I have parent shame.
I have parent shame.
I have shame that I have focused on my kid more than my career. I have shame that when I was recently at Staples, I had no idea when I’d ever sit in an ergonomic, adjustable office chair ever again. I have shame when I watch business casual clad folks walking about importantly and hurriedly, likely to some very important meeting, and distractedly tapping away on their smartphones. I have no idea if I will ever be so put together or important. I am positive I will never have such a polished professional persona. I have no important meetings. No agenda items. No talking points. No details to hash out. No one in need of my expertise.
I am disheveled. Covered in crumbs. Unsure of when I last showered. I am constantly distracted and forgetful. About an hour ago I was holding my child’s booger in my hand after she handed it to me. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked at myself in the mirror to assess anything other than how many chin hairs I’ve sprouted overnight. I never have an adult conversation without being amazed that I am in fact speaking with an adult about adult things.
All of this makes me feel sloppy. Unaccomplished. Like I’m not really passing as an adult. I’m just schlubbing around while I do this hobby that doesn’t seem all that valid or valued in our culture (you know, that thing where you raise a kid).
I feel like everyone actively pursuing their grand careers thinks I have no brain, no value, nothing to offer. And, sometimes the reality is that I have been treated that way. But not often. More often, I’m the culprit. Or I let a little hint of condescension send me into self-deprecation about what I’ve chosen to do with my life and how I spend my time.
”Adulting” has become a very popular word of late. The Oxford Dictionary selected it as one of the words of the year in 2016. It refers to your ability to accomplish the tasks of a responsible adult. It’s holding down a good job, paying your bills on time, budgeting, cleaning up after yourself, and knowing how to make a nutritious dinner. Those business casual clad desk jockeys? They totally seem like they are nailing it at adulting. Someone holding their child’s booger who can’t remember the word for the thing you use to wipe your nose? Not quite cutting it.
We have this strange concept of adulting as being able to collect and care for things. We neglect being able to collect and care for people.
Our culture doesn’t view caring as a skill. The ability to care for others is far from our minds when we use the term “adulting.” We don’t view this ability as an integral part of a responsible adult lifestyle, even though every human cares for other humans as friends, family, co-workers, etc. Caring doesn’t get credit.
You know when I am adulting the most? When I’ve just been handed a booger and I calmly remind my daughter to use a hanky. When I’m covered in crumbs and don’t know why my hands are sticky, but I’m still able to giggle with my daughter and see the bigger picture of the moment. When I haven’t showered for days and my hair is greasy, but I take a picture with my kid anyway.
When else am I adulting? When I’m tired and want to cry because my child won’t get into her carseat after a long day. When I yell at my kid because she just screamed in my face (I know. I see the irony too). When I turn on the TV for my daughter so I can have an uninterrupted moment to get something done. I’m not just adulting when I’m caring at my best. I’m also adulting when I’m messy and tired, especially when I’m able to explain how I’m feeling, apologize for getting frustrated, and advocate clearly for what I need.
We’ve gotten a few things wrong in our world and it’s giving some of us shame complexes. Tending is real work requiring practice and skill. It is meaningful and valuable. And, its value is not only inherent in the child you are raising. The “results” aren’t the only important aspect. The work is valuable because you are doing it. Because you are spending your time being present and showing love with another human. This work is painfully underrecognized. And the lack of value we place on this work is detrimental not only to those that provide care but also to the very fabric of our society. What sort of society are we who do not place true value on caring for others? Being present, listening, helping, showing compassion, expressing empathy - all of these are skills of the most wonderful adults in our world. The true grown ups who lead and inspire. This is the sort of adulting I am interested in.