With Mother’s Day coming up, I’ve read a number of discussions regarding when the exact point that a person graduates to parenthood. Is it when they first see those lines pop up on the pregnancy test? Is it when they hear their baby’s heartbeat for the first time? Is it the first time they hold their child in their arms? I personally do not believe there is any one correct answer. I think it is different for everyone. You become a parent the moment you feel and act like one. And both feeling the part and acting the part combined is what truly makes you a parent, at least in my opinion.
Being a parent can mean a variety of things. The textbook definition is that you are a caregiver to offspring; not necessarily meaning you have to be biologically related; however, it does mean providing support. This is where there’s more than just the “feeling” of being a parent, but acting like one is even more important. Acting like a parent isn’t just about loving a child, it is making a decision to be encouraging and to support the physical, emotional, social, financial, and intellectual development of that child for the the best of the child rather than yourself.
Being a parent means setting a good example for how you want your child to act and who you want them to become. It means showing them the right paths and giving them as many opportunities as you can for them to learn how to make the right choices for themselves. It means encouraging them to challenge themselves, challenge others, and challenge the world around them in a productive manner. It means wanting more for them than for yourself and doing everything you can to provide it.
Every parent should always be questioning the example they are setting for their children and whether, because parenthood doesn’t come with a manual, they are making the right decisions in the examples they are setting. This is a question I ask myself constantly.
I asked myself these same questions when I was still married over 15 years ago.. I always challenged myself with everything I did. “What kind of an example am I leading? Is this what I want my children to look up to? Is this what I want to show them love is?”
Going through my own divorce 14 years ago was tough because I questioned how it would affect my three kids. However, it ended up being one of the best things I ever did for them. It was by no way easy; in fact it sucked in so many ways. I constantly faced many doubts along the way, so many fears of an unknown future. But I had three beautiful babies who I had to make proud. I wanted to be someone they could and should aspire to be like. I wanted to show them what true love is and that they deserve it, no matter how long it takes to find.
My children are grown now, my oldest is married and living in Texas with her husband. My middle child (oldest son) is 20-years old and working harder and harder each day to be the amazing entrepreneur I know he can be. And my youngest son is finishing his Junior year of high school and getting ready to figure out the next chapter of his life. It’s amazing how quickly it all goes by.
When I look at my children now, I know that I became the example they needed me to be for them, and I know I taught them to understand their own worth. I see the love between my son-in-law and my daughter with the way they look and treat one another. I see how hard my middle son is working to achieve his dreams and conquer the challenges life has thrown at him. And I see the way my youngest son looks up to me, well, looks down at me now (he towers over me) and has made choices to push himself out of his comfort zone to better himself and, in doing so, has given up things that most teenagers would never give up. And I hope that when my children have children, they have learned by example and can lead by one too.
So this Mother’s Day, and every day after, I challenge you to ask yourself, “Am I leading my life and making decisions in ways that are examples that I want my child to follow?” And if there is any doubt as to whether you are, change. I know it is not as simple as that six letter word, but it is worth it in the end. That I can promise.