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Selfish Parenting

M having a lobster at 6 months

“Why didn’t the little shrimp share his toys? Because he’s a little Selfish.”

I think all parents need to be a little selfish. I see WAY too many parents bend over backwards for their children. Before we became parents we were told a list of “Won’t’s” You won’t get to eat your meal while it’s hot; You won’t get to go camping; You won’t take road trips; You won’t have a tidy house; You won’t have adult conversations…

Luckily we accidentally threw out the list with a bunch of dirty diapers. We didn’t baby-proof our house other than one baby gate we used five times. We just told M to not open the knives drawer and not to go upstairs alone. We ate our meals when hot and just gave M her portion in a big shallow bowl. We went camping; we travelled across the US when she was eight weeks old; we kept a tidy house and had friends over, etc. etc. etc.

I am not saying it was easy, but it was worth it. M did fall off the stairs once, but a baby gate wouldn’t have helped anyway because we were with her at the time. Self-feeding does mean a bigger mess to clean up afterwards. Camping was noisy for our immediate neighbours. Travelling with an infant meant we bypassed Arizona’s National Monuments and had to breastfeed in front of American Pronghorns. But hey! We still got to live our lives, albeit a modified version.

We practise Selfish Parenting to avoid resenting our children. In my MBA class there was this self-made entrepreneur single mom. During group work she would complain she cannot be with her baby, as if it was our fault. When she was with her child she was resenting the fact she’s not pursuing her career goals. She dropped out after only a few months. I can imagine their family conversations in twenty years: “I sacrificed my career because of you and you won’t even ___________.” Fill in the blank with almost anything the mother wants her child to do. What does this do to the mother-daughter relationship?

Recently, we wanted to go cross country skiing but couldn’t quite figure out childcare. So we just went with a baby carrying backpack. M is too heavy and I am a novice skier. Predictably I felt like a pack mule and M almost got frostbite. Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Toby had a great time and will go again soon. I emotionally connected to somebody’s sled in the parking lot.

In China where I grew up, we traditionally do not bend over backwards for the children. Not because the parents love them less, but because the world is a tough place. You run with the big dogs or stay on the porch. Being a selfish parent helps the child see they are not the centre of the universe. It shifts the focus from them to others. It equips them with empathy.

If you take my advice, here is the conversation you will have with your grown child at Thanksgiving.

“Hey mom, how the heck did you and dad take me to Jerusalem when I was only one year old?”

You:”Have you seen your father’s calves?”

You then have a hot flash moment. Your daughter talks about plans to canoe down the Grand Canyon with your infant grandson. Your husband lets out a big turkey belch in the background.

As a Jew it is important for Mabel to visit the West Wall.


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  1. Zen;
    As one who has gone through parenting first one and now two children, I can say that there is a world of difference.
    Basic arithmetic tells you that a two to one ratio in favour of the parents is double adults for every child issue.
    What no one, or no book, ever tells you is that a two to two ratio is not twice the work, but more like four times.
    When we just had Grace we took her everywhere and had her in the “adult world” more often than the child. Example, her first outdoor festival she was five days old. Yes, days.
    Now with Oliver in the mix that has all changed. You no longer get to trade off on duties. You now have the added time experience of the children’s dynamic to through in the mix.
    And then there is any issues a child might have which I am so pleased for you guys and am grateful that we don’t have to deal with when it comes to our kids.
    While I agree with you that having children doesn’t equal forfeiting your life, having just one keeps things firmly on the parents terms.
    As I said before, it comes down to simple arithmetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Barry for the insights. I have been curiously peeking into the lives of parents with multiple children. Because T thinks “Oh they can play together!” and I say “Think of the laundry!” I am honestly very weary about having a second child because I feel like that is the end of my life as an aspiring ANYTHING. I feel that between soccer practises and ballet recitals and high fever and coughs I am going to feel depressed and turn to substance abuse. Somehow “Oh they’ll play together!” Doesn’t quite absolve my sufferings.


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