Parenting is an attitude, not a biological function.
In my book, Easy Parenting For All Ages, I wrote that parenting should never be considered a sacrifice. Rather, it is a compromise.
If like me, you came into parenting high on idealism and realised that ouch, it costs a lot in terms of your personal ambition, energy and resources, the biggest mistake you could make it see parenting as a sacrifice. The “I could have done that if I didn’t have you” mindset breeds resentment which is not a healthy environment for children to grow up in with that burden to bear. And as I am fond of saying, it only takes ONE parent to screw children up.
I was shocked to realise that even with one child, my carefree hedonistic life and burning ambition was over. My friends went off for exciting gap years or to university whilst I stayed behind working in my local hospital lab which was kind enough to take me on. Later, when I finally started university (by then pregnant with my third child), I realised that my student life was so different from my friends’. They were talking about cool bands and cheap beer in the student union, I was too exhausted with exams, assignments, project, house cleaning, cooking, childminding and part-time job. Of course resentment crept in.
But my children’s father was always joyful. He the reluctant father. And therein lies in our successful parenting story – he had always been genuinely happy to be nothing more than a parent. Yet he had to sell his boats. Yet he had to move 250 miles north to Manchester away from his mates and sailing in the south coast. He took up fell running in the stunning Peak District instead, which he learned to love. He began loving the northern mountain town of Kettleshulme. He made new friends.
His happy state of mind is infectious. I woke up then to the fact that life now for me was better than it could have been despite our financial hardship, challenges and being away from my family and friends in Hampshire. So parenting wasn’t a sacrifice though I could not live the life I envisaged. It was a compromise. Some would say, it was a better life with my large brood of small children with their father’s trademark chuckle and the silly “Are we having fun yet?” family mantra.
Thirty years later, he still has the same attitude. Parenting is not a sacrifice. Here we were a few Saturdays ago, in my daughter’s empty school during the school holidays, patiently waiting for her as he decided she needed to go into school to do her project. There were other things we could have done instead of sitting in an empty classroom on a glorious Saturday morning in Phuket, but spending that time with her was a good compromise. It is the best thing we have ever done, to be parents to her and her siblings ❤