A few weeks back, my son's school reopened after a rather prolonged Christmas break. Oh yes!
If you're sensing a little excitement in my writing voice, then you're absolutely right. I am happy. In fact, I'm pretty darn ecstatic. I feel like a million bucks. Gosh, I sound mean, don't I?
Do you know the biggest curve ball that life throws at us parents? School holidays! Especially when you have young kids around. Laugh all you want, but there are moments of breathlessness and fighting back tears when we get that message in the little squiggly handwriting. You know, the one that says, "The school will be shut until XYZ on the occasion of ZYX."
There are moments of breathlessness and fighting back tears when we get that message... "The school will be shut until XYZ on the occasion of ZYX."
As kids, school holidays were something that we all looked forward to. Ah! The freedom from homework, studies (well, in lower classes anyway), timetables, early nights and mornings and much more. Everything was just exciting. However, as a parent, I can't really say that I feel the same way. Yes, judge me all you want, but when you're a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent, young kids on holidays really throw you off your mojo. First, they have absolutely no appreciation for schedules or quiet times. Second, they have a million joules of energy that they somehow need to burn off, now that they're no longer occupied at school or with their regular activities.
So, if any parent in a similar situation says that they're not secretly counting down the days till the big yellow bus returns and whisks off their little one(s) to school for a few hours, they're lying. Or, perhaps they're teachers themselves, who are dreading going back to class themselves. It's true though. Nothing makes you respect teachers more than the school vacation period.
"Don't you miss him when he goes to school?"
That's the question a lot of people, especially new parents, have asked me whenever I've mentioned this. Yes, I do. But then again, it isn't like he's going into battle. He's away for a few hours and that really helps me organise my writing, life and other activities. And that brings me to the actual reason of writing this post -- the most under-appreciated, yet extremely important me-time.
I don't get how some parents can give up everything and just choose to live (and proverbially die!) in the name of parenting.
I'll never understand why parents are made to feel guilty just because they choose to have a life outside parenting too. Similarly, I don't get how some parents can give up everything and just choose to live (and proverbially die!) in the name of parenting.
If you're a parent who has given up everything -- from an activity that you enjoyed to the things you liked to eat-- in the name of parenting, then the only question I have for you is why?
Parenting is a choice that you make. But just because you're a parent, it does not mean you should not make time for yourself. Yes, granted that things can be a little difficult and even complex at times. But unless it has a direct negative influence on your child or your family, there is absolutely no reason on earth for you to give up everything you love doing. You are still an individual and that means you are entitled to do certain things that you like and get some time for yourself. Being a parent (or a loving partner), does not mean you're required to give up your entire identity. Having said that, yes, a bit of adjustment will be required.
The other thing that bothers me is that for some strange reason, parenting has become enmeshed in an "attachment-focused" culture. Which makes certain parents believe that if you're not actually physically present 24x7 for your kids, you are not a good parent. Or that if you do actually get some "me-time", you should feel guilty about taking advantage of it. I think such parents are competing for a perfect parent trophy - which, by the way, does not exist.
Being a good parent is not determined by our strength to keep going like the famed Energizer Bunny.
Until I became a stay-at-home dad, I never truly realised how difficult and complicated it is to be the parent who is always around. And as much as it was a decision taken with a lot of thought, I'll be lying if I said there aren't days when I enviously watch my wife get ready to go to work. Or bite back frustration when she tells me about their amazing team lunch or drinks after work. Or melt into a nostalgic puddle when she talks about how they didn't get much work done on Friday, because they were all sitting around yapping. Yes, I miss those days from working in the corporate space and being around other adults.
And to really appreciate that, you need to be holed up in a closed space, day in and day out, with a toddler who insists on singing "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" a gazillion times a day. Don't get me wrong. We also enjoy the best benefits of parenting: being around for those cute smiles, listening to their adorable babbling, doing random things that make them erupt into peals of laughter and much more -- things that the other parent often misses out on. So, yes, it's a trade-off at times. But it still doesn't warrant a feeling of guilt, just because you feel the need for space and time to do things you like.
I'm going to leave you with a question. If you're a parent with young kids, do you remember the last time you sat down for an hour and did something you wanted, without worrying about the kid(s) or what they were up to? If the answer is no, then it's high time you re-evaluate your busy schedules and make time for yourself.
Over the course of my time as a parent, I've come to realise something.
Being a good parent is not determined by our strength to keep going like the famed Energizer Bunny. Rather, it is our ability to find the perfect balance between our own needs and that of our kids. That's what makes a good parent.
And as I sign off, I'll add this too. The feeling that I presently experience on the night before the little one goes back to school is such a stark difference to how I felt before his very first day at school.
These days, the night before is more like Christmas Eve.
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