Most parents say that they hope their children will be happy when they grow up. Although my daughter’s happiness is of utmost importance to me, I believe that there is a greater aspiration for our children; one that comes at a great cost to ourselves.
Parenting is one of the greatest responsibilities in life (https://survivingmomblog.com/parenting/6-parenting-tips-and-strateg...). As a baby, a parent’s job is to take care of every need, because a baby is completely dependent on the caregiver. From changing diapers, to bathing, feeding, burping and rocking our babies to sleep, it is a 24/7 job. We give and give endlessly.
Even as babies grow into toddlers and then adolescents, a parent’s job is not over. We are our child’s financiers, counselors, chefs, housekeepers, confidants, teachers, drivers, protectors, listeners, supporters, cheerleaders, and advisors. No matter how old our child may be, we worry about our children, and we hope we are doing right by them. Every action, every tear, every struggle, and every illness that our children experience we experience tenfold.
I struggled at the beginning to grasp the enormity of the non-stop, around-the-clock demands of taking care of my daughter. I was exhausted, I had severe physical complications from labor (https://survivingmomblog.com/parenting/my-labor-and-delivery-of-my-...), and despite all the books and classes I took, I was mentally unprepared for motherhood. Despite all of this, I was somehow expected to adjust to the responsibility and commitment of raising a living creature. It was a hard pill to swallow that my life would never, ever be the same now that I was a mother.
My identity changed when I became a parent. I was no longer just Randi. I was now someone’s mom. I learned to love in a way that was greater than I ever imagined possible. I also learned the heartbreak and worry that comes along with that kind of love. I will never go to sleep without praying and agonizing over the choices I make about my daughter (https://survivingmomblog.com/parenting/6-strategies-and-tips-for-pa...). My decisions impact her life, and the weight of that pressure is sometimes overwhelming.
This is where life’s greatest dichotomy comes into play. Our children are our priority. It is our job to raise them, to guide them through life’s struggles, and to instill in them values, morals and virtues. Parenting requires selflessness, patience, and devotion. We are needed and depended on in order for our kids to learn and grow. With that said, the true measure of successful parenting is to let them leave the nest and live life as self-sufficient, capable adults.
It is without a doubt the most selfless and agonizing act of all. Our children are the center of our lives, but the time will come when we will no longer be the center of their lives. My daughter, who still looks for me every time she hurts herself, who calls out my name if she has a bad dream, who confides in me about her hopes and her fears, will one day have a family of her own. I know that as much as my daughter needs me now, it is necessary to teach her to be her own supporter, cheerleader, tear wiper, and friend. We must love our children enough to teach them to be independent and self-reliant.
Sure, even when our children are grown, we will always worry about them. We will still hope and pray, love and care. They are adults, but they will always be our children. We will still be loved, still be needed, but our roles will no longer be the same.
Happiness is something we want for our children. However, I think happiness comes with believing and loving yourself (https://survivingmomblog.com/wellness/how-to-find-happiness-give-yourself-acceptance-and-compassion/). Therefore, I counter that sentiment with another goal, a far greater necessity for our children. I think the biggest accomplishment of any parent is that their child grows up to be self-sufficient and able to handle life’s challenges. Like many things in life, what is best is also what is the most difficult and painful. It is a goal that speaks to the true testament of any parent. Loving means letting go.
As my daughter navigates through life, I will be there alongside her. She will know that I am always there with open arms and an open heart. However, truly loving her means to teach her to love and depend on herself. Therefore, I will also be preparing her for the time when she will need to pick herself up, dust herself off, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.