There’s no guide to being a parent, regardless of how many books get published on the subject. You can develop lots of strategies for helping your kids succeed, but there are way more ways that you can screw them up — and you will. One thing that is pretty much a sure thing, however, is that in order to be a good parent, you need to be selfish now and again.
I recently wrote about how I won’t be saving for my kid’s college education and someone told me that was selfish. I can’t disagree. I think my reasons are valid, but some of them come from a selfish place, it’s true. My views on saving for my kid’s college aren’t the only thing about my parenting that could be considered selfish.
Have you ever met a mommy martyr? The kind of parent who works, is the class parent, is always at her toddler’s beck and call, and clearly hasn’t slept in approximately five to ten years? This parent is always on point, but never seems to be able to do anything for herself. You want to hug this poor woman and slap her all at the same time. Better yet, you want to give her a glass of wine.
Being a “selfish” parent isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it’s about self preservation, like the days I can’t possibly listen to another one of my six-year-old’s stories about Minecraft because my brain can’t handle the utter nonsense. Or the days when I put my screaming, thrashing toddler safely in her crib instead of throwing her out the window. There are even days when we get fast food because I’m way too tired to even consider cooking real food. Being “selfish” is often what’s necessary to maintain your sanity, and just being a parent will test your ability to stay sane on a regular basis.
Other days, being a selfish parent is a bit more serious. Choosing not to spend an hour after dinner playing trains might have given you the chance to get laundry done, but it also probably gave your kid the chance to develop some independence. Your refusal to purchase that birthday toy you know your kid is excited about now but will never touch might just give him the chance to save up his allowance and feel the pride of working hard for something he wants — a very valuable experience for a kid.
What about those vacations you take without your kids? I know lots of people who think this is a selfish move, and maybe it is, but your relationship with your spouse, partner, or even just other adults matters not just to your wellbeing, but happy, connected parents will likely affect the wellbeing of your kids as well.
Simply put, lots of parenting decisions could be considered selfish ones depending on who you talk to, but they could be doing you and your kids a great deal of good in the long run.
The time I take for myself each week — whether it be a hot bath while my husband handles homework or skipping that second chapter of the bedtime story in favor of Netflix — gives me the space and clarity I need to tackle parenting at full capacity on a regular basis. My kids aren’t lacking anything because I opt to buy the cupcakes from the bakery aisle at the store instead of making them at 1am when I get a break from work. They aren’t suffering because I got myself a new nail polish this week. They definitely aren’t suffering when the extra time I’ve had to do laundry, cook, clean, and finish my work assignments gives me the patience and energy for an extra hour of board games and ice cream cones.
While kids may be our whole world, the whole world isn’t about our kids. They need to know that, and parents need to feel like it’s ok to take care of their own personal needs. Give and take is a huge part of being a parent, and most days it’s way more give. Some take is certainly allowed, and you if you are a bit selfish, you might just be a better parent for it.