Work vs. Kids vs. Guilt
“Do you want your kids to come over for awhile and play, so you can get some work done?”
“Sure,” I said to my sister-in-law, without a moment’s hesitation.
And as soon as I said it, the battle began again: Work vs. kids vs. guilt. Here was an opportunity to spend some extra time with my kids, and I was turning it down to spend time at work. Work that eventually needed to be done, but could have been done later.
The guilt that grips us in these moments is uncomfortable, and it challenges the image we have of ourselves as a good parent. Choosing to be away from our kids is evidence of an unpleasant fact for all parents: Sometimes we just don’t like being with our kids.
Sometimes we just don’t like being around fighting, arguing, whining, and resistance to what we ask for. We don’t like picking up after them, sacrificing so much of our own lives for them, and feeling like a servant. And if we’re not careful, this resentment of all we do can turn into the kind of negative energy that creates a cycle of bad feelings in a family. Blame, guilt, and anger all rear their ugly heads, while we look for the next culprit to blame.
All parents will go through periods when they see others in their family as problems. We’ll see ourselves as hard-working, wonderful, and blameless, and see others as the “root” of the family problems. And while we feel justified in these beliefs, we do ourselves and our families a great disservice by holding onto them. By holding onto these beliefs, we create more of the very behavior we say we dislike in others—the behavior we blamed them for in the beginning.
Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
You must also be the change you want to see in your family.
I spent some time thinking about what it must be like to be a child again, and what it must be like to listen to the commands of parents over and over again. I thought about how their brains are different than ours, and how they’re more likely to forget things, not listen, and have wild emotional swings with little warning.
These thoughts helped soften my feelings of blame and victimization, and they helped me to see my kids as more than the “little problems” I was seeing them as.
So the next time you find yourself blaming your family members for “being the problem,” and you find yourself not wanting to be with your kids, know that it’s something that will happen to the best of parents.
But don’t make the mistake of staying there too long. For if you do, you’ll create the kind of energy that sends families down a long and difficult road. And the happiness, joy, and love that exists in all of us will never have a chance to be expressed.
In the end, isn’t that everyone’s job to do?