I am well-qualified but stayed home to look after my children. However, I feel they don’t value this. Now that they are 14 and 16, I have taken up part-time work so they can learn their mother can’t be taken for granted. But this has not worked. I get no cooperation, they leave the house even more untidy now and don’t even eat properly. They have no interest in what I do and never ask me how my day was. The job is not well-paying, which is also something they joke about, telling me to not waste my time. Their father remains extremely busy and says I should do what pleases me. How do you get children to appreciate that their mother too has a mind and some personal ambitions, among other things?
You seem to want validation and understanding from your children as a first point of your agenda, and having your own pursuits and interests as the secondary. Perhaps you need to be fully into what you are doing, without worrying about how this will “teach your children” something. Simply taking up something to do to make a point will not work with teenagers. Get involved with something you like to do, be engrossed and contented, and this may get you genuine respect from your children.
Early lesson: Teaching children to respect a parent’s ‘me time’ will help them value their own interests. Photo: Thinkstock
Frankly, teaching children to respect and appreciate a parent’s “me time” starts much earlier than 14 and 16. It is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself as well as your children. Once you’re sure they are safe, looked after and occupied during the time you are away (or even if you work on something out of home), going after your own pursuits is a great thing.
A self-actualized parent who is not constantly waiting on her children or worrying for them, or worse, feeling saintly about the career sacrifices she has made, is a happier person. Having work or interests that are yours alone is also a safety valve from the constant pressure of responsible parenting.
On their part, growing children, after some initial resistance, if any, learn to respect and appreciate that you are happy and occupied with something you love to do. It also teaches them the value of having one’s own pursuits and allowing each other time and space.
After all, a parent who is there full-time but feels simmering frustration and resentment at the absence of any adult time for herself/himself is not a great person to be around. The so-called sacrifice that parents make (by not pursuing any of their own interests), whether spelt out or implicit in their attitude, is something that weighs heavily on children—whatever their age. When younger, they don’t quite know how to deal with the parents’ hurt and anger about the child being ungrateful or unappreciative of what they “sacrificed” for them. When older, they are bound to find the “shrug” mechanism to deal with this litany.
You need to find something you like to do genuinely and do it unapologetically. Perhaps one small chat with them about their attitude, by both you and your husband, instead of constant pleas to be appreciated, may help.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at email@example.com