called “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First.” He notes, “as we break our backs for our kids, our marriage and self-fulfillment go out the window while our kids become more demanding and dissatisfied.”
When your children eventually leave you — and if you’ve done your job right, that’s exactly what they’ll do — they’ll need to have already learned how to deal with their increased independence. Just as importantly, it will help the parents adjust back into being independent, too.
Statistics show a spike in divorce rates for empty nesters in the last decade. It might be because this newfangled parenting has them dedicating all of their energy to their children and not to each other.
A happy family starts with happy parents. And happy parents will need some time off from their children.