Life is full of regrets, and in general mother and father, the parents in our modern society, espouse the most regrets of all having sacrificed all for the family. This is parental regret.
It’s that point in life when the father looks back at his life and the way he’s defined it, “I loved my family so much that I put them first. I worked so hard to give them what they wanted I was rarely home and when I was, I was exhausted.
I was in an almost constant state of panic, scurrying around trying to make the best life possible for my children. They meant that much to me that I sacrificed my all for them, my precious children, the light(s) of my life, whom I would sacrifice anything for, I love them so much.”
Working hard, spending countless hours commuting, working, educating yourself and volunteering so that you might be able to get a better job or move up the corporate ladder to better provide for your family which presents you with increasing financial challenges every year.
Then there is that moment when the children have left the nest and the mother lays back on the sofa in the empty home and thinks, “I loved my family so much that I put them first. I worked so hard to give them what they wanted, I never had any time for myself. Even if I could have, I wouldn’t have had the energy. I was exhausted.”
I was almost in a constant state of panic as I scurried around looking after everyone else without any thought of myself. They meant so much to me I sacrificed my all for them. Now that I have time to be myself, I don’t even know who I am without them.”
Mother and father express similar regrets with one marked difference.
In general, the stay-at-home parent/mother wins the adoration of the children because she “was there,” for them, when on the other hand, the father (or working mother) “was never there,” for them and they resent the father’s not “being there” for them.
In terms of the overall effect of parenting, the mother wins the love of the children while the offspring resent the father for his (or in the case of the working mother, “her”) lack of attention and constant absenteeism.
And if that wasn’t enough…
When the children grow up, no matter how hard you did the best that you could to give them the best life possible, they spend the rest of their lives in therapy because of you.
(In the best-case scenarios, the parents are left in the dark about the thousands of hours and dollars spent on their offspring’s therapy due to their genuinely inspired attempts at child rearing.)
… more parental regret.
So, what’s the answer?
As much as you might desire a do-over, the only hope we have is to look at the past and from this moment forward navigate toward a better future.
Fathers and mothers who are working hard away from the home to support the children better make it a priority to find and/or make time to spend with those precious children if you want them to value you and your sacrifice.
Also, if you’re a parent, it is important to take some time out to do a little something-something for yourself occasionally. You need this to re-charge your batteries and to better serve your family without resentment or regret.
Parents should also make time for private time spent celebrating each other. Without this, you will drift apart and lose that precious love-connection.
For the parents whose children have already left home to live their lives and consider the possibilities of starting their own families and careers:
Embrace the regret and reject the guilt of your past parenting shortfalls.
Regret allows inspiration to do better from this point forward, while guilt relentlessly punishes you repeatedly for something that cannot be changed.
The fact remains, you did the best you could with what you had.
If you recognize you could have done better, accept the fact that what is done is done, and from this point forward you can make a better life for you and your children, no matter how old they might be, by celebrating their lives with them in the now.
Even if you weren’t “there for them” in the past, you can be there for them now.