Parenting 24/7 – Could You Turn Your Parent Switch Off?
By Mollee Bauer, General Manager, Pregnancy.org
Is becoming a parent as easy as flipping on and off a switch? We’re conditioned to believe that once we give birth our parenting instincts automatically kick-in. For some parents, that statement is a fact. They cuddle, coo and naturally fall into parenting like breathing. These are the parents whose switch is always in the “on” position. Then there are those new moms and dads, whom despite their valiant efforts, struggle with becoming parents, wishing they could still have the ability to flip the switch “off” if only for a short while.
Elizabeth Stone says, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Parenting is a huge responsibility. After all, you’re in charge of another human being. Forget about the usual hubbub you read in the books and concentrate on that fact for a moment. How does that make you feel? Could you turn your switch off?
I discussed the idea of the parent switch with my colleagues and friends. I discovered that most of them felt like they didn’t have the ability or power to turn off the parent switch. My friend Laura described her parenting as something that never goes away. She’s a mom to two sons, one of which is special needs. Jake, her youngest is ten-years old with Down syndrome. Laura explained that turning off the parent switch “…would be like stopping breathing – you can’t make yourself do that. There’s always this tug in my brain that goes, ‘It’s fine that you’re doing something else, but don’t forget about Jake…’” She mentioned that a person might be able to turn the switch off for a few minutes but she doesn’t believe it stays off very long.
In looking at my own personal parenting history, I realize that I’ve been blessed with an easy-going and over-all responsible child. While we might butt heads from time to time (he’s 6’2” and almost 16), I never feel like I’m not his mom or that I “switch off.” I thought about what that might feel like, and the concept seems alien to me. I understand it on an intellectual level, but not an emotional one.
While my heart goes out to the parents that don’t have an easy time transitioning to parenthood, I can’t imagine wanting to not feel like a parent. When I was little, I had convinced myself that I never wanted kids. My parents were very political and kept hammering in about the environment and too many people on the planet. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out I was pregnant at 28, after three years of trying to conceive. My emotions ran the gamut from elation to “OMG, I’m going to be a mom…what now?”
As I write this piece, I look over and smile because I see my son, brilliant, his whole life ahead of him, and I couldn’t be prouder. Nope, I don’t think you could get me to turn the switch off if you paid me.