Parenting is the most wonderful, and the most challenging job I have ever had. I think many people would concur. Being a good manager at work is difficult, but it pales in comparison to the task of effectively raising kids to be well adjusted, productive and balanced adults- and finding joy in the process. I have loved my (now 33 years) as a mother more than any other undertaking in my life. I am not big on regret, but I do wish I would have had more than 3 children. I now have two children who are grown men, and one that is still in high school- but very close to being a grown man too. It is wonderful to see the people they have become and to deeply enjoy their company.
I was thinking about how challenging it can be to find the right balance between not being involved enough in a kid’s life (school performance, extra curriculars etc), and being a full on helicopter parent. At times in my own life I was so busy with a demanding job that I certainly erred on the side of not being involved enough. With my youngest, I probably too often err on the side of over-involvement. The good news is that kids are resilient and they find their own path- maybe a bit because of, and certainly mostly in spite of, our best efforts. It’s probably good that as parents our prescriptions for their lives are only one input- they need to be who they were meant to be, and we can’t know what that is. We are guides and we love them- but ultimately like all of us, they have to chart their own course.
Being a parent has really driven home the point to me that there are many ways to live a life, and that a particular job or degree is not the key to fulfillment. It has also really made me think about what it is that I really want for my kids. Ultimately it is a pretty short list:
- I want them to be kind people with integrity. People who say what they mean and mean what they say. Honesty is paramount.
- Having a strong work ethic can get you through so much. If you can learn to enjoy hard work, you have a lot of control over your life.
- I want them to have relationships that bring them joy, and to bring joy to others. Being generous with their time, talent and treasure — whatever that looks like in their circumstance- will ultimately come back to them in happiness.
- I want them to be able to feed themselves and keep a roof over their head. Having a level of independence and self sustainability is important.
- I would like them to know that there are things that are bigger than them- that they are not the center of the Universe. I hope that this translates into a relationship with their Creator.
When I reflect on this list, I see that it doesn’t contain a certain type of employment, or any ideas about what income or status is important. Maybe because I came from a family that valued putting in a hard day’s work more than being wealthy or prominent, that I still have that perspective for my own kids too. I also find it freeing to know that there are aspects of parenting that are most certainly my job (such as to underscore the necessity of being truthful, or learning to work hard), but there are other parts- such as picking the career path or passions- that is most certainly not my job. As a parent you can expose your kids to different ideas, but it is ultimately up to them to pick where they are headed.
I talk to a lot of young people who are early in their careers. A common theme is that they want to wait until they are “settled” or have “enough money” to have kids. Having been quite poor when I had my older kids, I can say that while I agree that you need to be able to take care of yourself before you have kids, you don’t need that much. What kids need isn’t that expensive unless you make it so. The gift of children is so enormous, that having more and having them sooner will be a gift that you will cherish. As I tell many people, on your death bed you won’t care so much about the promotion you got or the car you bought, but you will care deeply about the love you are surrounded by that comes from the joy that children bring.