"My kids always come first.” Every parent, myself included, has said that at some point. But what do we mean?
For me, “my kids come first” means I consider the effects on my children before I make almost any decision. Will a promotion at work mean I have less time to spend with them? Should I go out with my friends tonight? Where should we go on vacation?
What it does NOT mean is that I never do anything for myself. Of course, my life revolves around my kids to some extent, and of course they are a priority to me – but they are not my only priority.
I am a naturally ambitious person, so, to the extent that I can manage my time, I’m going to take that extra class or take on that side project to better my chances for career advancement. If it means spending my evenings working or studying, I will reconsider – but if I can manage the studying after the kids go to bed, well then it’s game on! However, if that job change or promotion means extensive travel or inflexible hours, then it may not be the right move for my family anyway.
Having a social life is important to MY happiness, and my happiness is an important part of being able to effectively care for my children.
Being able to hang out with other single parents with our children is great for all of us, but sometimes I just need “grownup time.” Yes, that means sometimes leaving my kids with a sitter, but usually that’s Grandma so it’s good for everyone.
I also think it’s important for my children to see that it’s OK for me to have interaction with friends without them – and for them to do the same. It amazes me that kids seem to have this ability to run into each other on the playground and instantly become friends.
Wouldn’t it be great if adults were that uninhibited? I think they get that confidence from us parents demonstrating that it’s OK, even a good thing, to be independent. But there are also times when I know my kids need ME around for one reason or another, and those times I don’t go out.
Planning a vacation that makes everyone happy can be a challenge – lucky for me, my kids enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, and we are often found doing just that. Also, lucky for me, we live in North Carolina, where we can head to the mountains or the beach pretty easily.
Granted, I have to tame down some of my adventures when I take the kids with me – the hikes may be shorter, the rapids are easier classes, and there are some things for which they are just not old enough – but there is little they won’t at least try, and we all enjoy doing new things.
I definitely consider my kids in everything I do, but, as I always tell them, “taking care of you means you will always have everything you need, and some of the things you want.”
I think giving them what they need includes both time with me, and the skills to be independent of me at times. So what do you mean when you say “my kids always come first?”
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She is an active member and former organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.