Sacrificial Parenting
posted by Sheri

Morphing into Mama has a great post on sacrifice in parenting. Like Morphing into Mama, I don't really want to get into the pros and cons of sleep training. After all, I never had to do any since Clyde has always been a pretty good sleeper. Even lately in his third year when he started coming into our bed in the middle of the night, we finally decided to break this habit and did so only with a few talks and a little coercion (knocking wood furiously). Of course, this was after a few months of us both being to lazy to "deal with" the problem, which was that there's no room in our bed for a spread-out, eye-jabbing, knee-poking three-year-old. Oh, and we didn't want to deal with the "fit" that might come with saying no in the middle of the night either. We thought we didn't want to sacrifice sleep, but in the end, that's just what we were doing.

Sacrifice. Hmmm. It's a tough subject, and every mom and dad I know makes sacrifices. Of course, these sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes. For me personally, I've tried to draw the line at sacrifices that lead to my unhappiness. I'm not talking about discomfort, like days at the park telling Clyde "nice touches" over and over and over, which I loathe, or peering endlessly at all those poor pathetic zoo animals, which I've actually learned to like, I'm talking real unhappiness. For instance, when Clyde was a baby, I chose to have him sleep with us when he woke up the first time in the night because when he did, we all slept. Losing sleep made me deeply unhappy (as it does most humans), and this worked for us. He would nurse himself back to sleep, and I would sleep through the whole thing. Then he just slept longer and longer and ultimately moved from a bassinet to crib in his own room.

Although infancy and toddlerhood, even more, were challenging. I think, for us, sacrifice is really going to rear its ugly head as Clyde gets older and we're forced out into the socializing world of active parenting. Soccer. Baseball. Swim lessons. Piano lessons. Birthday parties. Although I'm a social person, I'm not comfortable with strangers or large groups of strangers (I wonder if this has to do with my drinking heavily through my whole social life or vice versa), and my husband is painfully shy in such atmospheres. I can fake it, but I really don't enjoy it, so thank God I don't believe kids need Gymboree or Mommy & Me groups to thrive and survive. I've mostly limited our social gatherings to daycare, family and close friends, and, on occasion, to a new mama/child duo when it felt natural and not forced, because that's what's comfortable to me. But yesterday, for the first time, Clyde asked if a classmate could come over to our house. So I know I'm going to have go out of my comfort zone to make this happen soon. My husband would rather die than coach baseball, I'm sure, but we'll have to find a place where we can fit in and be active parents in whatever activity Clyde enjoys (please God, let it be piano). And, of course, I mean that always on our terms. Again, I will just have to watch the unhappy meter.

Like Morphing into Mother, my husband and I sacrifice things like eating out, seeing movies, buying lots of cool junk, coming and going as we please, and so on. We even lose the dreaded sleep when Clyde is sick or push aside personal projects when he's bored. But this kind sacrifice fulfills me. I don't feel like a giant martyr when I sacrifice reasonably and with everyone's best interest in mind. I know this might be impossible at times, with so many uncharted parenting experiences ahead (soccer, help!), and I'm sure we'll make mistakes, but that's what I'm going for overall. Happy.