Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What I learned about parenting from my midlife crisis

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

I might as well have put it on my calendar. I turned 40 and immediately fell into a funk about who I was and how little I'd accomplished with my life. Maybe it was the contemplation of (unattended) school reunions when I could see on Facebook that former classmates were now doctors, lawyers, nurses, professors, scientists, and successful business owners. Maybe it was watching blogging disintegrate after I'd poured more than a decade of myself into it. Maybe it was all those unfinished and unpublished manuscripts hidden but not forgotten across various hard drives. Maybe it was that my husband had slowly, as we added each new child to our family, taken over more and more of our mom-and-pop business to where it was mostly pop.

I started assessing who I was and what I had done with my four decades on this earth. I saw a lot of titles that were currently in the past — student, blogger, musician, writer, business owner, leader, friend — and not much to speak of from the present: mother, wife, homeschool parent. Mother is not an exclusive title. There's no glory there, particularly if you feel like you're not doing much special and are average at best. Wife is easy when you're married to Sam, believe me. I didn't feel like I was pulling my weight there. And I'm sure everyone homeschools more assiduously than I do. We are at heart lackadaisical. Throw in some learning disabilities we've been navigating, and it's prime territory for fretting I'm not doing enough or the right things.

I started feeling again the guilt that I'd failed people's expectations of me. My mom always believed I'd become an Oprah's Book Club novelist, even when literary novels were not my goal. My teachers had praised me, and schools had given me scholarships, and now I wished they hadn't wasted any effort on me.

Fortunately, I had some time and awareness to observe how my parents actually treated me and spoke of me. They love to get together with us, are sad when we part. They post about us on Facebook and write in their Christmas letters that our family is happy and enjoying our lives. They never intimate that I'm a huge disappointment to them, so I'm going to have to guess that I'm not.

It made me start thinking of the pressure we can put on kids, particularly kids who are exceptional in some way, whether academics, sports, arts, performance, or the like. I think it's a loving impulse to encourage children to shoot for the stars, but the fact is that most of us will be average.

And that's ok.

It's ok to be a parent. It's ok not to be. It's ok to be a CPA or a military officer or a hairdresser or a barista or unemployed or a billionaire or a middle manager. It's ok to live somewhere that other people fantasize about or to live somewhere other people mock as boring or to live in your parents’ basement. There isn't some bar we have to clear to be of value.

I started thinking about who my kids might be when they grow up, and that I want them to know it's fine if they're no one special. They'll always be special to me. Particularly when you start considering disabilities and illnesses and other challenges my kids might face, I want them to know it's acceptable for them to be whoever they are, even if we're not impressing anyone.

If I can find some way to apply this grace to myself, all the better, but for now, I'll try to send my love outward and forward. Instead of promising my kids that they'll be famous someday, I'll tell them that we can't get enough of who they are right now and forever.



Erin Violet Taylor said...

Yes! I think societal pressure to do something can feel so very heavy sometimes. But you are married to someone you love and have three beautiful kids, you live in a city you love, you write, and anove it all, every day you keep yourself alive. That's all something ti celebrate. You are worth so much more than your productivity and just being here is something of a miracle

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