I’d love to be able to say that I can go any significant amount of time without feeling like I’m completely failing as a parent. Some of it is depression, some of it is anxiety, and a lot of it is simply the fact that I can’t give my family everything that I wish that I could.
Expensive vacations. A huge house. Top of the line rides. These are not things that are realistically in reach right now. That might change in the future. I’d like it to. I know that I’ll have to work my ass off to make it so. I fully intend to re-channel these feelings of inadequacy to push me forward, to keep striving to work to make us more financially secure.
Doesn’t change the present situation, though.
I’ve come across a lot of other parents who feel the same way, either on-line or in the real world. Good people, people who work hard, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to get their hands on that brass ring for their families. Maybe they got laid off. Maybe their hours got cut. Maybe they had surprise medical expenses, or an investment went bad. A marriage broke apart of they lost their partners before their time. For whatever reason, these folks found themselves in a situation where the best they can do in the moment is just try to tread water.
That’s hard. Damn hard. Especially for men. One of the biggest metrics we judge ourselves by (and that society does as well) is how well we’re able to provide for our families. When we feel like we’re falling short, it does a tremendous amount of damage to how we see ourselves.
Which is why we should focus more on how our kids see us.
Do kids like expensive toys and trips to Disney World? Of course they do. That’s not what they crave most, though. What they crave most is the love, attention, and approval of their parents. That feeling of security that comes with knowing that they are our topmost priority. If they feel valued, if they feel important, you can tell. If they don’t, you can tell that as well.
So let me ask you this; when you come home after work, do the kids still rush to you? Do they tug on your arm and try to sit you down so they can tell you what’s happened with their day? Are they recruiting you for their next grand adventure? One which will take place in the backyard, and consist of you playing the role of the monstrous T-Rex that must be evaded and then captured? Are they constantly bombarding you with questions both ridiculous and profound? Are they reaching out to you for answers about life and all the craziness that comes with it?
Do they see you as the constant they can always rely on to help them make fun and sense of life?
Than you’re not failing.
I’m not going to say stuff isn’t important. Of course it is. Not just the necessities like shelter, or food, or medical care. The little things like being able to pick up that Power Ranger or American Girl Doll they’re excited for mean the world to our kids, and to us. I’m just saying that while those things are important, they are not the MOST important. What’s most important is being able to look at your child’s face and see trust and love reflected back at you. That they know they’re safe and loved because they have you.
To put it another way, the richest guy on the planet can give his kids every toy and luxury in the world, but it won’t mean a damn thing if he’s only doing it to shut the kid up or make himself look like a big deal. On the other hand the poorest guy in the world, the one who gives his time and attention to his kids instead of just stuff, is far more of a success. It takes a lot more love and devotion to give of yourself than to just give stuff.
So keep that in mind. You feel like you’re falling short financially? Maybe you are. That can be addressed. Start looking for that new job. Make better decisions with your money. Bust your ass to try and get out of that financial hole. I will if you will.
Just something we both need to remember in the meantime: as long as we’re giving our kids what’s really important, ourselves, than we’re already on the right track. We’re giving them what they truly need to grow into self-assured, loving people. Everything on top of that is just gravy.
We do that, and we’ll be bigger successes than we ever dreamed.