Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Dangers of Basing Self Worth on Our Children

Disclaimer: This is where I apologize for hurting people's feelings.

Basing my self worth on my children is easy to do. It starts with pregnancy and I fear it never ends. We pee on that stupid plastic stick, and wait 2 minutes for the fortune teller to tell us the future. And at that moment, we are no longer ourselves, we are Moms. we eat differently, we exercise differently, we drink more water, cut the caffeine, weigh the benefits vs harm of eating fish and what kind of fish. We re-organize our homes. Buy the newest and best baby gear. And suddenly can't think or talk about anything but our midsections. How far along? Do you know the gender? Do you want to know the gender? Do you have a preference? Natural birth? C-section? Epidural? Water birth? What hospital? Breast or bottle fed? Making your own baby food?

My Ladytown and the girls have just become appropriate dinner conversation!?! How did THAT happen?!

And it's down hill from there. You/I no longer even have a name. We are the Mom of _______. No longer are we defined by our own given name, our jobs or by our spouse, only by who our children are.

Our homes are no longer the oasis we long for at the end of a long day but now the largest source of stress in our life. We hit the door running, dinner, laundry, homework, bath, bed, clean the kitchen, pick up toys, vacuum one more time, bed...oh wait, I forgot to clean the bathroom after baths, back out of bed, and return 30 minutes later. And finally at 11 pm I sleep (maybe).

And since we have no doubled (or tripled) our housework, we can't take a weekend away, away from home, the source of all our stress. Birthday parties, and every holiday now require a treat and a t-shirt, a gift or a costume. Our career loses focus after all, we can't devote 100% of us anymore. And we lose touch.

Our childless friends suddenly seem self centered and can't possibly 'get it'. The man we have bound ourselves to is not an inconvenience and the only interesting party topics we can summon are Ethan's quirky sayings (which I adore), Ryan's new funny faces (there are plenty of them) and Lane Michael's latest A1C. No one actually cares about these things.

But none of this is my problem (after all, most of it describes me).

The dangers of losing yourself in your children span from immediate dangers to long term effects. Effects on our family unit and on our society, effects on our women, our view of marriage and how we value our husbands.

In the Bible (I will use the Bible, not for religious purposes but to show historically how women were viewed), women are mentioned only by their relationship to their husband or father. Currently I am best known as Lane and Ethan's Mom. And most women joke that now they're no longer "Mrs. _________" or "Oh you know, she works _________" but are now only referred to by our children's name. This isn't necessarily how we view ourselves but more how society now views and values us.

There has been a definite shift in our families where children are becoming authority figures, decision makers and money spenders. Walking through the mall, there are very few stores geared specifically towards Men and/or Women. Instead, we have the basic department stores which have a section for men, a section for women, and a section for children/teens. But walking out of those department stores, we find 5 stores specifically geared towards children and teens. Why? Because they hold a very large portion of the buying power in our homes.

Another example, there were no television stations geared specifically towards kids, instead we had Saturday morning cartoons. Over the years we have developed nearly as many kids TV stations as we have adult. Why? Because they now control the remote, and if they don't control the remote, they have their own TVs.

A second problem I see is that in putting all a woman's value in how many, how fast, and how well she can birth her brood, is devaluing the women in society who choose not to have children or who are unable to have children. Women who want to be Mom's but aren't able to be are hurting in the most deep and basic ways, they don't need prying eyes, wanting to be privy to bedroom details. Some women don't just want the baby, but want the experience of being pregnant, sharing their birthing story and blushing over the money shot her husband took accidentally, so adoption may not be the best option for those couples. And lets not forget that women who choose to not have children make some rockin' awesome aunts!

The tole this "kids first" attitude is taking on the family's destroying us. Marriages are breaking up, kids are growing up too fast, being too spoiled, being raised with questionable values and it's carrying over into their adult life. These divorces are causing a lot of children to be raised by the TV and computer...which can desensitize children to some very mature subject matter.

There are so many different dangers and aspects to consider, I truly believe our family unit is at peril. I believe to get back on track we need to start with our parenting decisions. Beginning with allowing/forcing our children to be children and mature at their level, not at societies speed. Putting the needs of the family first (obviously there are exceptions to this), prioritizing our lives and just slowing down.

I am not practicing what I preach. I work 5 days a week and solo parent 2-3 nights a week. I allow my children to have (limited) control of the remote, and often don't consider my husband's wants when making decisions. But our family dynamic is changing, summer is coming and hopefully someday,we'll begin to slow down *grin*.


FosterMama said...

I laughed out loud at your word "Ladytown". Love it. I am hoping to incorporate it into my vocabulary :-)

Sarah said...

Luckily, to us "old" friends, we will always be Lynne (insert maiden name), Sarah (maiden name) and so on!! So, atleast we have a few people that recognize us for us, before we were connected to anyone besides our parents.