I’m a Selfish Parent and I Make No Apologies

toddler boy giving thumbs up on rocks at beach

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.

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16 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I struggle with being selfish. I’ve always been that way. I give more than I take.

    I’m so tired of hearing about Minecraft and 5 nights at freddies. Soop tired.

  2. Karen says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. My kids are now in their twenties and still at home because they are going to school. I did my best while they were growing up and I did without a lot so they would have it. I divorced their father when they were 4 and 6 and I was basically on my own as I got no help from him other than his monthly check. People can’t believe it when I say – I can’t wait for them to leave. I want my time now. I am done raising kids. They have both been told that next year, I retire, the house is sold and I am moving so they better get their S&^*t together and plan where they are going because this MAMA is DONE.

    1. Shauna Armitage says:

      I think what people don’t understand is that you don’t love them any less because you want them out! You’ll always be a mom, but after a life of sacrifice, it’s certainly time to get back to being YOU.

    1. Shauna Armitage says:

      Thank you for commenting! There’s so much pressure to be a good parent, sometimes you feel really guilty for taking care of yourself. Not cool.

  3. Karen says:

    I am total believer that you need to take care of you and your marriage in order to be the best parent. It isn’t selfish, it is smart. Keep being the parent you want to be.

  4. Great post Shauna! I am usually pretty good about taking “me” time. Where I struggle is not doing every class party, field trip, etc. I missed two parties this year but was in charge of one at Christmastime no less. But I still feel bad about missing the Harvest and Valentine party. And that’s only with one kid in school right now!

    1. Shauna Armitage says:

      Christmastime is such a hard time to participate! We’ve all got a bazillion things going on in our own personal lives, and then trying to make cupcakes, take days off from work, and do all those other little projects for the kids’ school is insane. Take a break, lady! You deserve it.

  5. Suzanne says:

    I have four adult children and one toddler. The first time around the four kids had each other to play with and I could sneak off by myself to read a book or take a shower. Alone. This time around I am having a difficult time trying to find those me moments. I want my toddler to be independent but at the same time feel so guilty that she doesn’t really have anyone to play with but me. We are both trying to find our balance of work, play, and alone time.

    1. Shauna Armitage says:

      You can do it! Just remember that your toddler doesn’t NEED someone to play with all the time. You have to come first sometimes.

  6. Yes, yes, and YES!! I’ve never thought of myself as a “selfish” parent. I do many of the things you listed here. My husband and I have been vacationing w/o our kids since they were little.😊 It’s probably one of the things that has kept our relationship strong.

    Having a strong relationship w my husband and doing stuff for myself makes me a better mom. Great post!

  7. Hayley says:

    I’m with you! Looking after you means protecting your sanity and sense of self, which is really important for your kids as well actually. To see their mum doing things for herself is to learn an important life lesson!

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