We all do it once in a while…without even thinking.
After all, having children and raising them requires so much time, energy, and extra finances. We leave our careers (or adjust them); we create budget after budget; we make schedules so we can get to soccer games, music lessons, and birthday parties.
What a sacrifice.
“But it is worth it.” She says with a sigh.
“Yes, I could have gone on to do greater things and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. I could have traveled and maybe even bought a new car…but it is worth it.” Dramatic emphasis.
True, having children definitely changes our lifestyle. It requires continuous energy, time, and money. But think about how we are talking about it. Do we often use the term “sacrifice” when we discuss parenting? Are our children hearing us?
What is a sacrifice? The best dictionary definition I could find for this use (NOT the killing-of-animals definition) is this:
- To give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations.
Did we give up something valuable in order to have children? Did we stop our education or quit our jobs? Did we relinquish lavish date nights or adult gatherings? Did we swap luxury cars and a large house for a Cheerio-filled minivan and a family home?
Maybe we did. But it was WORTH it! Again add dramatic emphasis. We gave up all that for something better. It was a worthwhile sacrifice.
Wait a minute…
By saying that, aren’t we really implying that we gave up something better? We are missing out on something?
“Well, it is WORTH it.”
Really? Saying that might be like saying, “What I gave up was better, but I gave up the better, more exciting things in order to have this other thing that I really believe is better, but I keep thinking about the things I sacrificed to get it.”
Folks, this idea of sacrifice is not inherently a bad thing. We give up eating that slice of cheesecake so our bodies are a bit healthier. We stop ourselves from buying the newest cell phone so we can repair the broken water heater. Sacrifice isn’t necessarily bad.
But when we use that term when we refer to parenting, we are telling our children (and ourselves) that we gave up something that was REALLY GOOD in order to have these kids. We keep thinking about what “might have been” or what we could do with our time if we didn’t have other responsibilities.
Let me encourage you. Being a parent is one of the BEST things we can do with our lives. It isn’t a second best scenario. It isn’t a situation where we try to still add in those things we feel we have to give up, because we are trying to “have it all.”
Having it all is being a parent. It is raw, hard, and tiring. It is awesome.
And it is my FIRST choice, not a sacrifice where I gave up something so I could do it. Sure I’m not doing other things that I could have done if I didn’t become a parent. But I WANTED to be a parent. It was a career promotion I gave myself, leaving a wonderful career behind in order to move on to something better.
Not giving up something. Not sacrificing something.
In baseball, a sacrifice is when a player will allow himself to get an out in order for another player to advance bases. He takes a hurt so that the team can benefit. In the military, a soldier will sacrifice himself by jumping in the line of a bullet instead of allowing his commander to get shot. He takes a hurt so that his superior and the rest of the unit can benefit.
That is a sacrifice.
By always using this term, we are suggesting that we took a hurt so that our family would benefit.
Really? Is that what I want to communicate to my children?
Our words definitely carry a lot of weight. And I want my children to know that I think being their parent was something I chose. Just like anything we do in life. The work involved to do it is just a part of it. It isn’t a sacrifice, it is a good work!