Today’s article on msnbc.com begins with this sentence: Juggling parenting with a high-powered career and hectic social life is a challenge anywhere in the world. And in that first sentence the problems are identified.
Parenting is by far the hardest work I have ever done. From the time that I was aware that I had conceived, the care of that child (in my case, children) was a 24/7 task. If I was to do my part, there was no option to “give” the nurturing to some other paid caregiver. After my children (twins) were born, the responsibility for their 24/7 care was mine. It never occurred to me to hand my children off to grandparents or paid caregivers while I returned to my “normal” life of a career and an after hours social life. I made career choices based on what I thought was a no-brainer fact – my children came before my career. Yes, absolutely I was grateful that I had choices. I took a job in which the hours were set, not left to the whim of a boss or supervisor. Even when babysitters were used, it was still ultimately my responsibility to make sure that person was reliable and doing the things that I thought should be done.
Once my children were in school, I believed the myth that I could then work more because the children required less of my time. They may have had less time at home but their requirements were still just as vital and I found that I had to come home ready to handle any and all sorts of problems, verbalized or obscurely revealed. My work day went from nine hours to about eighteen hours. Through high school, homework and music and sports became opportunities for their maturing and achieving success and putting time and effort into those activities sent my children a message that I cared. It wasn’t enough to tell them I cared. Actions do speak louder than empty words.
Parenting is a life-time commitment. It does not negate my own needs but it does require that I, the adult, realize that the needs of a child will often take priority over mine until they leave home for college and assume responsibility for themselves. Even now that my children are grown and have children of their own, I still do not think of them as released from my care. I have learned that parenting of grown children still requires time to listen and be available to encourage and support their parenting.
24-hour day care, boarding schools, “go live with your grandparents” are all excuses for relinquishing the care of your children to someone else. A choice that somewhere, sometime is going to come back to you when a child asks, “Did my mom/dad love me?”.