When I was much younger, and admittedly, at times throughout my adult life, the phrase “loving myself” has elicited some immature and inappropriate jokes. I’m beginning to think that this was just a defense mechanism to laugh away the fact that I didn’t actually love myself. I’ll spare you the jokes.
Growing up, being kind and generous to others was always emphasized and drilled into my brain. In fact, as a child, my parents would go out of their way to treat my cousins and their coworkers’ children better than they did me. As a parent, I have been guilty of this many times.
No longer do I blame them for this type of parenting because I now understand its value. Long ago, if you lived on a small isolated island with limited resources, the most important resource became relationships. You couldn’t afford to offend others who had the skills that were vital to your family’s survival, so you played nice, even if their children were spoiled brats. Full disclosure, this is just my theory, and the spoiled brats are hypothetical.
Today you can lock yourself at home, order from the internet everything you need to survive, and have the items delivered to your doorstep within two hours. You also don’t have to put up with hypothetical spoiled brats, although I would like to think that we are all adults who are emotionally intelligent enough to handle a child without losing our minds.
If you came here today expecting to read tips on how to control your child, I’m sorry to say you will be greatly disappointed. This paper deals with us, the parents. After all, parenting refers to the parent and not the child, otherwise, it wouldn’t be called parenting, and the children would be required to learn how to do it, instead of the parents.
So, how can I become a better parent? Let’s start with the non-parental responsibilities that come along with parenting.
The Non-Parental Responsibilities of a Parent
In today’s modern world, we have many other non-parental responsibilities that are placed upon us. Along with being parents, we are expected to take on an economic, social, and societal role, among others.
Because it’s our responsibility to provide financially for our children, we take on an economic role. This means we become janitors and teachers and self-employed freelance writers. There are expectations that come along with whatever work we decide to pursue. Jobs to complete. Children to teach. Articles to write. At the end of the workday, when we remove our janitor’s suit, finish grading the last quiz, or do a final edit on an article, we take off the masks we wear for these roles and return to our children. They get a preview of adulthood by how fulfilled or unfulfilled we are in our work lives.
We are uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, and members of our local communities. We are friends and coworkers and activists. Whatever social roles we play, whether we’re thrust into them or we choose for ourselves, we dedicate time and energy to each. Some may be rewarding, others not so much, but we take on these personas anyway. Through observation, our children learn to interact with people inside and outside of their own social circles.
If we want to be active members of society, there are societal norms that we are expected to follow. We are taxpayers and law-abiding citizens and voters. In these roles, we teach our children the rules that they will one day have to follow if they want to be accepted. Depending on our values and our beliefs, they may grow up and staunchly defend the society they grew up in, or become rebels who seek to destroy and replace it.
The One Role to Rule Them All
All that’ve been mentioned are irrelevant if the one role that rules them all hasn’t been filled. Who’s behind all the masks that we wear to fill all of our roles, including the parenting role? There’s something to be said about Smiggle’s famous quote, “My precious.” Self-awareness is something we cannot outsource no matter how much money we have. As people, we’re often unaware of things that happen around us and to us.
Let’s say a hypothetical friend of mine is unhappy in an unhealthy relationship. She asks me: why doesn’t he love me, or why doesn’t he respect me? I would say to her: if the person keeps putting you through pain and suffering, and you continue to allow them to do so, maybe you’re asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “why he,” maybe you should be asking “why you.” In other words, instead of looking for love and respect outside of yourself, maybe you should be looking within.
If I love and value myself, why would I put up with a person who doesn’t treat me the way I believe I deserve to treated? It’s amazing how much value we place on the aspects of our lives that are out of our control. If I let something, or someone, affect my mood one way or another, I’ve basically given up one of the few things in my life that I actually have control over. My emotions.
My main role as a parent is to value and love myself, and through that example, my children will learn to value and love themselves. #LoveyourselfTweet
I say all of that to say this, if the relationship to self isn’t healthy, and is left unresolved, all these other roles only become masks to hide the real person beneath them. I cannot love and value another person if I don’t love and value myself. Not myself as in; me the writer, or me the brother, or even me the parent. I mean me as the true me. My true self underneath all the layers. How can I be a good, loving parent to my children, if I don’t even know how to love myself? We hear it all the time. Parents have to set a good example for their children. Maybe my main role as a parent, and a person, is to value and love myself, and through that example, my children will learn to value and love themselves.