Being a parent is the most important job there is. I believe there’s evidence to support the notion that it is also the hardest, the most challenging, the most exhausting, and the most rewarding. When I say evidence, I mean that’s how I feel. I don’t have any actual research based data to present to you. I’m sure it’s out there and that’s what google is for. I don’t need a study to tell me that what we do is significant – you pour your heart and soul into this job and you still might end up with a serial killer, but the odds are in our favor and we usually end up with decent human beings that resemble us. So we forge ahead.
Actively parenting is a season that will pass (unless you’re Michelle Duggar, she’s trying really hard to prove me wrong). I’ll never forget the first time my daughter pushed me away or told me no. That day, I felt more than hurt… I panicked, because she is my whole life and in an instant she reminded me that I won’t continue to be hers. Here I was thinking we were the two very best friends that ever were and she had the nerve to say, “hey, I got this… and I’m going to continue trending towards independence.”
She’s been doing this since she was a glob of cells in my womb, reminding me of what is and what isn’t, bringing me to my knees unapologetically. She’s introduced me to my vanity, my strengths, my weakness. She’s unearthed my capacity for boundless love. A baby is likely the purest form of truth you and I will ever encounter. I can honor her truth or I can choose to ignore it.
Our position is not indefinite. Are you hearing me? We are going to be fired. Every day your child lets you know that your list of duties is shrinking. It starts with mobility, then potty training (thank GOD) and the next thing you know they’re at college. The after school activities will end. Instead of answering a thousand “mommy’s!” (or daddy’s) a day, you’ll be praying they answer their phone.
Unlike a sudden layoff, they’ve put us on notice. So they’re a conscientious bunch; we have 20 years give or take to help equip them with practical life skills, self-esteem, work ethic, and mostly I pray, compassion. We have two decades to do that job, which is a consuming one, especially in the beginning and it’s likely that the second half will be met with opposition on their end. At first our presence is merely enough, but then they need hatichmals. And Yeezys. Which will make us feel like we have failed, because we all know that wants aren’t needs, that less is more and we’ll end up wondering where we went wrong? (I bet Brock Turner owns Yeezys, and I bet his daddy bought them.)
And then it’s over. You’re fired. 20 years seems like a long time, but it goes by in the blink of an eye. A lot of us will have the same work skills and education that we started parenthood with, and we will be met by a world that didn’t stop turning when we brought our babies into it. Some of us might have the luxury of not having to actually work outside of the home, stay at home moms turn into… stay at home wives? I’m not sure. My obsession with being a mom and my guilt for wanting more than being a mom have me in a strong hold.
Here’s what I know. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I was engulfed by parenthood; It swallowed me whole. How they’re growing, what you’re eating, what you’re reading, what they’re learning, what they’re eating, what they’re doing, what they need.
We are frequently told that these moments are fleeting, that they are only this little forever, to slow down and savor this. But what about after this? What about when this season passes? I don’t need to be told to enjoy it while they’re little… yesterday my daughter’s ponytail brought tears to my eyes. Because a few weeks ago a ponytail wasn’t in the cards, I just had to let her mullet exist without interference. And now that this glorious pony is here it struck me that it will never EVER be this tiny again.
So nope, I’ve got the over emotional mom thing on lock. What I need is for someone to remind me, that there is life beyond parenthood… like literally, I will have to fill 13 hours of my day with something. And not in 20 years, these kids start going to school when they’re 3 or something ridiculous like that. Having another child will buy you some time, but you’ll have to face reality eventually. Nobody wants to be the clingy parent; it’s not a good look. Trust me… I picture myself as cool mom Mrs. Longstreet and envision my daughter and all her pals stopping by my tailgate at MSU, where I tell them, “Stahp! call me Scarlett, I insist.” But that’s only adorable if it’s a part of your life – your children can tell if you’re thirsty. My husband reminds me daily to tone it down.
Your children aren’t going to wait for you to figure out your hobbies, interests, and career goals before they grow up, but they will expect you to have some. So you shouldn’t wait for them to stop needing you before you start considering your own needs. You don’t have to work, but your brain does. It needs to be exercised like a muscle. Read. Exercise. Cook. Volunteer. Learn. Have a social life. Be passionate, about anything. Even if your children are your only interest, fake it… the quality of your relationships with other people and them, depend on it. We will slowly get our time back, and we have to fill it with a rich life outside of our children.
If I consider my life as a blueprint or guide for how my children might live theirs, I have to be extremely critical of how I spend my time and what I demonstrate to them as important. Having a child is a gift and curse because I have to continuously ask myself, “Would I want my daughter to model this behavior? These thoughts? These values?” She is the gift of consciousness. Who needs a mirror when you have a child.
She is my legacy, and our small world is more joyful because she is in it. She is the thing I am most proud of and my biggest accomplishment. But she needs to know that I was someone before her and while she has made me my favorite version of myself, it would be a disservice to her if she thought the world spins on her axis. I won’t have an entitled child with a bored mother.
Follow Scarlett on Instagram: @ScarlettLongstreet & @SpilledMilkClub