Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I could easily fill one of those office flip charts with a laundry list of the challenges of becoming a parent. In fact, I’d likely take up both sides of the paper. Potty training, bedtime routines, schooling, discipline, the list goes on and on and on. It would be nearly impossible to pick one specific challenge that trumps the rest, because frankly, they all seem equally laborious. But for me, there is one hurdle to clear that supersedes them all.
The biggest challenge of being a parent, as I see it, is not forgetting who you were before you became one.
Put another way, this means don’t let the enormous lifestyle change of raising a child alter the very essence of who you are. Easier said than done, I know, but I do believe there are ways. And this is not to say we must remain mirror images of ourselves. Some element of change is inevitable. But for me, there is nothing sadder than seeing a person change who they are at their core because parenthood rendered them unrecognizable.
With that in mind, here are a few ways to stay true to yourself, despite the chaos that parenting brings upon you.
- Never, ever give up on your goals and dreams
I long to one day become a successful author and screenwriter. Having children to raise has given me plenty of excuses to toss those dreams in the garbage. But, ultimately, I’m passionate about those dreams (otherwise, they wouldn’t be dreams). And I’m not completely happy if I’m not at least pursuing them. Therefore, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them moving forward. No matter how exhausted I am.
- Drop the crazy, save the fun
It’s natural to tone down your social life (even dramatically) once you’re a parent. But what bugs me is when I see a complete transformation from party animal to complete social wallflower. While the responsibilities of parenthood often prohibit that fourth or fifth drink at the bar, it doesn’t mean you’ve become a nun, either. Watch a racy movie, play (consensual) strip poker, go to a punk rock show. You’re a parent, you’re not dead.
- Remember your friends (and family)
Communication. Communication. Communication. It’s oh so essential to just about every facet of your life—and with a smart phone, it’s more convenient than ever. But particularly with maintaining friendships. While it’s certainly more challenging to find time to hang with your friends (especially when you both have kids), at the very least, call them once in a while, drop a text and say, “How the hell are ya?” You’d be surprised how quickly a friendship can disintegrate when those little things stop happening. If making to-do lists helps you, put “Call Amanda” on there. And, ya know, actually call her.
- Keep a hobby, not a habit
Do you play piano, coach intramural soccer, write a fantasy baseball blog? Whatever it is, make time for it. You’ll find yourself with a whole boatload of regret if you don’t. More often than not, there are people in your life who will support you in making it happen.
- Be selfish once in a while
Put another way, don’t forget about your own needs. It means putting on Nick Jr. so you can read the newspaper or scheduling that girls night or guys night you’ve been meaning to plan. Naturally, this is a game of balance with your significant other (assuming you have one), but if no attention is paid to the needs of the individuals raising those children, they are going to have very, very unhappy, resentful parents. That’s not the recipe for a happy household, as far as I’m concerned.
We all know someone who had kids and disappeared from our lives. We all know someone who became a parent and lost their passions. Don’t be that person. And if you feel like you’re starting to become that person, take a minute to write a to-do list specifically about enhancing your personal life. And set deadlines for each item. Ultimately, those things will be just as vital to your overall success in life as paying your bills and buying diapers.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.
And, feel free to check out the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance.
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