Parenting is often about making sacrifices for your child. Suddenly, this little life comes into your world and all the things you want for your self become meaningless compared to what you want for your child. This is the natural evolution of becoming a parent. Parenting is selfless, and you will find yourself giving up more and more as time goes on. One day, it’s your manicure or vacation in lieu of daycare or new clothes. The next it is that new car you want for yourself and instead you buy for them. Giving things up, especially when you are raising a family on a budget is important. However, giving up too much can leave you feeling resentful and making your child a spoiled, entitled brat.
It always starts out innocently. You start cutting back to save for college, or you quit your job so you can stay home and raise your kids the way you want them raised. Eventually though, the habit of making self-sacrifices for your child becomes routine and you do it without thinking. As your child gets older, they will begin to feel that they can have everything they want. They will ask for things incessantly and not feel very grateful when they get them. And for good reason. This doesn’t mean that your kid is ungrateful, it just means that you have taught them their wants and needs are more important than yours are. It is essential for parents to understand that making sacrifices for their children is not going to win them a prize – and can often cause more trouble than good.
Sure, some sacrifices are worth it. You definitely want to start saving for college. You want to start thinking about the things they will need in the future and if one parent stays home, you have to make sacrifices to stay within budget. Still, taking care of yourself along the way shouldn’t break the bank – or leave your child without clothes. If you have ever watched parent and child shopping together, its easy to recognize mom or dad looking at that new pair of jeans they really want, trying them on – and then putting them back and grabbing the mega monster squirt gun for their child instead. Fast forward two to three weeks and that squirt gun is either broken or lost – an after thought and they are on to the next thing they want. The lesson that this teaches your child are not those that should be learned. Kids need to realize that their mom and dad are important as well.
The best-dressed kids in any given middle school across the country have a mother in blown out flip-flops who hasn’t bought a new bra in a decade. Her roots probably need to be done and her wardrobe is comprised of school fund raising t-shirts and jeans. Dad probably rarely plays golf and hasn’t had a real haircut (at a barbershop) in a decade either. These parents skip out on these things, realizing that dance lessons, instrument rentals, designer clothes, cool snacks for the lunch box, silly bands and new book bags are much more important. But how does mom and dad feel? On the outside, they will say they don’t mind, but on the inside, they realize that living a life constantly making sacrifices for their children makes being a grown up not a whole lot of fun.
The point is that yes, raising children means you have to use common sense and learn how to stretch your dollars. But it doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy the bigger house and the new minivan so your kids have a room of their own. It doesn’t mean you have to move to the coolest neighborhood where all their friends live. It doesn’t mean you have to sign them up for travel ball, when recreation leagues cost thousands less. It does mean that the sacrifices – like the kids having to share a room, or driving your car long after it’s paid off even though the interior smells like French fries involve the entire family and don’t just single out one or two members. If the kids are always the ones getting what they want, when they want it and how – they will never learn to appreciate how hard you work to make their life prosperous.
Face it, your kids aren’t going to say thank you or kiss you on the cheek with some meaningful words that show they understand just how much you sacrifice for your children. That is okay, they shouldn’t have to. But they shouldn’t be able to watch mom and dad suffering or doing with out everything just so they can have their way. This teaches them that you don’t matter – and it will also have them doing the same thing when they become parents. If your children see you taking pride in your self, and putting yourself on the list of important things – they will learn to have a gracious heart that isn’t selfish and self absorbed.
Making sacrifices for children, for their futures and to improve their lives is the parental job. Yet, since these sacrifices are done with love and commitment to nurturing your child, they shouldn’t involve only materialistic things and one-sided expectations. Your child should also learn that the family unit works together to solve problems and plan for the future. Maybe today its mom’s turn to get the new duds and the children should be beaming with pride at just how pretty she looks in her new dress. At the same time, parents shouldn’t feel guilty about taking care of themselves from time to time, even if it does mean your child has to wait a bit longer for those new Sperry’s that everyone at school is wearing. If you are parenting right, your children will learn to understand that mom and dad are important too and deserve to be indulged from time to time. They will also learn to appreciate the sacrifices that you do make – and may learn to help make sacrifices themselves in order to help you out. When you see this come to fruition, it is a great feeling and accomplishment in the life of a parent.