It’s one of the last words you want to hear, and one that many people turn a deaf ear to. Sacrifice. Chew on it a minute. Roll it around on your tongue. How does it feel?
“Don’t tell me to sacrifice my wants!”
“If you have to sacrifice something on that diet, you’re on the wrong diet!”
“You want me to do WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding me, never going to happen!”
Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you’re NOT making sacrifices, you’re doing it all wrong, and this particular thing is parenting.
What did you think when you had kids? That it would be a cakewalk in the park full of rainbows and butterflies and unicorn farts?
Were you a little knocked off kilter when you woke up after labor to an inconsolable, completely needy, squirming little human? Were you a little underwhelmed by the love you felt for this alien thing you brought forth into the world? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us felt that way, the thing is, some of us just intrinsically knew that we had to make sacrifices in order to be good, effective parents; while others of us held onto our selfish desires, wants, and “needs”.
Let’s get one thing straight: Everything worth having takes great sacrifice of some sort.
No, you should never lose yourself, or lose your identity, or stop being you for the sake of having children. Quite the opposite: You should strive to be the best version of yourself for the sake of having children. You should be able to separate your needs from your wants and the necessities of life from your selfish desires. Mom’s night? 100% a need for most moms. An annual vacation with your spouse? Definitely a need for some people. Going to a job outside the home and feeling like you’re part of something bigger than your family? Completely understandable.
Texting, playing games, being on social media all day long, and refusing to make eye contact with your kids from the time they get home from school until they wake up in the morning? Not a need. Leaving your kids to go out more than a couple times a week, every week? Not a need. Being unable to provide basic necessities or enrichments for your children because you have an expensive habit? Not a need.
Being a parent, being a genuinely good, effective parent, requires a multitude of sacrifices.
There is an unwritten contract that you sign the minute your baby is born. It states:
“I, (your name here) hereby forego any full night of rest from now until the time this child graduates high school. I will do whatever it takes to see to it that this child’s needs are met, even if it means working three jobs, or staying up all night long the day before his fourth grade science project is due to ensure it gets done. I will take care of myself and my body and I promise to get sleep, lest I become a grouchy bear, however; I will also see to it that my child’s needs are also met, even if that means cuddling them to sleep for two hours a night. I solemnly swear to take care of my own emotional and physical needs, but also understand that there lies a fine line between balance and sacrifice, and that is where I must live for the duration of this parentage.
forever tired (your name here)
When you have children, you forego your “right” to sleep more than 5 hours a day or night, depending on your job. If you’re getting more than 5 hours of straight sleep at at a time, you’re doing darn good. If you’re getting more than 5 hours of straight sleep and you don’t have time to pick up your own messes, clean your own house, or spend quality time looking into the eyes of your child, it’s time to start setting an alarm and sleeping just a little less. Sacrifice. The number one sacrifice parents make, sleep. You’re hard pressed to find a mom who isn’t complaining about the bags under her eyes, suck it up buttercup, and join the club.
Maintaining your sense of self is important when you have children, but if you’re spending more time with your own friends outside of work than you are with your children, you’re sacrificing the wrong relationship. Hint: You’re choosing to make the wrong sacrifice. Look your children in the eyes when they talk to you or when you talk to them. When you choose to talk to your phone or to ignore them completely, there are a number of things going on that let your child know just how little they mean to you.
When you discipline or guide your children away from bad decisions, things can get uncomfortable for both of you. The last thing you might want to do after disciplining your child is to hug them, but if they ask for a hug, give them one. They need to know that despite your guiding discipline, you are still their safe place, and that you love them through all storms. In the same vein, when your child is feeling insecure or upset about something and they need your comfort, give it to them. Children can become upset or begin feeling insecure for any reason at any time, and it may or may not make any sense to us. Their illogical thoughts mean nothing, and they aren’t necessarily ours to understand. Sacrifice your personal space and hug your child, hold their hand when they ask, let them know you are there for them and that you are their comforter.
I highly recommend the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. It’s quite possible you think you’re loving your children the way they need to be loved, but falling short. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to grow, learning to change, and sacrificing yourself for the needs of your children.
If you’re not making sacrifices, you’re doing it all wrong. Make sure you’re making the right sacrifices, ones that benefit your children. They are, after all, your future, so invest wisely in them.