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Antares

"parent culture" and parental identity

55 posts in this topic

My roommate (he's much older than I am) and I were talking about the subject of parenthood and keeping your identity after parenthood. He has a long term girlfriend and they're talking about having kids at some future point in time (maybe a couple of years?). And one thing we both noticed is that after having kids, people change drastically.

But namely, their lives start revolving around their children in a way that, to onlookers without children, their identity has been subsumed. He told me about how, among his parent friends (I don't have any, since I'm younger), a lot of them are expected to attend events revolving around kids. How at certain school events parents have to show up and help decorate (I forgot his specific examples). How when he hangs out with them, they no longer can go to the movie theaters because their kids need to be put to bed.

How they can barely talk about anything anymore aside from their children. They no longer talk about their intellectual interests or hobbies, that they're always involved in some children-related social event. It's not whether they enjoy it nor not, but that it's expected and that other parents and teachers will criticize them if they don't. To him that's his biggest fear, that he can't just be a parent, that he has to join the "parent club" or something, and hang out with other parents and do kid oriented stuff with other parents or else be branded a bad parent.

I'm wondering, for INTJ parents, is that something you've experienced? If yes, how do you combat them? How do you deal with other people criticizing the fact that you're not super involved in the parent community? What about being completely uninvolved? Is that possible or desirable? How does one keep one's pre-baby identity?

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I think the notion that your identity changes is a bit dumb.  There are different priorities that come into play when you have children, but priorities are always coming and going and parenting is no different.  I have never helped decorate for a party, although I have attended some field trips becuase they were places I thought were interesting and I got to go for free because I went with the field trip.  No one has ever said a single thing to me about not helping put at a school party.  Most parents don't.  There tends to be a small subset that like to do that and usually take on that role.

I don't think it is desireable to be completely uninvolved with other parents.  That's not healthy for the kids and it is helpful from time to time to have other parents willing to help do this or that with your kids.

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Obviously you will always have to do some things you don't want to do. If you can't handle basic stuff like watching your kids play sports and be in ridiculous musicals, you have no business having kids. Kids do activities, they have birthdays, they get sick, they have homework, etc.

But you don't have to be that person who talks about their kids all the time to people who don't care, and you don't have to stop doing your own hobbies and activities, or going out with your friends. As far as being super involved at school and stuff, if you don't want to, don't do it. Some people will judge you for it. But all parents will have people judging them for things, and they just learn to get over it. I'm not remotely involved in the "parenting community" because it's not my scene at all. But I'm still an involved parent.

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If taking a back seat to a child/children's needs over inane interests bother people, don't have children. They deserve better.

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Distance is right.

Fortunately, natural affection usually comes to the rescue, and our priorities change as the selfishness of youth gives way to the selflessness of parenthood.

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 Your life will change after you have children. You don't lose your identity.

 You will have less time. You will attend child centered events. You may or may not enjoy them. I detest soccer games and love orchestra concerts. I have never decorated or been more than a token member of the pta.

Some parents judge other parents. People judge others all the time. If you choose not to have children to escape judgement, you will find people will judge you for that! 

As far as teachers go, I think they judge helicopter parents far more harshly than those who are less involved. That's just my experience, though.

You won't be able to go to the movies whenever you want. You won't be able to accept last minute invites. The cost of attending anything doubles because you need to pay a sitter.

You won't have as much time for hobbies and interests. You will find interests that you share with your children.

I do find that most of my friends are other parents, because we understand these time constraints. We see one another less often, but when we do, we sit around and drink at one of our houses and talk about current events, work, politics, sociology, and our children. W don't go out, because we can enjoy ourselves without people judging the behavior or our children. We want to talk, not worry about if our children are too loud or bored. Our lives have changed, but our interests have not. I still have a few childless friends, but they are flexible and understand that I have family obligations. Most of the people who were initially upset that I didn't have time for them when my children were younger now have small children. They get it now.

 

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This reminds me of an article I found in the Atlantic a few days ago. It argues that parenthood sucks, and women tend to regret it. It's true that there is no harder job, but I kind of think some of the complainers in the article are whiners:

"The overwhelming sentiment, however was the feeling of a loss of self, the terrifying reality that their lives had been subsumed into the needs of their child. DS wrote, "I feel like I have completely lost any thing that was me. I never imagined having children and putting myself aside would make me feel this bad." The expectation of total motherhood is bad enough, having to live it out every day is soul crushing. Everything that made us an individual, that made us unique, no longer matters. It's our role as a mother that defines us."

To which I can only say: and?

I mean, I feel bad for these people, who maybe had more kids than they could comfortably handle. But on the other hand, it's like, "People have been doing this for thousands of years." Granted, for most of those thousands of years, nobody cared if the parent was any good or not, which is definitely the case now and there is pressure to be actually nurturing and all that stuff. But still, you know?

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The real issue is that some people just shouldn't be parents, but they have kids anyway because it's expected of them or they feel like they have to. People need to stop trying to make them feel like there's something wrong with them or they're being selfish.

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Your identity isn't somehow taken away from you; I find that claim to be rather ludicrous. One simply doesn't have the previously available time to practice certain hobbies when one decides to have children. The child becomes a life long project, in a certain way. The specific title of father or mother then becomes part of the parent's identity; most would allot this title (mother or father) by mere convention, their standards being that this person is the biological parent of whatever child is in question. I believe that said title should be given to those who actually care for their child(ren), whether these are biological parents or not.

Where I'm originally from, getting married and having children is social convention; an unwritten social rule. Any exception to said rule is a display of blatant abnormality that entails all sorts of other, displeasing insinuations. This leads to myriads of people that decide to have children for the sake of it. These children often end up being neglected, abused, and mistreated through some misplaced sense of self righteousness that stems from the position of parenthood. Other cases, in rural areas, see people having multiple children for the sake of cheap labor once they grow older. These children's lives are predetermined from birth; their autonomy stripped away from them. The children are then sent off to marry at preposterously young ages. And while these practices are steadily declining in popularity, they are still widely adopted by a lot of people around the world. From a global perspective, I believe that the OP's case should be reversed. More often than not, it's the parents that "steal" the child's identity, and not vice versa. The aforementioned cases might manifest in more subtle ways in more "developed" regions of the world. 

Edited by NSchet

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32 minutes ago, AesSedai said:

You will have less time. You will attend child centered events. You may or may not enjoy them. I detest soccer games and love orchestra concerts. I have never decorated or been more than a token member of the pta.

I mean, is it really that bad if you don't? When I was growing up I played some sports competitions and I was big in the school symphony orchestra. I was damn proud of it too. My orchestra played in the Sydney Opera House. I don't recall my parents showing up to more than one or two of those. And as some here probably know, I've had A LOT of problems with my parents, but the fact that they never watched me play Beethoven's 5th is not among them. When I was talking about this with my roommate, it took me a while to even remember the fact that they scarcely showed up for any of these things. In fact I didn't even know they didn't show up. To me their showing up was unimportant so I never counted, so to speak. I had to think: How many did they show up for? Then thinking back for a while the answer was: one? Maybe? There were some things I wanted them there, like hospital visits, or holidays, and weekends and being home everyday. Showing at school events was just not one of them. To me this was just me having my own life, and my parents having theirs (not that they really did. They didn't have a life. Both worked insane hours).

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@dala:  Agreed!

My wife and I had kids because we *wanted* to.  We didn't grit our teeth and undertake a mission of "unselfishness".  It was what WE WANTED.

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10 minutes ago, Antares said:

I mean, is it really that bad if you don't? When I was growing up I played some sports competitions and I was big in the school symphony orchestra. I don't recall my parents showing up to more than one or two of those. And as some here probably know, I've had A LOT of problems with my parents, but the fact that they never watched me play Beethoven's 5th is not among them. When I was talking about this with my roommate, it took me a while to even remember the fact that they scarcely showed up for any of these things. In fact I didn't even know they didn't show up. To me their showing up was unimportant so I never counted, so to speak. I had to think: How many did they show up for? Then thinking back for a while the answer was: one? Maybe? There were some things I wanted them there, like hospital visits, or holidays, and weekends and being home everyday. Showing at school events was just not one of them. To me this was just me having my own life, and my parents having theirs (not that they really did. They didn't have a life. Both worked insane hours).

I don't think it's bad if you don't show up. I always attend concerts because I like them. I will sometimes attend sports if the weather is nice.

I actually really liked it when my kid played baseball. It was in the spring and I got to sit outside and do nothing but enjoy the weather for two hours!

Some parents will judge you for not coming to everything, but who gives a shit? There is this nasty lady in charge of cookies for our Girl Scout troop who criticized parents who "drop their kids at the door and bolt." It pissed me off a little, but then I realized that she has no idea what she's talking about and she's stuck dealing with all those cookies. Why would I let a judgmental lady have any power over me?

You can't worry about what other people think. I have been guilty of it for sure, but eventually you find that no matter what you do, someone will find fault with it. You just have to do what works for your family.

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i wrote a thing and hit the clear rather than preview button.  *sigh

okay, here's the short version.  ideally, i'll know my kids as adults longer than i'll know them as children.  yeah, there's a period of time when a parent's life revolves around parenting, but compared to a long life, it's not so much.

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15 minutes ago, doll said:

i wrote a thing and hit the clear rather than preview button.  *sigh

okay, here's the short version.  ideally, i'll know my kids as adults longer than i'll know them as children.  yeah, there's a period of time when a parent's life revolves around parenting, but compared to a long life, it's not so much.

My idea of parental identity vs. all my other identity is, when they're in infancy or toddlerhood I'd spend as much time as possible with them and hobbies are optional. But as soon as they're old enough to have friends and be independent and need time away from me, which they will, I'll use that time to have my own fun. And just as they can tell me to bugger off when they're playing their MMORPG or on the phone with their girlfriend, I can tell them to bugger off when I'm playing my own video games, emergencies excepted. Realistically I expect the kid will want me to go away a lot more than the other way around but it's the principle. Weekends and holidays will almost always be family time, but I do not want to get involved with their schools more than strictly necessary, like going to parent teacher conferences. This is how I sort of envisioned keeping my identity after parenthood.

Maybe I'm just imagining it or maybe these women are anomalies but I do know a few women, my own mother included, who doesn't know what to do after their kids are out of the house. My mother is fortunately still occupied with her job, but she will be retiring soon. And she already promised to visit me all the time and that sort of worries me. My friend's mother (a housewife) literally doesn't know what she'd do as she's about to become an empty nester. It's like all those years she never thought about what else she enjoyed, or did any of it. And maybe it's just my experiences again but it seems like women are hit way harder in this way. My dad knows what he likes. He likes to tinker with things. Study engineering. He likes to build systems. He likes developing his photography skills. He got a small boat piloting license (he's not even retired!). He scuba dives. I know that when he retires he'll have no end of things he'll finally have the time to do. Every vacation there's a plethora of things he likes to do with me and my mom just doesn't join in. My mom is way more consumed than he is. Whenever she's not working in her executive job she's either cleaning around the house or checking up on me. My dad checks up on me too, but not nearly as much. One might argue that's not as nurturing... But on the other hand his seems like a much more satisfying life.

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@Antares, I honestly don't understand your point.  If you don't want children, don't have them. And frankly, premised on what you've posted on this site, you're way too egocentric at present, to be a parent. This does not mean that you won't change since you're still in your early twenties.  This also does not mean that you will change.

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7 minutes ago, Distance said:

@Antares, I honestly don't understand your point.  If you don't want children, don't have them. And frankly, premised on what you've posted on this site, you're way too egocentric at present, to be a parent. This does not mean that you won't change since you're still in your early twenties.  This also does not mean that you will change.

I don't really have a point. Only a couple of questions I want answers to. I'm fully aware I'm too egocentric in fifteen different ways to be anyone's mother, hell I don't have even have a pet for this reason. But one thing I've heard is that a lot of people upon becoming parents learn a lot of things they never expected. Likely it's a choice I'll have to make a few years down the line because I'll be in my late 20s and whom I date will be heavily affected by that choice, so I don't have to date the wrong men and waste both our times, so the more data I have about the realities of parenthood the more informed a choice it will be. Which is why I also made threads asking older people what it's like being older, does life really get better or worse, what are challenges older people face that younger people don't know about, etc. So I know what to be prepared for.

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11 minutes ago, Antares said:

I don't really have a point. Only a couple of questions I want answers to. I'm fully aware I'm too egocentric in fifteen different ways to be anyone's mother, hell I don't have even have a pet for this reason. But one thing I've heard is that a lot of people upon becoming parents learn a lot of things they never expected. Likely it's a choice I'll have to make a few years down the line because I'll be in my late 20s and whom I date will be heavily affected by that choice, so I don't have to date the wrong men and waste both our times, so the more data I have about the realities of parenthood the more informed a choice it will be. Which is why I also made threads asking older people what it's like being older, does life really get better or worse, what are challenges older people face that younger people don't know about, etc. So I know what to be prepared for.

The best way to gauge this, would be to discuss these issues with individuals who are similar to you, relative to how you perceive life and what you prioritise and value. 

It's pretty safe to say that you and I perceive life in very different ways so input from myself and others who aren't like you, isn't going to illustrate how life will be like for you since worldview will impact on the choices you make, up to the point of your question.

To use the bolded as an example, you're asian and baby-faced so you will likely remain younger looking even when older. This will impact on your life when older since your appearance is very important to you. But for others who either don't value appearance to the same degree or simply, that their genetics aren't the same, their experiences will differ.

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My friends who said interesting things and had children say interesting things about their children.

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Even less intelligent people have kids. And manage. Although their kids probably suffer a lot more than the less dumb parents. I know of a case where two really dumb people had 11 kids. What a spectacle. But if semiretarded people manage having 11 kids I dont see a problem why an intelligent person cant have 2 or 3 kids.

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When my daughter was younger, she needed me to be focused primarily on her and her needs. As she aged, she began creating her own identity, friend group, and interests. She neither needed nor wanted me present at all times.

Even when she was young, however, I did not have to subvert my independent self in favor of my identity as mother. I just had to be more tactical about how I kept my sense of self intact.

 

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How tied to social convention is your friend? Seems like he might think he has to do what his family did. Generally kids born in this generation are "overprotected" compared to previous generations (even the previous one) so people may overestimate just how much they need to be there. Just be proactive and plan ahead and you should still be able to have a life, even with children.  

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I became a dad quite young, younger than my peers anyway. I rapidly ditched most of my friends to spend my time with my little family. To them, it may have appeared that I had "lost my sense of identity". In truth I found it much more meaningful to spend time with my kids than with my friends.

Now my kids are 12 and 14 years old. And I will still ditch my friends for my kids, no doubt about it. Family comes first. Many young singles don't understand that; they think that hanging out with friends at a pub or going window shopping with their friends or to catch a movie is more important. I tend to see those sorts of activities as empty and meaningless, personally. Parenting is much more important,  challenging, meaningful and rewarding.

 

One more thing I wanted to share. When I first became a dad, I was thrilled. And I also felt that I had suddenly been admitted into a secret and special kind of club that had been right in front of my eyes all the time, but had somehow magically stayed invisible. Until then ....

It's the Universal Secret Society of Men who are Fathers.  Suddenly you have something deep and important and in common with a lot a lot of people in the world, and a great big topic to discuss and share with them. A Brotherhood of Fatherhood type of thing. Either you get it or you don't. Just walking around in public pushing a pram, I felt a sense of affinity and connection with all the daddies I saw, who were carrying their baby or holding their child's hand or just out strolling around with their kids.  

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lol, because missing that life-changing trip to Europe is just pathetic and empty compared to screaming at your kids because they forgot to put their dishes in the sink. 

Most parents these days just accept (5 stages) their fate. 

 

 

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I wonder why you think having kids means you cannot travel.

I have travelled with my kids to Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand and the UK. (If you would like to read about our most recent family holiday, you can go to my blog in the blog section and read about what we did last month).   

You do have to modify your travel plans when you have young kids. Obviously if you want to go and climb mountains in Nepal or go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, this is not very feasible with a young baby.  

When our kids were little, our preference was to stay at beach resorts. There are things to do, a good resort will have plenty of facilities, but at the same time, your room is nearby, so you can always get back in a jiffy, if the kid needs to sleep or bathe or you need to change diapers or provide a milk feed.

The thing is - the baby/toddler stage is only a few years. If you regard parenting as an 18-year or 21-year responsibility, the baby/toddler stage is basically 1/6th or 1/7th, a fraction of the total time. 

Actually I think that I would probably have travelled less, if I were not a parent. If you have kids, the existence of a school calendar will regularly remind you to start planning for the next trip for the next school holidays.

---------------

A few more comments, specifically about hobbies and personal interests.

As part of family life, parents will naturally introduce their kids to various activities for fun, enjoyment and learning. And it seems quite a natural thing to me that parents will naturally introduce to their children what the parents themselves find fun and interesting.

In other words, kids are often an opportunity for you to pursue your hobbies, or to take up again personal interests that you had abandoned a long time ago. 

Depending on the activity, you may have to dumb down. But depending on the activity, you may also find that the kids catch up very fast. Doing the activity together is also your bonding time. It could be stuff such as playing the piano, playing chess, playing soccer, cycling, reading, painting, rearing aquarium fish, having a pet dog, gardening, writing stories, baking, swimming, fishing, photography etc.

    

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I feel like making sure my spawn succeed will be a priority over watching Netflix or playing a video game. I don't base my identity on my hobbies but my actions. And I agree that one has no business having kids if they don't realize your leisure time might get eaten up a bit. 

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