I came across this great quote the other day that said, “Appreciate your parents. You never know what sacrifices they went through for you.” It really made me think about the things that we all give up for our kids, which in turn made me realize that our own parents gave up the same things for us. From small sacrifices to major life changes, here are the top ten things that parents give up to make sure their kids have a better life.
Sleep deprivation is so common in early parenthood that it’s almost an inside joke among moms and dads. Here’s the thing, it doesn’t end when our babies start sleeping through the night. It lasts throughout their entire childhood and beyond.
We take turns staying up all night making sure our kids don’t wander those first nights in their “big kid” bed. The night before their first day of kindergarten, our nerves keep us tossing and turning. When they announce that they want to be Elsa instead of Anna for Halloween, we stay up all night transforming their costume. The list goes on and on…as do the sleepless nights.
2. Peace of mind
Everyone has worries some of the time, but before you have kids, you at least have the possibility for a reprieve. You know that once you take care of your responsibilities, you can just totally relax and unwind, let the worries fade away if only for a little while.
Once your children come along, though, you will always, always, always have at least one worry nagging the back of your mind. Even when you think you’re feeling pretty Zen-like, that little voice is whispering, “What if….?” Peace of mind becomes a total thing of the past.
3. A reliable schedule
The moment our kids enter the world (either late or early, of course, because very few babies are born on their due date), schedules went out the window. All the color-coded family calendars in the world can’t account for tantrums, sick days, and scavenger hunts for your shoes. The sad thing? Many employers know that parents put their kids before the job, so they discriminate against them, and it’s not even entirely illegal. So that reliable schedule costs more than just the idea of an orderly life, it can cost us a job.
4. The ability to be spontaneous
Sure, to our kids, it seems like we’re total free spirits, surprising them with weekend trips or fun outings. We know, though, that all those “unplanned” moments revolved entirely around them. We parents secretly sacrifice the ability to take our own spontaneous trips or accept last-minute party invitations.
Privacy is a totally foreign concept to kids, at least until they become teenagers and demand it for themselves (but very rarely give it to you in return). We parents forget what it was like to go to the bathroom alone or take a shower in peace. We also quickly learn that anything we say (even when they thought you weren’t listening) will be broadcast to just the wrong person at just the wrong time.
Have you ever really thought about how much time we devote entirely to our kids? Here’s a hint- it’s pretty much every waking moment of the first 18 years of their life. We only take a little “me time” after making sure all their needs AND wants were met. Then, we felt bad about it (it’s one of the top 5 reasons moms feel guilty all the time).
When you have kids, it’s hard to stay close to your childless friends. Sure, you try, but your kids come first. After a while, they stop inviting you places because you keep canceling last minute when Tommy gets the flu or Susie has a nightmare. You realize you’re fine with that because you have nothing in common with them anymore. Before you know it, your “best friend for life” becomes just another person on your Christmas card list and your new social circle is made up entirely of the parents of Susie and Tommy’s friends.
When you’re a parent, your wants come last, plain and simple. Forget the Maslow hierarchy of needs chart, you live by a whole new pyramid. It goes: your child’s needs, your basic life-sustaining needs, your child’s wants, your “important but can still live without them” needs, your wants. Even when we do have a little extra cash to take care of our wants, we’re more likely to spend it on something we know our kids would love instead.
9. Career aspirations
Times have changed just enough to make it possible to have both kids and satisfying job, true. However, we parents (both mom and dad) tend to choose the “safer” career path rather than chase an unstable dream. Maybe you’d love nothing more to live a life of adventure as an archaeologist, but your kids need stability and a real place to call home. So, you choose the path that guarantees food on the table and a roof over your head, even if it’s one you never wanted to take.
10. Comfort Zones
This one is harder to sum up in a short and snappy heading. When we have kids, the imaginary boundaries that outline our “comfort zones” become blurred to the point of extinction. For example, you may be a highly anxious non-confrontational person, but when your child is wronged, they are relying on you to make it right. You have no choice but to step way outside that comfort zone and stand up for them. It may not sound like a big deal to some, but to those with anxiety, it’s perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all.
Your parents made all the same sacrifices, so stop taking them for granted
Here’s the thing about all those things we parents secretly sacrifice for our kids- your parents made them, too. Just like we sometimes think our kids take us for granted, our parents often felt unappreciated. Yet, they kept on giving their all. They tried their best, every moment of every day, because we were worth it.
If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents in your life, take advantage of the time you have left with them. Call them up and thank them. Take them out to lunch. Plan a trip home to see them. In other words, don’t wait until they’re gone to realize just how much they mean to you. You’ll regret it.
I’ll leave you with another great quote that sums it up perfectly: “Love your parents and treat them with loving care. For you will only know their value when you see their empty chair.”
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