Walking the line between self and parenthood

I wrote about this same topic two years ago, and I thought it would be a good time to revisit things, seeing as I’ve been through the grind of parenthood for nearly two years now.

To quote myself:

To me, this memory is a reminder of who I want to be.

I want to be someone I’m proud of, someone the younger me can look and marvel at. To be wise, understanding and a ready listener; someone my child would have no problems sharing his joys and fears with. Someone he can respect and look up to as a role model. Someone he would be able to tell his friends about; that his dad is an awesome fellow who lives life doing the things he loves. I want to be the friend, the geek, the basketball fanatic, the gamer, the photographer, the armchair philosopher, the fussy critic and so many other parts that make up the self.

I would really dread the day when I have to tell my kid something to the order of “I used to love doing blahblah before we had you.” Instant confusion (“Why do you not do it now?”) and subsequent guilt trip (“Am I to blame for this?”).

I want to be my own person, and to die doing the things I love. I have never believed that being an employee, a boyfriend, a husband and a father would mean submerging my own persona “for the long term good”, as Stan once said. That’s utter bullshit to me. Everything is but just a facet of the big picture, and a balance.

And to add another quote from my thoughts on parenthood last year:

All too often, parenthood is seen as a burden, and in today’s society it is more than acceptable to outsource the labour, be it to the parents or paid help externally. Being a full-time parent is physically exhausting and mentally unstimulating at times. It is a mundane routine for the most part, but yet filled with unexpected surprises at every turn. It’s no walk in the park, but if you ask me? It is something everyone should get a taste of.

Like I told Stan the other night, parenthood has come to mean an accelerated maturation in one’s life. It’s about learning to take care of another, about being careful not to make mistakes that could prove costly. It’s about being constantly watchful, constantly learning, and staying calm in a crisis. It’s about learning to the virtue of observation over action, about understanding the situation before trying to fix it. Parenthood is about learning to love unconditionally, to give without expecting anything in return and putting the needs of another above yourself. It’s about responsibility, and learning the simple joys of labour that money can never replace.

Is being a parent an absolute choice between the self and the child? Why can’t we work towards our dreams while being parents?

Granted, some goals are tougher than others. For example, entrepeneurship might be a trifle harder to accomplish when you have to hold a day job while tending to a cranky kid at night. So do things like movie marathons, crazy all-night drinking sessions, and a lot of things that involve either spontaneity or extended periods outside the home.

That being said, is it really possible to put opportunity costs into weighing parenthood? How do you measure a mundane goal that might hold its metric in dollars and cents, when the real value of being a parent lies in the intangible satisfaction, joy and contentment that comes out of seeing your child grow every day, and the simple pleasures of interacting and teaching that make little steps so interesting?

How do we factually report and put forth the benefits of being a parent in an objective manner, when relationships and emotions are tenuous things to begin with? I’d like to see someone quantitively measure and compare for example, the thrill of watching a sports game up live, versus the joy of seeing their little one run to them with a welcoming hug and a big smile, after a long hard day of work. Do you record your variances in heartbeat? The amount of endorphins dumped into your bloodstream? Or perhaps, the level of neuron activity even?

To lament the loss of a dream, only speaks volumes about how hard you tried. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it, and it’s all about what you are willing to invest into achieving that goal you long for. To use parenthood as an pragmatic-sounding excuse is just that – a self-justification made to appease one’s mind, self-psychosis in believing one had no choice in the matter.

“It’s all for the best, because I must be a responsible parent and do what is right.”

The uncontrollable urge to mouth a vile epithet arises whenever I see oh-so-righteous and noble sounding conclusions like these.

There is always a choice. Never shift the blame for your supposed losses in life to the fact of rearing a child. Instead, ask yourself if you had tried enough to make it happen. If you want it badly enough, nothing can stop you from realising your dreams.

Always remember: the only person that can limit you from living your life the way you want, is you. Not your spouse, not your kids, not your parents, not your peers, and most definitely not your boss. It’s all about whether you want it badly enough to make it happen.

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