Sacrifice is an attribute that’s often associated with being a good parent. Parents often say that their children are their main source of happiness and that without them, life wouldn’t be worth living. Does this mean that total self-sacrifice is necessary to bring them up? No, I believe it’s unhealthy for you and for your children.
A willing sacrifice
My parents did not seem to resent the sacrifices they made for their four children. My dad worked long hours, moving up the corporate ladder. My mother stayed at home to look after us and didn’t seem to mind doing so.
We had home-cooked meals every night, vacations twice a year and although we weren’t spoiled, we never wanted for anything. My mom would pack our lunches every day, help us with our homework and take us to various extra-mural activities, like tennis and swimming lessons. My dad would listen to our problems and give us advice. They seemed like the perfect parents. I never saw any signs that they felt resentful about the sacrifices they had made.
When my dad passed away and I started looking at headstones for cemeteries on memorials.com, I couldn’t help wondering whether he had any unfulfilled dreams. My mom is still alive and I know she doesn’t regret the fact that she dropped out of university, got married young and had four children.
What happens when sacrifice goes too far
Regardless of economics, race, or class, parents often have tough choices to make when it comes to their families. I think the problem occurs when the choice is a begrudging one.
Parental sacrifice is never something you should hold over your child’s head. Pursuing your dreams is hard and it’s convenient to blame your kids for what you haven’t achieved. Living with feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction because of the sacrifices you’ve made is unhealthy, especially when you take it out on your children.
As a parent, I know that I would be prepared to sacrifice my life for the life of my children. However, there are certain sacrifices I don’t believe I should have to make. I don’t want my children to feel that I had to sacrifice my health, happiness and dreams for their sake.
The philosophy that to be a good parent, you have to totally sacrifice yourself, can cause more harm than good. I made that mistake after my first child –feeling selfish for enjoying any “me-time” – and this affected my ability to parent.
When everything revolves around all the wants and desires of your children, quality time with your husband can go by the board, friendships can fade and your personal needs can remain unmet.
Parents shouldn’t sacrifice their dreams
I may be more limited in my decisions as a parent but I believe not sacrificing myself to the extent where I’m unfulfilled and unhappy is important to them and to me. I don’t want them to think that being a parent and having dreams are mutually exclusive.
I believe if total self-sacrifice was the way to go, there would be nothing left of who I was to offer to my children. I would be empty without my interests, my health, and my relationships. What could I really offer them as an empty shell? If I want to be a good role model for my children, I need to do this as a whole person. Who I am is critical to how my children learn, grow and develop and I believe they will benefit from the balance I’ve found in my life between nurturing them and following my dreams.