Recently I’ve spoken to a few parents who started their parenting journey later in life. They’re in their forties and have preschoolers. In the simpliest terms, they’re exhausted and frustrated. Do they regret their decision to become parents ? No. They’re doing their best working at full-time jobs outside the home and meeting the many demands of parenting young children.
There are times in life when the best decision we can make is just to embrace what is, rather than what we’d like. If you’re forty-five, you probably don’t have the same kind of energy you had at twenty-five. That’s just the way it is and comparing yourself to a parent twenty years your junior isn’t fair. You do though offer things a younger parent can’t, simply because they don’t have the life experience. We learn the most about life by living life. The longer we’ve lived, the more we’ve learned. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons. Older parents pass all of that on to their children.
Our children deserve to experience the best of us. Often our co-workers and friends see our best side but the people who matter the most get a watered down version of who we really are. We therefore owe it to the people we love to conciously nurture our mind, body and spirit, and we’re all nurtured in different ways. If you’re an older parent who feels pressured to get down on the floor and play with your three year old or plan a designer birthday party but the whole idea leaves you drained and feeling resentful, no one benefits. When we push ourselves to do things that other people do, but it’s not really who we are, we’re more likely to get easily irritated and bothered by small things that in difference circumstances may not phase us. Those are the times we yell and nag and at the end of the day feel guilty for how we acted.
What our kids want from us is our presence. They want to feel loved and nurtured. We don’t have to be keeping up with what other people are doing to be a good parent. If someone has told you they don’t allow their children to watch TV, it doesn’t mean that’s right and you should do the same. If you’ve read a book that suggests activities to do with your preschooler and most of them feel uncomfortable to you, don’t do them. Go with what feels right for you. A parent who is calm and relaxed is much nicer to be around than one who is stressed and feeling resentful. If you simply don’t have the energy to do the things you feel you “should” be doing, give yourself permission to do what you can. This is not a competition. If some evenings sitting on the couch with your four year old and watching a TV show together is all you can manage, do just that. Your child will love the closeness and just feeling your love and warmth will be enough.