I will always remember the day that my wife dropped off our 8 month old daughter at the daycare where she would spend the next few years, Monday through Friday, while my wife returned back to work.
Back in those days, maternity leave was only for six months. My wife opted to take another two months off to spend with our new daughter. With our second daughter, the rules changed and she was able to stay home for a year during her maternity leave. Some would argue that a year wasn’t/isn’t long enough.
My wife was none-to-thrilled dropping our crying daughter off at daycare and our daughter sensed it too; she had gotten used to having her mommy around 24/7.
Flash forward many years and I think our 15 year old has turned out wonderfully, despite being “abandoned” by her mom and I at 8 months. I am sure my wife felt guilty as guilty can be, leaving her at the daycare at such a young age. I am sure she felt resentment towards me because I didn’t earn enough money to make it financially feasible to have her not return to work.
I am sure to this day, she feels guilt as she sometimes misses out on special events at our younger daughter’s school as she finishes off her last year of elementary school before heading off to middle-school.
We, as parents, carry a lot of guilt (self-imposed, I think). Some of us can never do enough for our children to make them happy. This is why some parents shower their children with stuff; filling their kid’s drawers with tons of clothing, their closets with toys and their basements with even bigger toys. This is why some parents indulge their children with over-the-top birthday parties and in some cases at such an early age that the child will have little to no recollection of the party.
We, as parents will indulge our children because we cannot indulge them with our time.
In this materialistic capitalist society, we have to have the biggest and nicest of everything. The four bedroom fully renovated house, the two SUVs/minivans, the vacations several times a year, the newest appliances, electronic gadgets, coolest clothing…the list goes on.
In order for us to have all these things, we have to earn bucks….and I am mean BIG bucks. In order to do that, we have to sacrifice something. But, the something is usually “someone”. Our children and our loved ones (spouse/partner) are usually the sacrificial lambs.
So, we feel bad having to leave the warmth and safety of our homes and our families, to head off into the world to keep our own machine going. This means long commutes, long hours at the office, even longer hours after the workday ends because of smartphone devices that keep us connected to work. Our moods are testy as we come home after a shitty day to the stresses of getting the chores of the household looked after. If there is a stay-at-home parent involved, chances are, they want a break from the challenges of maintaining the house and the children so they don’t burst a gasket.
Oh, and once all of this stuff is finally taken care of, we are supposed to spend quality time with our children to rid us of the guilt we feel because we are away from them.
It’s funny how the guilt we experience as parents of really young children changes as those children grow up. When the kids become teenagers it is us, their parents, who make them feel guilty for not spending time with us. These kids are now highly social and are teenagers who need to be with fellow teenagers and not their parents because its totally uncool to be seen or connected in any way to their parents.
I don’t pretend to have a solution to the problem of guilt. However, I can say that we don’t give our children enough credit. We just assume that if we smother them with stuff that this will make them feel loved and it will solve the problem of the guilt we, as their parents, are feeling.
Not true. Its just like when a baby gets a toy and is more interested in the packaging that it comes in than the actual toy itself. I have learned that our children really don’t want or need all of these things. Instead, what they really want is our attention. “Attention” means uninterrupted attention…no phone calls, no emails, no television…no distractions.
One on one time with their mom and dad, regardless of how long that time is, will go alot further in the bonds between a parent and child then all the toys and gadgets in the world.
Maybe if we are successful at doing that when our children are still really young, they won’t be so quick to dump us as teenagers because they will want to spend time with us.