Inspired by a comment (thank you Nino!), I thought I would explore the topic of kids and personal strength. I often hear the assumption that kids in the house will give support and strength in difficult situations – and as I am usually in a difficult situation when I hear that assumption, I rarely think about it for more than 10 seconds. But in those 1o seconds, I do ask myself whether I am simply missing something – because I don’t feel my kids giving me any support in difficult situations (and I really have wonderful kids).
What usually happens is that they have their own issues and need my support, while I am falling to bits physically and/or emotionally and actually need to take a long walk in the woods, or talk to an adult who can help, or just need to be two people simultaneously.
Take a very extreme situation – my 4th child dying at birth, because she had a huge sacrococcygeal teratoma.
I was on my own, dealing with a huge cesarean cut, a ton of grief, and separation in it’s final steps. The kids were also dealing with their own perspective: their dad was not around, their mum was basically immobile and crying a lot and physically not able to take care of them as usual, and they had just lost their baby sister who they had been looking forward to.
Traumatic all round.
The kids needed me to function. They needed to see me smile and listen to them. They needed me to show them that everything would be ok.
They definitely did not give me the space, or time that I desperately needed. They needed me more than ever. In fact, I ‘recovered’ very quickly because of this – only things boomeranged back again after a year and I needed to revisit the whole matter to be able to go on.
My kids don’t make me strong by giving support, or by being my cuddly sweet little kids, or by showing me the bright side of life.
My kids need me to be strong in order to meet their needs, and so that family life stays good.
So, I suppose one could say that having kids makes me a stronger person – temporarily. Because it always comes back. I may be able to push aside my own needs in order to have time and space to attend to my children’s needs, but my own needs tend to come back and will not be ignored for ever.
If I try to ignore them, I will just get more and more short-tempered with myself and everyone around me, scatterbrained and generally exhausted. Being in such a state is not acceptable for somebody who is in constant demand as the guiding, steady adult in the house – so another implication of having kids around is that I have learned that negative situations or feelings absolutely have to be worked through. Waiting and hoping for them to dissolve with time is not an option, as it would render me less than 100% present for way too much time.
Perhaps I am a little different than most parents in this respect. I had my kids very early on – in fact, I have never been an adult without kids; they are simply a part of my adult life. I have never felt especially fulfilled by having kids. Don’t get me wrong – I love them dearly and could not imagine life without them. But I never found myself in the situation of wanting kids, imagining kids, planning the time with my partner, then fulfilling this deep wish and as a result feeling elated that this had finally happened. Perhaps that is why I don’t feel supported or strengthened by them.
I don’t know of course – but I would love to hear some opinions and other experiences!