Whether we like it or not, what we experience during childhood plays a massive role in who we become as adults. Our upbringing in and outside the household creates our perception of the world around us, and shapes most of our habits and behaviours. Obviously this happens in school, in organized sports, and on the playground, but most importantly it happens in your household with your family.
I honestly believe I had an awesome childhood. My parents put a huge amount of dedication toward us being able to explore all of our interests and passions (big shout out to mom and dad!), but as a result, the one thing they weren’t able to do was dedicate as much time to themselves. My parents separated while I was in highschool. The one thing my childhood actually didn’t have was a healthy relationship between parents for my siblings and I to learn from and model in our own lives. It’s something that many people understand subconsciously through seeing their parents interact with one another while they grew up, but for children who do not witness this, it can sometimes be difficult to understand and model properly. This does not necessarily mean children of divorce are emotionally fucked up, it just means we have to do the real life learning to figure this out on our own. Learning through experience, observation and conversation. It’s a dynamic we are actively trying to figure out by working to be more self aware, breaking and recreating habits we may have learned as kids. At some point we all have to face the fact that we are a counterpart of our parents, and we are a lot more like them than we may sometimes care to admit.
Right now our world tells us that when we have children, they become the absolute priority. They are to become the end all be all of our time, energy and thoughts. Parents often place their hobbies, social life and even relationship with one another on the back-burner while working to provide for their kids in every way imaginable. They neglect their own emotional and physical well being and it really is quite admirable, though probably not so good for themselves. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what this kind of sacrifice may feel like, but I can certainly speak from the perspective of someone who watched his parents live out this scenario. I believe that at times, modern parents should consider embracing a slightly more selfish outlook than they may want to.
I am not a therapist, a counselor or a psychologist, but I do believe I have read and experienced enough to understand that the best way to lead is by example. The family sphere is no exception. The best way to show your children how to be healthy, happy people in the world and their relationships is to show them. Children absorb what they see between parents while growing up and whether good or bad, often remodel some side of it in their own life. The more I observe the relationships all around me, the more I see this to be true. I understand the feelings and emotions behind it, but I believe the cultural narrative of putting your kids above everything is not as healthy as we all assume. The best thing for your family is for you to be at your very best so that your children can understand how to do the same.
Parent’s, don’t be afraid to put you and your relationship first. It may be the very best thing for everyone, including your children.