When you decide to have children, it is a choice that will change your life forever. You consciously put yourself second to the needs of someone else. They become your priority and your purpose. There is no turning back, there is no walking away, there are no returns. It’s a commitment of love, devotion and perseverance. It is not easy and a lot of the time you ‘wing’ it.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t stop existing as an individual, you don’t sacrifice all balance, and self-love only allows you to love them more, but when it comes down to it, your children HAVE to come first. It is an act of selflessness.
You have one chance to make and shape a life … from womb to birth to upbringing. It’s about health, physically and emotionally. It’s about providing a compass; their morals, values, standards, beliefs. It’s about teaching them empathy, love, respect and kindness. It’s about routine. It’s education. It’s about experiences that will shape their world and give them security. It’s about being the example they need and can follow.
The list is honestly endless, and could be written into a very lengthy textbook. Add to all of this the fact that everything is coloured by your own experience, circumstance and opportunity, and their own personalities and uniqueness. By external factors you cannot control, as much as you may want to. Every parent and child is different and will result in a different outcome. There are no algorithms that can be factored in. It’s daily life.
One of my favourite memories as a child (being brought up Anglican) of the Easter weekend was going to my parents’ friends on Good Friday after Church for lunch.
The table was always covered in a clean white cloth, which someone invariably stained with onion, and laden with homemade traditional pickled fish and hot cross buns. There was sherry. And laughing. And banter. And it still to this day makes me smile to think of my dad’s friend David eating that chilli and then sweating up a storm and virtually crying from the heat. Those were good times.
These little memories from various childhood rituals allowed me certain anchors in my life. For tradition, ritual and routine are a way of sharing values, goals and collective identity to the next generation. They provide community. They are of integral importance.
Sunday lunch was another. We always ate something special on a Sunday. A roast, a spread of veg and potatoes and a yummy dessert. It was a family activity as we grew older and could help with the cooking. Again there was wine and sharing and abundance and love.
I myself now look to ME as a parent and ask, am I doing the same thing for my children. Am I doing enough? Am I being the best parent I can be? Am I living up to my responsibility to these growing lives to help them become the best people they can be. Do I tick the boxes?
Their experiences will always be different, I cannot replicate my own childhood wonders, nor would that be appropriate, but are they getting their own regular ‘memory moments’, big or small, that will carry them forward.
It’s not always easy; I’m a single mom so that’s the first mark against us. It’s taken time to settle. So I play both parents daily. It’s a heavy load to carry sometimes and I pray I do it ok.
The crazy routine of life also has a habit of throwing in the unexpected, but I do try to ensure we sit at a table each night and chat over a good home made dinner (I forgive myself for those occasional days I am exhausted, order takeout and eat in front of a movie because it’s just easier). That we bake on a weekend for Sunday dessert. That we snuggle in my bed and have movie night on Fridays with hot chocolate. That we go on adventures be it holidays or day outings. That we see friends and family.
I try hard to create experiences as I believe these give stronger and more colourful memories and anchors than anything material ever may. I hopefully succeed at providing a good home filled with love. They don’t need abundance, they need what is enough.
And so, this responsibility called parenthood is both a blessing and the most mammoth task you will ever undertake. But, I feel, as long as you do your best, honestly knowing it is your best, and your children, for those growing years remain your focus and motivation, then everything will turn out ok.