A few weeks back, my son’s school reopened after a rather prolonged Christmas break. does a happy jig
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 might even say, 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. Yes, the very one that resembled a dog trying to chase its tail. And yes, the very one that glares back at us, silently mocking us at our helplessness.
You know, the one that says, ‘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 and vacations really throw you off your mojo. Firstly, they have absolutely no appreciation for schedules or quiet times. Secondly, 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 over the school vacation period. In fact, I might even add that these teachers need a raise. I can barely manage one kid; they somehow manage 20+.
‘Don’t you miss him when he goes to school?’ That’s the question a lot of people, especially the 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 the rest of the activities. And that brings me to the actual reason of writing this post - the most under-appreciated, yet extremely important - ‘Me time'.
If I’m brutally honest, I don’t get it. And by it, I mean what certain parents make out parenting to be. Before everyone gangs up and beats me over the head, let me clarify - I’m not talking about parenting style; those are unique and different to each parent, kid and family. I’m merely talking about the fact that 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. Either I’m just looking at it entirely wrong, or I’m wired pretty differently.
Let’s get this out in the open first. If you’re a parent who has given up everything - from an activity that you enjoyed from your pre-parenting life to what you 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 that should make you 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 - mostly wives, in this case), 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 as an activity, seems to have developed this ‘attachment-focussed’ culture. Which for some god-only-knows-reason 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. And if you’re wondering, yes, such parents do exist. And I think they’re competing for a ‘Perfect Parent’ trophy; which by the way, does not exist.
Until I became a stay-at-home (and now work-from-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 after 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 for the Nth time or hearing ‘The three little pigs’ for the gazillion-th time. Don’t get me wrong. We also have the better side 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 relatively-still-short parenting cycle, I’ve come to realise something.
[tweetthis twitterhandles="@iwrotethose" displaymode="box"]Being a good parent is not determined by our strength to keep going like the famed Energizer bunny[/tweetthis]
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 of course, a good partner too.
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. For me, anyway. :)