I have always put my daughter first. I did this for the past twenty years without reserve- her needs came before my own. This was my choice, I own it, it worked for me, and I don’t regret it at all.
My daughter will be 21 this year.
A year from now she is expected to walk the aisle at her graduation.
I’m beginning to put my needs ahead of hers.
I know there will be three types of reactions to this: 1) Those who think I was crazy to ever put her first and 2) those who think I should still be taking care of her and…3) those who think I was crazy to put her first but have inadvertently been putting their children first but don’t realize it.
But- I will tell you that it is an odd feeling to put myself first. When planning a summer trip, it feels weird that my daughter will be staying home working and taking care of the dog while my husband and I are off sightseeing. In fact, my Husband can’t quite get past the fact that my daughter will not be joining us- but that’s a whole other blog…
My daughter has become accustomed to texting me whenever and expecting me to proof a paper or listen to an idea or whatever she needs to talk about regarding school, extras and jobs. And I’ve always just responded. But now I’ve begun to set up boundaries- if she needs help with something, she needs to set up a time with me to help. Yes- I’m asking my daughter to make an appointment to speak to me regarding helping her with something… We all know I’m an early bird and my brain is toast after 5pm- I told her I don’t want to get a paper emailed to me at 11pm for my input. I’m setting up boundaries because as she matures she needs to realize that I am a person other than just her Mom. I’m always up for a fun conversation, but I don’t want to be her de facto proofreader.
I admit I feel a little guilty not responding to my daughter’s every call at that very moment. I also know that guilt is a useless emotion, especially when one has done nothing to feel guilty about. I shouldn’t feel guilty about setting up boundaries- yet there’s this little twinge when I say no or later– like I’m not being a good Mommy… But then I remember that the whole point of parenting is to get your kids to the point where they can fly solo. The mark of a well done job parenting is having independent kids who know that Mom and/or Dad helping them is optional.
It’s hard to watch your kids mature and not need you anymore- But by setting them free, you’re helping them grow into themselves. They can’t become who they are meant to be if they are still tied to their parents apron strings. Don’t feel guilty by pushing them towards maturity and adulthood and independence. It’s OK if they don’t “need” you for the day to day- it doesn’t mean that you love them less, or that they love you less- it just means you’re morphing into the next stage of the parent/child relationship.
This is the first time ever that I was not with my daughter for Mother’s Day, and I will not be with her for my birthday. I have spent years having my daughter by my side for these special days, and it feels a little weird to not spend them with her, but I realize that this is part of life- she is going in one direction as I head into another.
So I slowly set up small boundaries as my daughter and I figure out the “What’s next” of our relationship. I’m hoping we can start to become more like friends, as we learn to respect one another in a different way. There’s still much to write in the story of my daughter and I, and I’m excited for the next chapter.