This is a continuation of a short series about why I am a bad parent (tongue in cheek, don’t worry!). There are so many parenting styles, solutions and techniques that no one thing will ever work for every child. Nevertheless, parents never fail to receive judgment and condemnation (even if it’s in a silent glare) about how they do things. Over the next few posts, I am going to talk about the first few months of my husband’s and my parenting experience and why we have chosen to do certain things. Please, feel free to offer input (and judgment) in the comments. Read the first two posts here and here.
Once upon a time, I had a dream. I had a dream of marrying a nice young man of God. We would have eight youngsters. I would be a stay-at-home mother who might do something like photography or graphic design on the side. My husband would go to work every morning, come home in the evening and we would all sit around the dinner table eating a hot meal as my children told him what they did in school that day. Of course, by school I mean homeschool. I even had the guy I was going to marry all picked out. I didn’t plan on attending college and even if I did, it would be more for something to do until I was able to meet the man of my dreams. Then I would quit college (or my career if I got that far along in life), marry, have kids, and stay home to care for them for the rest of my life.
And now, 7 years down the road, I am married. Not to the boy I thought I would. Someone far better. I have a baby. But I definitely won’t be having eight. And I now have the chance to quit school, forget my journalist aspirations and become a stay-at-home mom for the remainder of my life (or at least the next 25 years). But no.
I am a bad parent because I am going to spend the next two years as a full-time student.
I am a bad parent because at some point in the next 10 years, I am going to hold a full-time job doing what I love to do.
That’s right. You heard me. I am going to be a selfish, feministic, ungodly woman and put myself before my children. Right? There are some who would see it that way. But I don’t.
I will fully admit that the number one thing in my life is my family. I would do anything for them. Anything at all. But I also don’t think that being a homemaker and being an educated, working woman are mutually exclusive. In fact, I would venture to say that for me, my family and how I desire to bring up my children, it is essential.
I have had the goal of completing my bachelors degree and being able to do what I have passion for (journalism) for awhile now. It is my dream. I would absolutely LOVE to be a working journalist. The art of journalism is the expression of everything I stand for. It is a thankless, low-paying, saturated industry and I freaking love it. And I am good at it. I can write ledes, slap together copy on deadline, layout a section with flair, and edit like a bad mamojama with the best of them. The newsroom is a hectic, stressful, crude environment to be in. For some reason, I adore it. It’s like a photographer who loves the smell of the darkroom. It isn’t a particularly pleasant smell, but it just smells like art.
I planned on having children after I’d completed my degree and had some time to work in the field first. Fate had other plans, it would seem. I am thankful every day for my daughter. She teaches me so much, and in this particular journey she has taught me to work even harder to achieve my goals. It is not easy caring for an infant and carrying on a full-time school schedule. However, I have a goal that I will achieve.
Now, I suppose some people might say that I am selfish. That my children come first and by being in school and potentially working, I am neglecting that duty. That as a woman, my biblical place is in the home caring for my family. That I should be dropping everything to be a wife and mother.
One of my biggest parenting goals is to teach my children to dream big. Dream as big as they possibly can and then dream bigger. I want to teach my children the courage and perseverance to pursue those dreams. I want to instill in them the self-confidence they need to know they are good enough and smart enough to be whatever they want to be. I want them to reach their fullest potential as people in this world. I want them to feel what I feel when I see that finished newspaper lying on the table in front of me after I’ve put hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears into it.
Children learn by example. You can talk all day long to them, but if you don’t walk the walk, it doesn’t do a lick of good. How can I possibly instill in my children those values that I mentioned above–essential, important, vital values–if I don’t live them myself? How can I teach my children that they can overcome any obstacle if I haven’t done it? How can I show them that they have every right to pursue whatever dream they want if I haven’t been there? I don’t think I can.
But Kaitlin, you might say, you will find all of your fulfillment in being a mother. You won’t need anything else aside from your children and your husband in your life. Your family will become your dream.
And to that I respond, quite frankly: No. I won’t.
Perhaps I am wrong in my thinking on this. Perhaps I will change my mind 5 years down the road. Who knows? But right now, for me, this is not the case nor do I ever see it being the case.
I am a wife, yes. I am a mother, certainly. But those two things do not define who I am deep down, inside, the core of ME. I am a learner, I am a skeptic, I have morals, I believe in the innate goodness of the human spirit, I am a listener, I am empathic, I desire the best for everyone, I am a researcher, I am a world traveler (or will be eventually), I am a writer, I am an artist. I have dreams, I have goals, I have desires, I am a human being.
Having children does not mean that I have to push all of that away in order to become A Mother.
My daughter does not define who I am anymore than my husband does. Certainly, their presence in my life continues to shape who I am. But they do not define me.
In order to feel fulfilled as a person and to feel that I have reached my fullest potential, I need to complete these two goals. I cannot ever be properly satisfied with myself if I quit school and leave my journalistic dreams to die a lonely death. I will live the next 25 years fantasizing alone at night while I sit on the sofa drinking wine and eating chocolate. What if. What if I had finished what I started? What if I had actually done what I was passionate about? What if I had chased my dreams down…and caught them?
I don’t want that. I don’t want to live a life of What-Ifs and Maybes. I don’t want my children to look at me and see only their mother. I want my children to look at me and see their mother, a writer, a journalist, a lawyer (dream #2…) and someone who is passionate about life and doing whatever she sets her mind to.
I intend to lead by example.
I am a bad parent and proud of it.