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Is Parenting the Ultimate Act in Selflessness?
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Posted 25 May 2009 - 07:34 PM
I planned to write this post on something completely different until I read a handful of words that moved me to tears. This post is inspired by the selfless acts parents perform on a daily basis for their children – and one completely self-sacrificing act by a woman to give her child life.
The words, “My dear baby, if you can live through this, you must remember that I love you,” were written as an SMS message by a mother to her child. She died in the Sichuan earthquake in China, sheltering her son. Found on her knees in a bowing position underneath a mountain of debris, rescuers thought they had discovered yet another casualty, until one searched under her torso to find her live son. Wrapped in a red blanket, the four-month-old baby was sleeping. As the doctor checked him over he found the mobile phone with those words that are still bringing a lump to my throat.
After a rushed day painting our lounge room around two young boys, grocery shopping and then cooking for the following few days, reading those words last night made me stop and think what it meant to me to be a mother.
I don’t take motherhood lightly. I was told I might not be able to have children because I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and was overjoyed to be a mother once, let alone twice. My days are filled with demands and tantrums from a three-year-old and hungry and tired cries from a newborn, so I often forget the smiles, hugs and kisses from my toddler and pure adoration in the eyes of my baby.
It sometimes takes something as incredible as that woman’s last act as a parent to make me stop and just think about my children. It is so easy to let life happen, without enjoying it, so I thought today about what I do for my children without even thinking, because they mean so much to me.
As parents we act selflessly every day, doing things like:
• Making sure everyone else is fed first
• Getting up in the dark because your child is awake
• Sitting up through the night because he had a nightmare
• Cutting up a crunchy apple for your child and eating the bruised one yourself
• Spending hours next to the pool while your child has swimming training because they want to be an Olympian
• Setting the alarm an hour earlier than your child wakes up to get everything ready for the day ahead so you can spend quality time with them
• Reading Thomas the Tank Engine at least twice a day, every day, because it is their favourite book
• Listening to Play School CDs in the car because they like to sing along.
These are just some of the things I do for my children and my friends do for theirs. Being a parent has made me realise my capability for selflessness, when I thought I was selfish. It has been a good learning experience for me, and continues to be every day. We don’t often think about whether we’d be willing to die for our children, but I don’t know any parents who think they wouldn’t if faced with that horrible choice.
What has parenting taught you about yourself?
Posted 30 May 2009 - 10:06 PM
It's taught me that parenting is like anything else - you can be good at it without liking it. And you can be selfless without liking it (perhaps others think that's not really selfless?). And you can love your child while hating all the things you have to do/put up with because you're their mum.
I long to be able to take a normal length shower in the morning. I long to be able to sleep in on weekends. I long to be able to have a coffee and a biscuit at a cafe without negotiating to share the biscuit (which probably cost more than its weight in gold) and which toddler won't like but will spit all over...and it doesn't matter how many biscuits I buy him he'll want mine! Oh and did I mention without having to get up and chase him? Without having to eat pasta or mashed potato for the 4th night because its his favourite? Being able to eat said food without it being stone cold because somehow he's less able to feed himself than my neighbour's 1 year old?
Parenting is drudgery to make a battery hen's life look exciting. Let's be honest. We do it because we have to, and because we're responsible for them and they didn't ask to be here. And because one day (hopefully before we die of boredom or exhaustion or old age) they will be independent human beings we can interact with!
Posted 31 May 2009 - 09:08 AM
I am much less egocentric since having children.
My children force me to rethink how I react to things, my coping abilities and my ability to control my emotions.Who would have thought it would be possible to hurt yourself and say nothing worse than "OUCH!"???
While it should be said that occasionally parenting brings out the worst in me - largely, I think I'm a better person for having become a mother.
Posted 31 May 2009 - 09:37 AM
I think the decision to become a parent is selfish. We do it because we want children, not for any altruistic reason for the child-to-be.
However once they arrive, then yes, GOOD parenting is often full of selfless acts.
I would never have imagined I would sit next to my ill daughter's bed in the ER for six hours holding a vomit bowl and comforting her while she had an NG tube inserted.
I would never have imagined I could go for 24 hours with only 20 minutes sleep.
I would never have imagined being able to care for two 11 week old babies with a broken leg. But I did.
So yes, good parenting is full of selfless acts.
Posted 31 May 2009 - 06:02 PM
I think ultimately that is why women are better at it than most men (I know, I know - a very broad generalisation).
Posted 01 June 2009 - 12:42 PM
JadeGreene I've longed for the same things as you. It's seems such a simple ask but a complete impossibility at times!
Diva I think parenting has added a new dimension to me too, in a good way!
jlydia I was thinking of your reply this morning as I was willing my four-month-old to sleep instead of tired screaming so I could do some work and remembered it has to be about him, not me, no matter how important my work is. It can wait until he's asleep.
ngirl I agree and yes it's a generalisation and there are plenty of selfless dads, but I think women seem to fall into the role more naturally, even though I never saw myself as one of those women.
Thanks for your comments lovely ladies.
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