Better, Not Bitter:
My Dreams vs. My Kids’ Dreams
We have a limited amount of time here on earth. Once you become a parent you have to make a decision regarding how much time, effort and family resources you’ll spend pursuing your unfulfilled dreams versus supporting the dreams of your child(ren). This dilemma came front and center for me again with the recent media attention on the case of Rachel Cannings, the “spoiled brat/young lady” suing her parents for support. According to the reports I read, Rachel moved out of her parent’s home because she didn’t want to live by their rules. She’s currently staying with her best friend’s family, whose dad is a lawyer and is handling her case.
I have been reading comments in social media and having discussions with other parents, both married and divorced about their thoughts of the dilemma. Of course, the story has gone viral. This article by the U.K. media giant, The Independent gave an interesting take on the two opposing viewpoints, spoiled brat versus stingy parents. It was in this article that I learned there is a Facebook page for “Education for Rachel” (of course, no one knows if it’s really her page).
On the Facebook page one side voices the opinion that “baby boomer parents” should put their dreams aside and support their children’s dreams of private school, expensive university, etc., no matter what. Then there are people who feel if she doesn’t want to live by her parent’s rules and she’s 18, then she needs to take care of herself. Some people are even making a comparison between “throwing out” your child and people throwing away marriages and getting divorced!? I know that extreme viewpoints are the ones that garner the most attention, but I thought that one was just wacky!
These situations are never black and white – there are always shades of gray that color the decision-making process for every family. There are families where the parents decide to put their dreams aside totally and live vicariously through their children. And there is nothing wrong with that. Other parents make a different decision to pursue their goals and make them front and center in their lives. And there is nothing wrong with that either.
In some cases parents, especially single parents who decide to quit their jobs and pursue their dreams get negative feedback. I get the whole argument that our children didn’t ask to be born. I guess that’s why I am a believer in Rene Syler’s concept of GEM – being satisfied with being a Good Enough Mother. Not perfect, but good enough. For me, especially as a divorced, single mom the whole idea is balance.
I believe watching a parent pursue their goals in mid-life or even later will inspire our children. My children know I love them madly. But they have also seen me transition from the mommy who runs their lives and makes all their decisions, to the mom who has more of a consultative role. In the case of my college student, 21 year old son, he understands that because I provide a good portion of his support, I still have some veto-power over some areas of his life. For my high-school age son, of course I have even more control. Of course, they are rebellious at times. I think their understanding that my life is not ALL about them tempers their level of defiance to my authority.
I am trying to teach them that every age in life has stages and the only thing you can count on is that things will change. I think when your children don’t see that balance in their parent’s lives, sometimes they begin to think like Rachel and feel entitled to the things their parents have the ability to provide for them.
Some days the balance is easy and I’m able to manage work, kids, working a little on my dreams and some on theirs while getting a home cooked meal on the table. Most days, I’m scrambling, multitasking, list-writing and setting smart phone alarms to get it all in. I’m trying to achieve that elusive balance of pursuing my dreams while also supporting my children’s dreams on a day-to-day basis.
Do you walk the tightrope of supporting your children while pushing your own dreams forward? How do you manage the process?
Wilma Jones lives in Arlington, VA with her teenage son. Her oldest son is a college student not too far away. She is divorced after 19+ years of marriage. Wilma is a speaker and author of “Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce.” She blogs at Living Happier After.com. She’s on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Get her new FREE ebook here.
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