As parents, do you ever feel as if your life is not your own?
No one fully prepared me for the fact that becoming a parent would be so all-consuming. I was the youngest of six children; I didn’t have any little brothers or sisters to take care of and so when my husband and I were blessed with our first child, the adjustments were major. Our lives were suddenly not ours anymore; we were at the whim of an infant’s demands.
We had two more after that and by then, our lives were most definitely taken over by three little people, a trend that continued as they grew. Between school activities, sports, and caring for them, those three kids became the major focus of our lives. We were parents first, and people second.
As parents, it is so easy to get lost in the lives of our kids. Raising them is undoubtedly our most important job and should demand our best effort. But sometimes parents go to the extreme and become “lost” in the lives of their children. They are so wrapped up in their children’s activities, successes, and problems that they can’t find themselves anymore and may even question who they really are.
How does that happen? From my own personal experience as a parent for 33 years and as a parenting coach, I would suggest that there are several signs to look for to determine if your life is lost in your child’s.
You allow their successes and failures to define you as a parent.
Just because your child makes a bad choice does not mean you are a bad parent. Or just because your child is a star athlete or an honor student does not mean that you are super mom or dad.
As a parent, it’s important to determine your core values and boundaries, stick to them, love your kids unconditionally, and recognize that the mistakes and victories they have as they grow up are theirs, not yours.
You’ll know that you’ve taken their successes and failures too personally when you get just as or more upset than they do. I caught myself doing this when my kids didn’t get enough playing time in sports. I would be more bothered by it than they were. When I realized that, I knew that I was letting their ups and downs determine my emotional peace and taking it way harder than they were.
You and your spouse haven’t gone out on a date in weeks or months.
For 38 years, my husband and I have done our very best to keep dating. When the kids were younger, it wasn’t as often as we would have liked it to be, but we still put it on the calendar. We made it a priority and made it work because we knew that was a key to keeping our marriage strong.
There will always be something to pull you away from dating your spouse. Your kids’ games, school events, work, and family responsibilities will fill up your calendar quickly. Before that happens, be sure that you sit down at the beginning of the week or month and schedule a date night. Your marriage should not be overshadowed by your kids’ active lives.
You cannot remember the last time you did something just for your own growth.
Using the illustration of the airline air mask–parents are instructed to put theirs on before they put their kids on–reminds us that if we parents are not caring for ourselves, how can we possibly expect to be engaged and intentional with our kids?
If you do not have a growth outlet, and your life is ONLY about your kids, please find one. You need one to remember who you are as a person. They need you to remember who you are as a person.
There will come a day when your kids are all gone…
They will go to college, get married, move to other cities, and you will feel bereft. If you were a parent who got lost in their kids’ lives, the empty nest will be a shock to you, making you question your purpose and wondering what the heck you are supposed to do with the rest of your life.
That’s what happened to me when my kids left. I tried not to get lost in my kids’ lives as they were growing up, but I don’t think I tried hard enough because I still faced an identity crisis, wondering who I was and what exactly was I going to do the rest of my life.
Whatever season you are in as a parent, remember this: your children need your time and attention, but they also need you to be YOU, to continue to grow and learn. It’s in your own growth process that you become a better parent.
If you’d like some help in prioritizing your life so that you do not get lost in your kids’ lives, please call me here. I’m a parenting coach and I’d like to help.