GUEST POST | Why Parental Responsibility is Actually a Privilege

I am so pleased to be able to share this guest post with you today from the fabulous Kate at The Less-Refined Mind: A Mouthpiece on Motherhood, Marriage, and Madness. . Enjoy!

When people talk about children, I regularly hear them refer to the associated responsibility. It’s often spoken of in the same way as a mortgage or job: the weight of the duty clearly an unwelcome pressure. And as all parents will appreciate, the relentlessness can, of course, be all-consuming. If we’re being frank, it can be downright suffocating.

Our babies are our whole world; and that never stops. We want the best for them and we do what is necessary to keep them safe, and healthy, and – as far as possible – happy. Naturally, our best will never quite be enough: from the moment they learn the word ‘no’, we must accept that we will be scrutinised constantly – and usually we’ll be found wanting.

responsibility

Unerring Exhaustion

I don’t know about you, but I feel the responsibility of having a daughter almost incessantly. The exhaustion that comes from putting another person at the centre of our universe and generally receiving little thanks is understandably dispiriting. Who knew you could feel tiredness in your bones? It can make us despondent at best and resentful at worst. When we are on our knees and critically in need of a break, *whispers* they can even feel like a burden. (It’s the reason they’re designed cute, apparently.)

But this post is not, in fact, about the hardships of having a child.

Because despite the overwhelming grind that is never quite ‘done’; despite the taxing stresses of a needy toddler; when I consider my responsibilities towards my daughter, I don’t think of the mental and physical fatigue.

Awe and Wonder

I think of the wonder in her innocent face when she looks at me. I think about how our interactions at such a tender age will shape her as a person. I think of the blank canvas I have before me, and my capacity to make it flourish – or flounder. I think of the delicate, unfinished soul which I have the honour and privilege of holding in my palms, and in my arms. I think of the default adoration, and trust, and faith she places in me, every day.

I think of the many, many ways both myself and her father bear the potential to inadvertently harm her sweet, sensitive nature – and in doing so, damage her for life.

My husband and I had an epiphany several years ago, the logic of which we all know, but don’t necessarily apply to our own circumstances. We came to realise that we never question the things our parents tell us when we’re small. As we grow and develop our own minds and understanding of the world, we may begin to call them out on their ideas, theories and values; but as young children, we are programmed to simply accept whatever they tell us as the absolute truth. And, if we’ve grown up believing a particular concept, it’s only when we repeat it and somebody else questions it that we finally examine our unshakeable conviction.

Fallible Parents

To lighten the tone of this post, I shall share an example of what I’m talking about…

As a kid, my husband noticed he sometimes had a stomach ache after going swimming. When he asked his father why this was, he was given an answer which his young mind found acceptable; and which thereafter he always accepted to be the truth (until he recounted it to me as an adult, causing me to nearly have a seizure from laughing so hard). For your delectation, here’s his little gem:

If you get a tummy ache when you go swimming, it’s because sometimes… ’The water goes up your bum.’

Moving on…

The Responsibility Privilege of Being a Parent

So I don’t dwell on the responsibility of my daughter (it’s what I signed up to, after all), I focus on my responsibility to her. I think of how she places me on a pedestal – just as I did with my own parents – and therein the extreme honour bestowed upon me.

The staggeringly daunting ‘responsibility’ I feel for my daughter is all about her, and not about me at all. It’s for her welfare today – and her wellbeing for the rest of her life.

Do you find the responsibility of being a parent overwhelming? Do you have (irrational?) fears about screwing up your child?

*****

Kate Tunstall is a maverick mummy blogger and freelance writer. She writes at The Less-Refined Mind: A Mouthpiece on Motherhood, Marriage, and Madness. 

18 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I agree that dwelling on the tough stuff really isn’t what’s important about parenthood. The positives really do outweigh the more difficult bits x

    1. Hi Emma,

      I know it sometimes feels impossible to ignore the tough bits. But my anxieties about not being good enough are stronger than any occasional irritations. I think it’s important to remember that we’re very blessed to be parents. 🙂

      Have a great Christmas! x

    1. Hi Rachel,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s good you appreciate there’s good and bad; it tells me that some day I’m sure you’ll make a lovely mummy.

      Wishing you and your family well.

      Merry Christmas
      Kate x

  2. To be honest we deal with so many kids from “screw up” homes that no, I do not worry that I / we will make things worse. In my head, and I hope in reality, we are offering a “normal” environment and showing up how your everyday family should function.

    1. Hi Agata!

      I wish I had your confidence!

      Of course I know my child is being brought up in a loving environment, and that should hopefully be sufficient to ensure her future wellbeing. But really the post is about the fragility and vulnerability of their little souls, and how sometimes – in spite of our best intentions – we can still get it wrong.

      Here’s hoping we all do a stirling job.

      Merry Christmas!
      Kate

  3. ‘The water goes up your bum’ – best thing I’ve heard in a while xD Thank you very much for sharing this post – parenting is often sold as a chore but of course, it is an honour!

    1. Hi Nadine-Johanna,

      Thanks for reading, I’m glad you liked it! The struggles are real, but nothing compares to the joy a cold brings.

      Wishing you and your family all the best.

      Have a wonderful Christmas!
      Kate

  4. Such a wonderful post. I look forward to having my own kids in the future and finding out all the different roles and responsibilities I will have. In a way its daunting, but it also sounds like an exciting adventure and something very fulfilling.

  5. Im not a parent. But i can imagine the amount of emotions and the varied levels that you guys go through is immense. I know i hear that parenting is the most rewarding job you can do, but i also hear its the hardest, so each day you get through youve done well! I think – like i say, as a non-parent, i have no idea what to say, without it sounding wrong!!!

    1. Hi Claire,

      Everything you said is exactly right!

      It doesn’t help that after the enormous physical undertaking of carrying and delivering a baby, we then have to deal with our hormones being out of whack too! It can make everything feel heightened and then we can be irrational. (Is it any wonder PND is so prevalent?! I wrote about it here if interested: http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/how-postnatal-depression-and-postnatal-anxiety-go-hand-in-hand/)

      But unquestionably, it’s still the best thing I ever did.

      Have a wonderful Christmas.
      Kate x

  6. What a fantastic post. Funny enough the responsibility of being a parent wasn’t something I really thought about before she was born. Of course the logistics of keeping her alive weighed heavily in a mass of trying to learn how to breastfeed, where she should sleep etc. The responsibility of shaping a human was one that came much later.
    Gentle parenting adds to that pressure for me. I have such strong ideas of how I want her to be raised I’m always questioning whether I’m getting it right. In my mind however that’s what makes a good parent. We all get it wrong but with reflection it shows we care and are learning too. It’s good for children to see us make mistakes after all because that’s all part of life x

  7. I think it’s something that comes later because until they’re here, they are really only a concept! It’s once we see them becoming a little person that we start to appreciate how they’re little sponges, and their worlds begin and end with everything we say and do. It’s a scary realisation!

    But you’re right too, that seeing us make mistakes is not the end of the world. How we rectify them is what’s important.

    Happy new year x

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