© Allison R. Bethune

The Misconception of Parenting Part 1


I am really befuddled by the parenting mindset of some younger people. By younger I mean 35 and under.  Not all, but some really do not understand the depth and the breadth of being a parent. Once you hear the words, congratulations you are the proud parent(s) of a baby boy/girl your whole world changes for the rest of your life.

Once you step into the lifetime role of being a parent you transition into being the most selfless person your child(ren) will know. Albeit, one assumes this is an automatic transition; it is not. You must fight hard to transition into being a selfless entity for this dependent human being. Yes, children grow up, move on, reproduce and so on, but they will always depend on their parents. Don't you? Your level of dependence changes, however there is nothing like knowing your mom or dad is a phone call away.

Being a parent is more than providing food, shelter, and clothing. More than having a mini-me to dress up, more than the tax break they provide, more than supplying financial abundance, it's much more. More than you can fathom. You see being a parent is a lifelong commitment. This commitment invades every fiber of your being as well as your monetary and physical possessions. It really made me hostile to see Kim Kardashian-West's assets plastered all over the Internet and my TV screen. Mrs. West you are a mother now, your choices will effect your child and her future. It pains me to hear young parents state they have a life to live, I gasp when I hear how having a child will not stop them from pursuing their dreams. Or when young parents stop by the triage desk in the emergency department, so we can call OB to come get them for their "scheduled" c-section.  You have already failed at the most important job you will ever have. You have failed because you've selfishly put your needs above the needs of your child. You see your life is not your own. Your schedule, your agenda, your plans, and maybe your dreams will be in the background for possibly the next 20 years. Everything you do, everything you say, every job you take, every decision, and every purchase you make will impact the life of your child.

I was a single parent of 2 and now I am a married mom of 3, so I know both sides of the coin. No matter if you are married or single being a parent is the hardest thing you will ever do. You must take self out of the way or you will fail. I believe being a parent is vital for the well being of our world. Oh, you didn't know your role has a global influence? Well, it does. You never know who you are raising. I wonder if we asked the parents of some of the most influential world changers did they know who their child who grow to become; if they were really honest they would probably say no, not really.

Having children should change your perspective of the world. You should become more in tuned to world events and how these events will impact the lives of your children, their children, and future generations of your lineage. You should contemplate how can you guide your child(ren) to become better world citizens. After all, you could be the parent of the next Nobel Prize winner.

So I've been babbling on and on about being selfless, so what is this? It is realizing everything you do for the rest of your life will be for the well-being of your child(ren), not just self fulfilling for you. Please do not confuse well-being with financial security; a child's well-being surpasses all monetary value. A child's well-being encompasses the intangible elements of one's character-the spiritual, emotional, and cognitive aspects of life. What behaviors are you exhibiting that your child(ren) will model and use to navigate the world?

Are you so focused on spending time with your friends, obtaining the perfect job, finishing your degree, or hooking up with that special someone so much so you neglect the most precious gift in life? I am not saying not to have fun, not to land a job which gives you financial stability, by all means please finish your degree, and everyone needs that special person in their life. However, I am saying at what or at whose expense shall you acquire the things YOU want? We all have dreams but when a child enters into your stratosphere, dreams change, are put on hold, or put to rest-maybe forever. I was having this exact conversation with my oldest son last week. He is so focused on what he wants to do that he cannot see how his selfishness is not allowing him to be the best father he can be to his daughter. I had to repeat several thousand times that it has ceased to be about you and your dreams. It's all about your daughter and her dreams. I had to remind my son how my profession chose me.

Long before I became a single mom at the age of 19 I too had dreams, I wanted to become a pediatrician. I was an academically gifted child who watched medical shows on PBS for fun. I entered my first year of college as a pre-med major with a minor in psychology at the age of 17. My future was bright and very promising. Then life happened. My first son was born at age 19, 14 months later my second son was born. Instead of graduating from college at 21, I was a single mom of two who eventually ended up on public assistance. Talk about a 180! I absolutely knew the situation I was in was not OUR destiny. I gently reminded him of how I went back to college to become a school teacher, a secondary English teacher as a matter of fact. Then it hit, me this is not what I want to do with my life. I loved teaching. I loved medicine-I wanted to do both. But how would I when I had two babies to take care of. One day as I was talking with my academic adviser explaining how I really wanted to go to medical school, but I felt it would not be fair to my children. It was not their fault I didn't complete the course I'd set for myself. Why should I subject them to be raised by other people while I pursued my dream of becoming a pediatrician and eventually teaching medical students? After I spilled my guts and some tears, he mentioned nursing and if I'd ever thought about choosing this career path. He said I can have the best of both worlds; being a mother to my boys and have a career in the medical profession along with the prospect of one day teaching nursing students. Needless to say. The rest is history.  I did get the best of both worlds! I was able to be mommy, a nursing student, and subsequently a nurse. Trust and believe it was not an easy road to walk!! On the other hand, I could not give up if I wanted to; my babies were watching and learning. As I pursued my dream, I was instilling the intangible elements of steadfastness, determination, hard work, faithfulness, love, understanding, sacrifice, compassion, and patience. Elements needed to be successful. Anyone can dream, but do have the grit, the gumption, the drive to render it into fruition.

I have enjoyed being a nursing professional for almost 20 years with the last 6 years spent in academia. Remember I stated sometimes dreams change and some are put on hold? My dream did change and it was placed on hold. I went from wanting to be a pediatrician to becoming an emergency nurse. Then years later I entered the final phase of my dream by receiving my graduate degree, enabling me to teach. My dream started when my boys were 2 and 3 years of age. My dream became reality when they 20 and 21 years old. In all of this, I had to let him know he and his brother were my first priority, not my dreams. I asked if he remembered me chaperoning field trips, spending time in their classrooms, bringing treats for their birthdays, having fun, and being loved. He sat silent, because he knew how I sacrificed for them. Now my prayer is he will elect to do the same for his daughter.

This what a parent does, this is an illustration of being selfless. I also informed him of every job I've applied for I had my children in mind. When we purchased our homes and cars we had our children in mind. Whether we grocery shopped or purchased furniture we had our children in mind. Even now as empty nester grandparents planning for our latter days, we still have our children in mind. The role of parent does not stop until you take your last breath. Even then your words, deeds, actions, and love should live on inside the hearts of your children.

We are quick to pass judgement on parent(s) who do not provide physical needs for their children or parent(s) who place their children in harms way. But what about the parent(s) who neglects to give their child(ren) the authentic organic life components needed to live a healthy productive life? We sit silently as these parents are chasing their dreams, goals, and aspirations, as the child(ren) sit on the sidelines longing for love, affection, and direction. The years spent making sure your family has what you think they need, is realistically precious life interactions lost in the abyss of time. When in actuality what they need is you. Your physical presence, your laugh, your encouraging words, your guidance, your approval and your love. The only way to accomplish this is to be.

Be open to guidance from those of us who have walked the path you are on. Be humble enough to lay your needs aside. Be vulnerable enough to allow yourself to experience the best love in the world. Be present at all times. Be thankful for the role bestowed upon you. Be kind to yourself, you will make mistakes (there's no way around this one). Be the most selfless person you can be! Then be prepared to receive an over abundance of love and countless blessings.

Allison