The True Courage It Takes to Be a Parent
More and more I get stuck thinking about what it truly means to be a mom—as more and more individuals around me are becoming them. Being in my early 20s, I am now contemplating whether it is time for me to even think about becoming one, or whether I would just be joining the bandwagon of young parents around me. And really reflecting on my life, I am taking my time breaking down what it truly means to be a parent. So this is a shout out to those parents that are doing it or have done it, especially moms.
Everyone hears that it's a full time job, but it's beyond the 40 hour a week, 30 min lunch break, maybe 1 week vacation paid job. There's no clocking out on this job. Nor a 30 min lunch break. Nor a grace of vacation. They aren't even being paid, unless you consider some spit up, whining, and stubbornness a pay back. Whether they're 1 month old, or 10 years old, the attention they need seems endless. On top of this, it's basically expected now that mothers actually work full time as well, since one partners income isn't enough to sustain a family anymore. And if a significant other isn't involved, its even more work for mom.
What I really think though, is that it's so SO much bigger than just a job. It takes a true selfless person to be a mom. A person who won't resent having lost sleep to cater to their child's needs. A person who will share what's on their plate with their child though they haven't eaten all day. A person who won't buy something for themselves, but will spend for their child. A person who rather spend vacation at a place their child wants to go to, that they probably won't even remember, just to see them smile in those moments instead of a self relaxation trip. A person who will cater hand and foot to their children without a single thank you or any appreciation.
My mom had a rough childhood. The kind that has emotionally left a nasty scar. And out of all the things she could have done to "get back" at the way she was treated and taught, she wanted to become a mom. And let me tell you, this woman shows true selflessness. She picked up after everyone and didn't receive praise. She did everything for her four kids when we were little and didn't get a thank you. She just kept giving.Like nothing ever faltered her. Her kids could hate her, resent her, hold an grudge against her, but that wouldn't stop her from giving.
This person chose to be a mom. And by that, it made her susceptible to critics, to judgement, but also - to love.
Sure, she could have been told that her parenting was wrong. I know several people told her she could be doing better, or doing something different. But she rose above the criticisms of others and did what she felt was right for the family. She applauded us when we tried our hardest, even if we weren't winners. She sympathized with us when our pains were something she couldn't take away. She supported us in our decisions even if she didn't necessarily agree. She taught us respect, and that loving ourselves is the best way to love and respect others while finding happiness. She taught us responsibility, so that when we make mistakes we acknowledge them and grow from them. She made us all feel special, but reminded us that we are all equal on this earth. She is one hell of a person, but an even more amazing parent.
Controlling the Outcome
There is no such thing. You can raise your children with nothing, or you can raise them with everything. Every child is their own individual soul, who will feel and think and grow and though you can influence their environment, you cannot truly influence them.
Take my older brother, for example. My older brother has Aspergers, which is a form of autism. Though he is not considered extreme on the autistic spectrum, it affects him in obvious ways to others. He moves at an extremely slow pace in a world where patience has no place anymore and everything needs to be instantaneous. He stays isolated in his room playing his favorite video games but craves to be social and have people understand him. He lacks any self-motivation, and has to be pushed to even take care of his personal hygiene. So what's this got to do with parenthood, right?
To start, my mother and father knew that my older brother would have problems while he was still in the womb. Though they weren't sure exactly what would be wrong with him, they knew it would affect their relationship and maybe, even their marriage. But my mother felt him kicking inside her, and she knew she'd do anything to make it work. My older brother was born, and ever since has been a constant wear on my mother's emotions. While he was little, his hands flapping and temper displays caused others to throw judgmental looks at my mother. While he was a teenager, his lack of personal hygiene and social awkwardness made him an eyesore, and a topic of discussion of how his mother must be taking care of him. I would know, as I would hear the whispers of my peers while I would try and defend him. And now, as an adult, he cannot financially support himself and lives with my parents. He has no motivation to leave, to drive, to live outside of the world he's placed himself in.
And all this time, my mother was the one pushing him to his full potential. She nurtured him when no one else understood why. She battled with the school system to get him what he needed for education. She prodded him to shower and brush his teeth. She signed him up for college and helped him earn his Liberal Arts degree. She's allowed him to try and pursue any passions he may have had. She drove him around for all of his doctors and therapy appointments. She's troubled with lawyer fees and court for social security. She is mentally drained, but still continues on. And in all of this, the devoted years to her son, he reciprocates with disdain, and is full of hurt. Though he does not know how to direct it in a healthy manner, he aims his pain and fears and anger at my mother. He remembers all the punishments and not all of the rewards. He looks at her, and does not see what I see.
I may not have Aspergers or any other disability, but I know we all see our mothers differently. Being raised by a liberal mom and extremely conservative dad did not form my opinions. Raised with one parent who's more committed to religion and one who is not. One parent who is all brains and sometimes no emotions, and one parent who is all emotions and can forget logic. But these two people, as much as they both have shown me all the love they can, have no influence on the decisions and choices I have made in my life and will make. All i know is that because of the way they have raised me, no matter what I choose in life, they will be proud.
So when you think raising a child will be great, when you think that they will turn out to be this beautiful person who may change the world, when you think that they may achieve great things - just know that you raising them the best way YOU believe is the best you will get, no matter who they are, what they do, or what they believe.
I am so glad I was raised by this woman, this mom, this parent. I am so blessed to have received the most wonderful gift of my upbringing that has helped shape the person I am today and will become. And so when I think of being a mom, being a parent, I have the utmost respect of how courageous and caring these people have to be. I truly wonder how I could ever fill the shoes my mother walked in, and ever give another little baby the life I have been so fortunate to have. Thank you, to all those parents, because you don't hear it enough and because without you there wouldn't be us.