Your Children Should Not Be Your Life’s Purpose
As a Family therapist and Parent Educator I have always felt conflicted when people said their purpose in life was their children. I recall a night many years ago before I had children, when we were invited to dinner at a friend’s home and were enjoying some after-dinner conversation.
I always love to play “table games” with people where we ask questions and have conversations at the dinner table. I asked the couple we were visiting what they felt their prime purpose in the world was. My friends had two children aged five and seven at the time, and my one friend immediately replied that her purpose in the world was her children. I struggled with this answer.
Although I was not a mother yet, her answer left me unsettled. I thought my discomfort might have been due to the fact that I was not a parent, and I would possibly feel as she did if I became a parent in the future, although I doubted this. Eventually I did become a parent and I still thought about her answer.
Did I feel my children were my prime purpose in life? Was my role as their mother the thing that truly defined me? I did feel parenting was my most important job and I was passionate about my children, but the truth was that I did not feel it was my purpose.
I feel that parenting is my responsibility, but I do not feel that my role of mother or wife or daughter is my purpose. I do not feel my role of counsellor or teacher, author or business woman is my purpose. My purpose does not feel as though it can be defined by a role, any role, in my life.
I value and appreciate all my roles, but my purpose feels different. It is that unique part that is me that I can choose to contribute to any situation or person in my life. Therefore, my purpose is never limited by my roles or my environment. Ultimately, my purpose comprises the contributions and perspectives that I uniquely bring to the table.
This is the exceptional part of the MORE philosophy which I write about in my book “M.O.R.E. A New Philosophy of Exceptional Living” that allows me to go big and go home, because my unique self and purpose move with me everywhere I go.
Now that my children are growing and moving forward in their own lives, I am even more convinced of this. We get in trouble and stuck when our purpose rests on somebody else’s shoulders; if my purpose in this world were my children, then my purpose certainly could become a burden to them and weigh heavily on their shoulders. My go big is my passion and my own purpose, and although our lives and passions are woven together, my children will have their own purposes to discover.
My children will always be a part of my go home and go big, as they are part of my anchor and my passion. I will also be a part of their anchors, as they pursue their purposes in the world. As the years progress, they will discover their passions and purpose, and collect other significant relationships, but the template we have set for them will always be a part of their anchor, as the one set for me by my parents is still a part of my grounding and experience of this world.
I will contribute to their growth and development, and I do need to do the best job I can at parenting, but their lives are not my purpose and my life is not their purpose. It is my responsibility to understand and define this. You can have a strong, attached, and secure relationship with the people you love, as well as pursue interests and passions in life. In some sense, you really can have it all!
This balance of security and passion brings to mind a time when my daughter was still young and she was trying to understand why her father and I went to work. As I explained it to her, this all became increasingly clear in my mind. I let her know that both she and her brother were always our first priority.
I told her that everyone, including her, should contribute the thing they do well to the world, and that my counselling practice was the thing I did well. I reassured her that the members of my family were the people whom I love the most, but that I went to work because it made me feel good to be of assistance to others and I could bring these good feelings home in the same way she could bring her good feelings home from school. I also reminded her she could bring any feeling home and that if she needed help sorting them out, home was a great place to sort out feelings.
In my message to her, I never once said I worked for money to get us things or pay bills. She was a very thoughtful child and she understood what I meant and wondered about what she would contribute when she grew up. I continue to let her know that I am confident she will figure it out and that I have no doubt that she will lead an exceptional life with great contributions to this world. I believe by finding my unique way to contribute to the world, I am also mapping the way for my own children to go big and go home.