As a new parent, I’m thrilled to join the PARENTise team as a columnist! My hope is to cover a variety of topics that are of interest to parents in the Philadelphia area, to get a conversation going, and to learn from one another. As I’m quickly discovering, parenting is a tough job, so I’d like us to be able to rely on one another’s experiences and expertise to make the job just a tad easier.
Prior to having my son, I found most new parents to be highly annoying. The majority of my friends already had kids, so I was one of the last to join the club. Even without kids, my husband and I had grown accustomed to mid-afternoon birthday parties, Barney and Dora and distracted conversation with bleary-eyed friends. I vowed I would not become obsessed with spit-up, runny poop and every little sniffle. Boy, was I wrong. I found myself googling his every move, regularly consulting WebMD and admittedly, on more than a few occasions, relying a little too heavily on Karen’s or Amy’s advice from Circle of Moms.
I wanted to be the perfect mom. When my son was gassy, I would have made Lance Armstrong proud, “bicycling” his legs until the gas subsided. I talked incessantly, describing routine tasks to him, all in the hopes of laying the foundation for good vocabulary and communication skills. When it was my husband’s turn to feed him, I encouraged him to read him the news so he wouldn’t be bored. Like all moms, I wanted him to feel no discomfort and be given every opportunity for a full and successful life.
But there was one tiny problem: I was becoming physically and mentally exhausted. How could I be a good mom if I was running out of steam this early in the game? It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized exactly how much of your time is no longer your own. And when there are so many demands on your day, it becomes even more crucial to prioritize what is most important to you and your family.
The youngest daughter of Korean immigrants, I grew up in a household that emphasized the importance of education. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my parents reading my favorite bedtime stories, talking to me about my future, and coming up with creative games for me to learn both in and out of the classroom.
A few years ago, my sister and I co-wrote a book about the various things our parents (and many other Asian parents) did to instill a love of learning and to maximize their child’s success in school. When the book was published, neither my sister nor I had children. The question we received time and time again was, “Do you think you will be able to dedicate the same amount of time for your children’s education as your parents did for you?”
The answer then and now, is “I hope so.” But only time will tell. Being a new mom, there are days when it’s a challenge just to get out of bed because all you want is to get a few more minutes of sleep. Meal time, bath time, laundry and dishes seem to take up the bulk of the day, leaving you with little time to exercise, catch up with friends and sometimes, even eat.
As a new parent, I am amazed at what my parents did for me. I think of my father coming home from a long day at work, always ready to review homework and prepare for tests. I think of my mother who never missed a parent-teacher conference and knew my teachers on a first name basis. My family was not wealthy, yet they freely dedicated their financial resources to our educational endeavors. To them, it was time and money well spent, and they led us to believe there were no limitations on either of them.
There is so much I need to learn to become the kind of parent I aspire to be. However, in my short time as a parent, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the best gift you can give your child is your time. I will try to give it to him freely, often and with gusto. Whether it is spent fishing, making dinner together or talking about politics, movies or his future, I know he will grow up to feel confidant and loved; and if he chooses to be a parent one day, I hope he will remember the way it made him feel. I know I do.
To the PARENTise community: I’d love to hear how you choose to spend quality time with your children, as well as any tips on how you prioritize your time with your children.