My kids don’t come first. My FAMILY comes first. Kids who come first end up being entitled little pricks with helicopter parents who are PITA in the classroom and in life until they get beaten down when they’re finally away from their parents. Our family is a team with all members equally important (based on need and so on) and all members pulling their weight. My family has produced generations of strong successful responsible middle-class working women and men who are proud of their parents and siblings with this strategy.
You can try to guilt me into thinking I’m a terrible mother, but what I do worked for my mother and her mother and her mother before her and so on. I turned out perfect, as did my sister (as did my mom and aunts). My kid is turning out perfect. If I changed anything, then we might move away from that optimum. My kid is strong and independent and loved and ze’s not going to be the one who is helpless at college when it comes to taking care of hirself. Ze’ll be the one showing other kids how to do their laundry or grocery shop and so on, just like I was. There’s a satisfaction in being able to do things yourself.
You can try to make me feel guilty for being selfish instead of selfless. You can quote Horatio Storer at me, that 19th century intellectual who worked tirelessly to ban abortion, among other things. This ideal that the angelic innocent mother should sacrifice herself for her children (her sons, really… daughters are only important if they’re going to bear grandsons) is an upper-middle-class Victorian ideal made possible only on the backs of the starving working class of an industrializing society. They’re the products of modern surplus. And one that my family has never bought into– we were too tied to the land at that time, traveling across the Western US in covered wagons. Pioneer women don’t have time to stand on pedestals or to raise Little Lord Fauntleroys.
And because we all had to pull our fair shares, whether to stay alive or just to make the work-life balance work for everyone, we perhaps grew up thinking that we should spoil our parents rather than the other way around. We should do chores without being asked. We should do our best to behave and entertain ourselves. And it’s much more pleasant spending decades as a mom being treated a little bit like a princess by spouse and progeny after waiting on one’s own mother (though we call it “helping out” and “being thoughtful”), than it would be having to reverse that. It’s nice having something to look forward to rather than something to dread. (Guilt-free too!)
And that is definitely not to say that SAHP are, by definition, helicopter parents. They’re not. Most of them have lives outside their children. Most of them know how to discipline their children so they don’t try to brain other kids with tool-boxes. But folks who try to lecture me on being a bad person because I don’t have to work but I do anyway (or who were passive-aggressive at my mom growing up)– IRL at least, their kids tend to be spoiled brats incapable of polite relations with society. That probably has nothing to do with their choice in work-status. But the idea that they have to martyr themselves because the children come first and all mothers who aren’t martyrs are, by extension, miserable sinners… well, that’s not really healthy for anyone. Especially not their daughters. Or for their sons…
Bottom line: Family first as a team. Children first makes for a pretty depressing adulthood for the kids to look forward to and may result in a lack of grandchildren.
What say you? Kids first? Family first? Furbabies first?