Being a parent is both the hardest and most rewarding experience a person can have in their life. Before I talk about parents, allow me to define the word parent. A parent is someone who provides care and compassion for a child and interacts with them regularly. A parent is not defined by a blood connection. Similarly, defining roles by gender is not fair, I know many dads who are extremely hands on and the nurturer of the pair.
Every so often a comment a parent makes to me or on social media will catch my ear. Their words will create a sense of deep despair, of pain and struggle, or such profound joy there are no words to describe the feeling. But more often than not, I am caught by the catch in the voice, the tone of pain, the sense of doubt. The continuous underlying current of pain and feelings of inadequacy. These moments break my heart, more than likely because I am there or have been there.
In my life, there have been things I have had to accept and learn to live with. As a mom who has always worked, I have had to accept my home will never be as clean as my mom’s home is. I would rather spend a few more minutes sleeping, sharing a laugh with my daughter, than having to go to work. I never had the luxury of being home all day, of having my home be my main job. Once I accepted that, once I allowed myself to have piles of clean laundry, to leave dishes in the sink and to focus on the moment, I relaxed and found more joy.
We all want the world to see us as perfect, to have the Betty Crocker meals and homes worthy of Martha Stewart. But I ask you, what does your family want? What do they need? Setting boundaries, learning to be present in the moment, to do messy art projects with my daughter and not worry about the consequences have given us more joy and created more memories than the Christmas I stressed about my home, spent too much on decorations and cooked all day. In family life, in parenthood, less is often more. Less stress, less perfect, more joy, more laughter.
As my daughter has grown, I too have grown as a parent and I feel a deep sadness. I am not ready to stop being a mom 24/7, to let go and watch her make her own decisions. But at the same time, in the deep cruelty of nature, I finally feel ready to be her parent. I have found my confidence; I know what she needs, and I am able to provide it. Right at the moment parenthood begins to feel natural, right at the moment I have allowed myself to relax enough to enjoy the moments, I can see my thread slipping through my fingers.
As reluctant as I am to give advice, here is my advice to young parents. Stop worrying about your home, who cares what you wear, and no one will remember what your hair or nails looked like. No one will remember the year you made all homemade ornaments for the holidays. All anyone will remember is the laughter, joy and memories you made. Let your kids get dirty, heck, jump in the mud with them. Focus on having belly laughs daily, building the bond that will get you through the hard days, connecting on a truly wonderful level with your kids, laugh at yourself and remember the joys of being a parent while you are still a parent.
I know I will always be a parent, but each day my daughter needs me less, wants me less and becomes more independent. As proud as I am of her, of her strength, intelligence, confidence and voice, of her dreams and the hard work she is doing to make them come true, I miss my little girl. I miss her fascination with dogs, the silly songs we sang and the sleepy hugs.
Enjoy those moments and stop worrying. Save the worry for the big things in life, like illness and grades. Give your kids the extra piece of candy and be silly every moment you can.
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Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.