I don't give parenting advice because I'm not a parent, and parents have made it clear they don't want to hear it from someone who doesn't understand.
I respect that.
I'm still going to advocate for the mental health of children.
I don't care who fights me on that.
Let's dig in.
My parents struggled to prioritize their own growth and mental health, and as a child, I felt that.
More importantly, I had a clear idea of why they had a hard time.
Parenting was the barrier.
- Things we couldn't afford.
- Stress (and tempers) they couldn't regulate.
- Social lives they couldn't have.
- Rest they couldn't take.
- Dreams they couldn't chase.
All of that stuff was the second priority.
The first priority was always "taking care of my kids".
My parents have a lot of pride in being parents.
My parents refuse to prioritize giving anyone or anything else their time and attention over their children. Oftentimes that "anyone or anything" included themselves.
Parenting came first.
That first priority took up so much of their time and energy that the rest of the things they wanted to do for themselves got left behind.
Even if their being happier and healthier in that way meant the household being happier and healthier as a result.
I'd love to say they fought against it and tried to find there was around it but most of the stuff wasn't even a conversation.
"I can't do that because I have kids" was the default answer to a lot of questions concerning their own care and growth.
This isn't a sob story we haven't heard.
This is an average sob story everyone who knows a parent has heard.
The truth is, parenting is hard.
Parenting takes sacrifice.
As adults, we know this.
"You don't get to put yourself first when you're a parent. You have to put your kids first."
This is the narrative. We've heard this.
And to be clear, I believe this.
I believe that every parent endures hardships and challenges that feel unique, isolating, and lonely.
I believe there's a severe lack of resources, support, and solutions that are helpful for parents taking care of themselves.
I believe that I don't understand nor can I understand without having been through it myself (which I haven't).
I believe that every parent not only has to consider the safety and care of someone outside of themselves...
But those considerations are a LOT more sensitive than those of us who only have other self-sustaining adults to consider and support.
Because tiny humans have tiny undeveloped brains. They have to learn to work their fingers and toes from scratch. And parents have to help, teach, and protect them along the way.
It's a big job.
And I believe feeling responsible for a whole sentient being's outcome is a deafening weight to bear, personally.
Even more so when all of us adults get to a point of realizing none of us know wtf we're doing. How am I supposed to raise this bundle of goop when I still struggle to raise myself about certain shit?
I know all of these things.
I believe in all of these things.
I always have.
But your kids need YOU to understand something about the narrative of "I can't be healthier/happier/whole/full because I'm a parent and that means I have to sacrifice that to raise my kids".
As an adult, I hear that message and understand the bigger picture, the nuances.
As an adult, I hear that message and understand that your intention is to love, care for, and value your children above all else so that they can move on to lead healthy, happy lives.
But as a child who couldn't pick up on the nuances of adult experiences, I received that message in a very different way.
"You say your life is only hard because you're a parent.
But you're only a parent because I'm here.
It's only because I exist that life is hard for us."
How long do you think it took for me to toy with the idea of no longer existing?
About 14 years.
I don't think my - or any - parent wants or means to impact their kids in a negative way.
My parents - like many parents - did the best they knew how with what they had.
We are okay.
But I was not.
If this is your narrative, ask yourself if your kid(s) might see themselves as the root of the stress, anger, and misery in your home.
Because I tend to think I'm not that special. I wasn't the only kid who took it that way.
It's true, parents do have a hard time in this society.
And it's also true that "parenting" is NOT to blame for that hard time.
Here's the deal.
Whether you mean to or not, you're blaming your kids for the shit you don't like about your life.
You're blaming your kids for the joy you miss and frankly, I get it. I'm very selfish with my time and energy. I'd have salty moments too.
But while this narrative might be adult's moment of saltiness and stress...
It easily translates to one of shame and a sense of worthlessness for children.
It's trauma. Some shit they have to heal from later in life if they even gain the awareness to notice it's haunting them.
Stop blaming them & their existence for your problems.
Stop saying they take up too much space.
Instead, blame the invention of the nuclear family.
Blame capitalism for childcare being too expensive and hardworking friends & family being to unavailable.
Raising children takes a village and these things took the village away from you.
Your kids didn't do that. "Parenting" didn't do that.
Blame a patriarchy that lets the partners of birthing parents think they're off the hook for giving you time to yourself. Blame your partner directly for perpetuating that, and take it up with them that you don't have time for yourself.
Your kids didn't do that. "Parenting" didn't do that.
Blame white supremacy for taking black fathers away from their children and making it 10x harder for black mothers to raise healthy kids in more ways than one.
Kids definitely didn't do that. Parenting didn't do that to you.
Blame lack of resources and mutual aid.
Blame yourself for being too proud or afraid to ask for a level of support that would benefit you and your kids.
Blame your own caretakers for instilling that fear in you.
BUT your kids.
Your kids didn't give you this life.
You gave it to them.