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This is a tough post to write, and it is one that I have been contemplating for quite some time, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put all my crazy thoughts into a cohesive post. As much as I blog to share my family’s experiences, there are parts of me that are still challenging to talk about to an audience as large as my blog followers. But here goes.
Parenting is intense.
I wrote 12 Things the Baby Books NEVER Tell You About Parenting almost a year ago, and I received a surprising response to it. The one item on the list that mothers seemed to connect with the most was #6: You will contemplate your own mortality more than you ever have before. Postpartum depression is spoken of regularly, but we do not often discuss mothers who do not suffer from depression, but experience anxiety. I am constantly aware of life and death, joy and tragedy. Constantly. So much so, that every so often, I allow my fears to overcome my ability to experience the joy in a situation. What if something happens to my children and I am left without them? What if something happens to me and my husband and my children are without us? I unintentionally envision the worst. And it hurts sometimes. And while I know I am not alone in feeling this way, nobody seems to ever talk about it.
After having children, I was given one responsibility in this world, and that is to protect them. That is an overwhelming responsibility. The lives of these two beautiful children that I created, their safety and happiness, their growth and development, are my responsibility. And every day I find something new to contemplate, both incredibly joyful and exceedingly terrifying. The Internet can really mess with you if you let it. You read articles about the dangers of being “that” mom. The helicopter mom who is constantly hovering over her children. The one who does not allow her child to make mistakes, fall and get a scrape, creating a child who is just as neurotic as she is. But then you read the other articles, convincing you that the best thing to do is to back off and allow your children to be who they are, explore independently, take on responsibilities at a young age, at the risk of endangering their well-being. Neither one feels right to me.
And even when you are the most cautious parent, things happen. Even the most seemingly benign decisions, letting your child play at a friend’s house, going to the movies as a family, walking around the mall, can be scary. When my daughter was just 10 months old, I almost lost her at a theme park. And when my son was 2 1/2, I almost lost him at a fabric store. These events were just a minute or two each, but in that brief moment in their lives, anything could have happened, and that’s horrifying to think about even though plenty of time has passed since. I fear taking my eyes off my children for just a second, but I also fear being the mom who suffocates her children. Finding balance in protecting your children and providing them with the freedom to be their own little people is a challenge every day of my life. And knowing that regardless of what I do, life just happens sometimes, is even worse.
But all of this comes from love. This overwhelming, intense, passionate, crazy love that is simply beautiful …and nothing in the world should take away from the pure joy that children bring to your life and the lives of those around you. Because when the elderly woman comes up to you in the store and tells you how cute your kids are and says “Enjoy every moment because it goes so quickly” listen to her! She knows what she’s talking about! Because life will happen. All that is life. Whether you waste your time dwelling on all the potential dangers or you focus your efforts on embracing every single second of your children’s lives, time will pass. And the little baby you held in your arms and allowed to fall asleep on your chest at night will begin preschool. Rather than wasting time mourning the loss of yesterday, appreciate every moment you have today…and don’t rush through the day waiting for tomorrow.
So from one parent to another, here’s my advice to you (and myself):
1. Stop reading scary articles on the internet. They are everywhere, and I always get sucked into them. If you absorb all the hurt in others’ stories, you will start to hurt and respond accordingly. Step away from the internet.
2. Stop documenting and start living. I’m a blogger. That’s my life. It’s at the core of my identity now. I share with all of you the story of my life. Which means I am constantly documenting my life through words and photos and videos. Put the phone down. Put the camera down. Put the laptop away. Even if just for a few moments each day. Live that moment rather than documenting its existence.
3. Stop losing your patience with everyday tasks. Changing poopy diapers sucks. Getting woken up all hours of the night sucks. Arguing about homework sucks. Nagging your kids to eat vegetables sucks. But you know what? One day you will change your last diaper, you will sleep through the night, your kid won’t have anymore homework, and you won’t be telling your kids what to eat. And when that day comes, you will want to relive all those moments, every last one, because even the daily battles are beautiful. The struggles are beautiful. Your children’s lives are beautiful.
4. Stop feeling guilty. Mom guilt is the worst. I feel guilty daily for something. It may be that my kids didn’t eat the greatest meal or I let them play on the iPad too much or I forgot to kiss them before I left to go to the gym. But you know what? They’re safe, happy, and know that they are loved endlessly. Learn to forgive yourself for all the little things. Remember you are an amazing parent.
So right now, right this very moment… PAUSE. Look over at your child. Take in the beauty in front of you. Memorize it. And embrace your child. Because that moment cannot be lived again, so know there was no better way to live it than that. I have spoken to many, many parents, and I have never once heard one say “I regret spending too much time with my child.”
If you feel like you need guidance in planning for your child’s future, all the possibilities of what could happen, there are resources available to you. Planning financially as well as emotionally can ease some of the everyday anxiety parents experience. Whether that planning includes saving for college, managing your retirement, or purchasing a life insurance policy, remember, your one responsibility in this world is to protect your child. Learn more about your protective options.