While I typed this blog post, it seemed eerily familiar and a quick Jamaican Mommies Blog post review revealed that I had done a similar post around Moms say: I wish I had. Notably, most of the moms (except for about 3) were sharing their parental wishes around kids who were 12 years and under. This post however focuses on moms who are more mature who have taken the time to share some of their most pressing parenting regrets 10 years later or more. I write to share this primarily as a reference point for 1. Parents to be 2. Parents of Younger children and 3. People everywhere who can learn a bit from the regrets of others.
Some of the Top 10 Parenting regrets as shared by moms 40 and over include:
1. Missing out too much of years 1-5: They say these are the most impressionable years and boy do they go by quickly. I have cried every year after my child passed the 5 year old mark, because each year I saw a little more of my “baby” slipping away with every 12 month period. Even at 7 years old, I often reflect and find gaps that seemed to have flown by way too quickly. Several of our 40 and over moms cited this missing out on quality time as one of their most profound regrets-often tied work commitments, balancing relationships and being focused on caring for instead of spending time with the kids.
2. Not listening enough: How many times have you found yourself saying ‘Just do as I say” or “Just listen”? Every parent has probably been through the rounds a few times. As a 50 year old mom shared, a key turning point for her was when her teenager screamed “You never listen to me, that’s why I never tell you anything” I can feel the heart break from over here as no parent ever wants to hear those words. To avoid this pitfall, she recommended encouraging a culture of active listening with your children from an early age and maintain same as they continue to grow. For her, children can tell when you are paying attention and will react accordingly
3. Not playing with the kids: Oh aren’t we all guilty of this? This was a regret shared by moms of all categories. They chalked up this regret to always being “busy” or ‘assuming the child” would be fine on their own. Still they noted that the few times they did set aside all else and spent active time playing with their children, they were able to learn a lot about their personalities and it provided an avenue for more relaxed conversations.
4. Investing too much time at work: This particular regret struck me to the core. I am a workaholic. (fullstop) which often sees me with my child in tow, at work, at odd hours completing some document which I did not want to take home. I have been making steps to correct this but it struck a chord when a mother to children who are now in their 30s bemoaned the fact that she felt she didn’t spend as much time with her now grown children because it was being invested at work. As she put it, she remembers the deep seated guilt when as teens the children announced “All you ever do is work”
5. Staying in an ill fated relationship ‘For the Kids’: This one was a repeated regret. From parents who should have left a relationship prior to the birth of their child, to others who endured great relationship battles from toddler hood to teenage years and beyond. As a 60 year old mother put it. “I stayed in an abusive relationship that children should have never been brought into. I somehow convinced myself that having a child would solve the problems but it made them worse. My time was now split between an aggressive and abusive spouse and a newborn and that made his anger towards me worse. As my child grew, I convinced myself that I was doing it for her, that I wanted her to grow with both parents. Yet as she grew older, she was the one who encouraged me to get out. She could not imagine the extent of my abuse being healthy for either of us. It wasn’t until after my daughter graduated University and rented her own space that I found the courage to finally leave. Looking back, It was never about her. I was just too scared to do it on my own”.
6. Choosing Social Media: You know how we feel about Social Media already! While most of our more mature moms did not cite Social Media as a major factor, they did cite “TV time” as a regret. One mom highlighted her near addiction to Soap operas and how it affected the relationship with her children. Guidelines in our Social Media link applies to any form of electronic interface.
7. Believing you have time to catch up: As every parent knows, eventually the years just fly on by. yet in the moment, many parents believed they would always have “some time”. As one mom profoundly recall. I promised my son that we would make a box truck… Every weekend he asked and I’d keep promising we would do it another weekend… It wasn’t until 2 years later that I realized that he had stopped asking and we had never made it. It was a painful lesson about committing to something and doing it. Without even realizing, I had apparently failed my son in so many ways. At 35 he still recalls how I never kept my promise and in a sense left him with doubts about trusting me”.
8. Going abroad to ‘make a better life’ and leaving the kids at home: This was a particularly sore point and indeed a hot topic based on Caribbean realities. Many parents while noting their guilt indicated that it was all with the hopes of having access to a better income, better opportunities and eventually a better life. Yet, the overwhelming response was that in aiming for all things better, the relationship with their child got worse. One of our moms indicated that “I was a single mother and the Jamaican Job market was not at its best. I was a College trained person but couldn’t land a job. I tried my hand at selling items at the school gate at one point and eventually took up a job opportunity abroad because of the income it was likely to provide. My two children stayed back in Jamaica with their grandmother. I worked hard and sent back money to take care of their expenses and other stuff. My children were able to attend one of the best prep schools in Kingston, they were always well dressed and were showered with gifts, but in the end, they only knew me as the mother who lived abroad.. Now in their late teens, I have never had the relationship they now have with their grandmother. I still don’t know how I could have managed to do all that I have done for them financially without leaving but to this day one of my biggest parenting regret is that I had to leave them to go abroad”
9. Not pursuing your dreams: What does this have to do with parenting? Everything actually! A parent who pursues their dreams despite the odds sends a very strong and positive message to their children. This is directly applicable to me as I saw my mother rise beyond her stay at home seamtress beginnings, to being a postmistress and eventually returning to school as an adult to receive certifications in the teaching profession. That has reverberated positively with me for years and served as a reminder that little is ever really out of reach. This explains why 52 year old Annette lists one of her parenting regrets as never finding the time to go back to school as she always wanted to. As she put it, “Looking back. I think if I had gone back to school, it would make sense to my children when I am encouraging them to have a good education”.
10. Not having a next child: Economics aside, this was very common among our “only child” parenting segment. Looking back, many parents indicated that it really would have been nice for their child to grow with a sibling. “When I had my child, I was nowhere near prepared financially. yet as she grew and as I grew in my profession, I started wishing that she had a sibling. This was particularly so when she complained of being bored or not having anyone to play with and especially when I looked back at the relationship I now have with my siblings… I wanted that for her and in a way, had I gone ahead and had a next child, I would have found a way to make it all work out”
So there you have it, some of the top 10 parenting regrets as shared by more mature moms. Do remember we share not to depress but to inspire. Start small, focus on one area for improvement at a time and celebrate your successes. After all, the parenting journey becomes more meaningful and rewarding when we are able to successfully navigate the pitfalls.
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Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
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