Our parents give us so many things throughout our lifetime. From before our birth to our childhood and even into our adult years, they never stop giving…even when it means giving up their own wants and needs. We never appreciate just how much they do for us until we become parents ourselves. Even then, sometimes we don’t know until it’s too late and they’re gone. So, let’s change that. Read on for 10 things all parents secretly sacrifice to make their kids’ lives better. Then, go thank mom and dad for everything they did for you.
Things Parents Secretly Sacrifice to Make Their Kids’ Lives Better
I came across this great quote the other day that said, “Appreciate your parents. You never know what sacrifices they went through for you.” It really made me think about the things that we all give up for our kids, which in turn made me realize that our own parents gave up the same things for us. From small sacrifices to major life changes, here are the top ten things that parents give up to make sure their kids have a better life.
Sleep deprivation is so common in early parenthood that it’s almost an inside joke among moms and dads. In fact, one survey actually shows that brand-new parents lose about 2-3 HOURS of sleep each night (assuming 8 hours for an average night’s sleep pre-baby).
Here’s the thing, it doesn’t end when our babies start sleeping through the night. It lasts throughout their entire childhood and beyond. Although it’s not as extreme as that first year, parents of young kids still lose roughly 6-9 hours a week, or about the equivalent of one solid night’s sleep.
Think about it for a moment. We take turns staying up all night making sure our kids don’t wander those first nights in their “big kid” bed. The night before their first day of kindergarten, our nerves keep us tossing and turning. When they announce that they want to be Elsa instead of Anna for Halloween, we stay up all night transforming their costume. The list goes on and on…as do the sleepless nights.
2. Peace of mind
Everyone has worries some of the time, but before you have kids, you at least have the possibility for a reprieve. You know that once you take care of your responsibilities, you can just totally relax and unwind, let the worries fade away if only for a little while.
Once your children come along, though, you will always, always, always have at least one worry nagging the back of your mind. Even when you think you’re feeling pretty Zen-like, that little voice is whispering, “What if….?” Peace of mind becomes a total thing of the past.
Just how much time do parents spend worrying? While there aren’t any major scientific study, the results of one survey found that we moms and dads clock an insane 37 hours of worry time a week. That’s literally a full-time job!
3. A reliable schedule
The moment our kids enter the world (either late or early, of course, because very few babies are born on their due date), schedules went out the window. All the color-coded family calendars in the world can’t account for tantrums, sick days, and scavenger hunts for your shoes.
The sad thing? Many employers know that parents put their kids before the job, so they discriminate against them, and it’s not even entirely illegal in most states. So that unreliable schedule costs more than just the idea of an orderly life, it can cost us a job.
4. The ability to be spontaneous
Sure, to our kids, it seems like we’re total free spirits, surprising them with weekend trips or fun outings. We know, though, that all those “unplanned” moments revolved entirely around them. We parents secretly sacrifice the ability to take our own spontaneous trips or accept last-minute party invitations.
The thing is, our parents never once complained about giving up all of that spontaneity. They never made us feel guilty because they had to turn down that great offer to go on a cruise with friends or miss out on the movie they wanted to see on opening night to take us to see the latest Disney flick instead. They just quietly gave up their own freedom for us.
Privacy is a totally foreign concept to kids, at least until they become teenagers and demand it for themselves (but very rarely give it to you in return). We parents forget what it was like to go to the bathroom alone or take a shower in peace. We also quickly learn that anything we say (even when they thought you weren’t listening) will be broadcast to just the wrong person at just the wrong time.
My friend’s mom has a great story about this! When her brother was little, he told the doctor right in the middle of an exam, “My mom is in love with Harrison Ford. She wants to marry him!” Her mom turned beet red! The funny thing is, this is probably the least horrifying example of how our kids say totally mortifying things about us.
Have you ever really thought about how much time we devote entirely to our kids? Here’s a hint- it’s pretty much every waking moment of the first 18 years of their life. We only take a little “me time” after making sure all their needs AND wants were met. Then, we felt bad about it (it’s one of the top 5 reasons moms feel guilty all the time).
If you’re curious, the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually broke down how much time parents spend caring for their kids that kind of bothers me. According to their research, we only spend about an hour a day directly caring for children under age 18.
Studies and surveys like that leave out so much, though. Maybe the number of words that we speak or direct attention to (tying their shoes, playing on the floor, etc) doesn’t add up to much, but remember, we’re spending 37 hours a week just worrying about them. Plus, there’s so much more to parenting than just directly interacting with our kids.
When you have kids, it’s hard to stay close to your childless friends. Sure, you try, but your kids come first. After a while, they stop inviting you places because you keep canceling last minute when Tommy gets the flu or Susie has a nightmare. You realize you’re fine with that because you have nothing in common with them anymore.
Before you know it, your “best friend for life” becomes just another person on your Christmas card list and your new social circle is made up entirely of the parents of Susie and Tommy’s friends. It may not sound like a major sacrifice. Growing apart is part of growing up, after all, but it still hurts every now and then to realize that you’ve lost touch with everyone you once knew.
When you’re a parent, your wants come last, plain and simple. Forget the Maslow hierarchy of needs chart, you live by a whole new pyramid. It goes: your child’s needs, your basic life-sustaining needs, your child’s wants, your “important but can still live without them” needs, your wants.
Even when we do have a little extra cash to take care of our wants, we’re more likely to spend it on something we know our kids would love instead. It’s not that we’re spoiling our kids or anything, we just have new priorities. We’d rather see their little faces light up when we surprise them with the latest Squishee than buy a new pair of shoes that we don’t even need.
9. Career aspirations
Times have changed just enough to make it possible to have both kids and a satisfying job, true. However, we parents (both mom and dad) tend to choose the “safer” career path rather than chase an unstable dream.
Maybe you’d love nothing more to live a life of adventure as an archaeologist, but your kids need stability and a real place to call home. So, you choose the path that guarantees food on the table and a roof over your head, even if it’s one you never wanted to take.
10. Comfort Zones
This one is harder to sum up in a short and snappy heading. When we have kids, the imaginary boundaries that outline our “comfort zones” become blurred to the point of extinction. For example, you may be a highly anxious non-confrontational person, but when your child is wronged, they are relying on you to make it right.
You have no choice but to step way outside that comfort zone and stand up for them. It may not sound like a big deal to some, but to those with anxiety, it’s perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all.
Your parents made all the same sacrifices, so stop taking them for granted
Here’s the thing about all those things we parents secretly sacrifice for our kids- your parents made them, too. Just like we sometimes think our kids take us for granted, our parents often felt unappreciated. Yet, they kept on giving their all. They tried their best, every moment of every day because we were worth it.
If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents in your life, take advantage of the time you have left with them. Call them up and thank them. Take them out to lunch. Plan a trip home to see them. In other words, don’t wait until they’re gone to realize just how much they mean to you. You’ll regret it.
I’ll leave you with another great quote that sums it up perfectly: “Love your parents and treat them with loving care. For you will only know their value when you see their empty chair.”