The Parent(hood) Trap
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"Life is so great when you're a functioning alcoholic!"

There's no way around it: Our generation has so much more pressure on us to be parents than our parents ever did. Let me clarify, no none is putting the screws to you to have kids (except maybe an overzealous relative) but once you are a parent, oh boy, you better also be a nurse, teacher, early childhood development expert, nutrition guru, philosopher, imagineer, superhero and psychologist. 

Our parents? Go outside. Make sure they're not one of those fuck ups like Tommy, down the block.

Us as parents?  If my kid isn't the most physically and mentally well-developed Einstein sports hero who enjoys eating vegetables... I have failed at everything. 

I know most of us seasoned vets don't subscribe to modern parenting culture. We go through trial by fire (especially when you have a few) and simply do our best to keep everyone alive. We may look at new parents with pity because they're running around freaking out about organic food and music in the womb. We roll our eyes.

But we're not entirely above it, yea? Let's be honest. We are wracked with guilt when they are on their devices all day, won't eat a vegetable if we coated it in candy, or are struggling with a subject in school. We fret over sports and programs and enrichment, often jamming our already snug schedules with practices and camps. School is a race to the top as is everything that follows: GPA, College, career.... To what end? The same stress trap for your kids? 

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"Life is sweet! I'm at work 70 hours a week and my wife is f*cking some guy from church because I'm not emotionally available. Plus, my kid eats their friends prescription meds to party away the pressure of being constantly evaluated and tested! But boy, I have a big house and sure do drive a nice car." 

We have to stop and re-evaluate this mindless push to excellence. First, because most of us don't turn out excellent (and that's okay!) Second, because it is killing us, killing our marriages, killing our relationships with our kids and killing our own midlife potential. 

People say it's all about the kids once you have them, and to an extent that's true. You will spend 75% of your time and energy on them just to get their basic needs met, and that's not including maintaining a home and vehicles and having a job, to boot. Nobody ever talks about the minutiae. The laundry, the dishes, the lawn, the check engine light, the busted refrigerator, the leak under the tub. And on top of that, there's the bills, the homework, the cub scouts meeting, the flute lessons, the common cold, that birthday party you forgot about, the cupcakes you were supposed to bring, the get well card you haven't signed yet.... 

Where does all that little bullshit leave us? Frazzled, sharp with our kids, not in the mood for sex with our spouses, and unfulfilled with our own personal growth and happiness. In short, it leaves our relationships with the people most important to us on the backburner for the laundry list of things we're supposed to be doing as perfect parents. 

Now, I am not saying leave them to their own devices and pursue whatever pleasures you fancy at the moment. What I am saying is stop beating yourself up about all the things you think you need to do to raise a "perfect" kid. PUT PINTEREST DOWN. Start deciding what is essential to their well-being and what is not. They don't need to master every skill by the time they are thirteen. And you certainly don't have to jump through every hoop so they succeed. A better option would be to put more energy into making yourself the best version of you and leading by example. 

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"Isn't adulthood #goals, kids? All stress, no joy!" 

Motivate your kids to strive for their own success by looking up to you. Do you want your kid to have a great marriage? Show them how, by making time for your partner. Do you want your kid to have a great career? Show them how by bettering yours. Do you want them to be self sufficient? Make them do some of your chores. Do you want them to be healthy? Work out and eat right. Show off your muscles. Be the person you want them to strive for (and eventually be better than.) 

 

Further Reading:

The Midlife Crisis: What really happens after a decade plus of raising kids and catering to everyone.