One time I was in a mall just checking out a baby clothes store when I heard a kid screaming.
That got my attention. I then saw the girl’s young mother also yelling at her daughter. Mom was screaming that if the kid won’t behave she could find another mother. I thought to myself, what a thing to say to a young child.
And then the grandmother shows up, and then she starts yelling at the young mother. It was bananas. Three generations just screaming their heads off at each other.
It had me thinking that this sort of dysfunction is learned. Adult immaturity passed down through the generations.
Lots of unhealthy attitudes get passed down from parents to kids. One thing that I notice that gets passed on is this idea that you need to constantly sacrifice. Like, all the time.
I have a lot of first-hand experience with this myself. Growing up as a second-generation Korean kid, many of my peers also had immigrant parents. There was enormous pressure on kids to become more than their parents, and tons of investment was put into kids’ education. Many of the parents sacrificed so much that that was the role model that they gave to their children.
The formula was to sacrifice, sacrifice, and sacrifice some more, and then… what exactly… Happiness? Success? Wealth?
I know so many second-generation adults that greatly question this model once they grow up and start families of their own. Is the idea of constant, chronic sacrifice for the kids actually a good lesson for children as they grow up? And is this a healthy way for parents to live?
In my life, once something starts becoming a chronic sacrifice, I know I have already lost. Chronic sacrifices (as opposed to acute sacrifices) are things that you give up constantly simply to keep the raft afloat, with no end in sight.
Every man should strive to avoid chronic sacrifices that take time and energy away from the things and people that he loves. A lot of it comes down to attitude: for instance, it should never feel like a sacrifice to spend time with your kids—time with them should be joyfully given.
But a lot of it is also avoiding tasks and life situations that gives you that gnawing feeling of chronic sacrifice eating away at your man soul.
Acute sacrifices on the other hand, can potentially be very good things: a student studies for a few years to become a doctor, a mother-to-be goes through nine months of pregnancy in order to experience the joy of having a baby, and a man writes a book about his experiences and it becomes a bestseller. These types of acute, temporary sacrifices can bring happiness, balance, and a sense of accomplishment to your life. These “good sacrifices” are things to strive for.
So, back to the nasty chronic sacrifices. I know lots of people who are, day after day, complaining about what they need to give up in order to have X.
- “I had to give up my freedom to have kids.”
- “I sacrifice my pride and tolerate my stupid boss.”
- “All my spare time is blown because my wife makes me do all the chores in the house.”
Again, worth repeating: once you start thinking like this, then you have already lost. Chronic sacrifices eat into the time that you would prefer to spend on the things that you love, every day of your life. Worse, these kinds of sacrifices eat into your man soul and diminish you day by day.
The cure for chronic sacrifice: self-actualization.
So, chronic sacrifices: bad. Like, seriously, bad, bad, bad. Western culture, especially North American culture, sees chronic sacrifice for one’s own children to be a badge of honor. I have seen so many parents in my life actually go out of their way to miserably sacrifice what they want in life so that they could be seen to sacrifice for their children.
This is just plain unhealthy. Parents who chronically sacrifice end up losing themselves, and cease to be good role models for their kids.
I see this again and again in older generations. Some take their frustration out on their adult children. Some go through bitter divorces. Some are just plain lonely.
The cure for chronic sacrifice is therefore self-actualization.
Self-actualization manifests in several forms: expression of creativity, spiritual pursuit, acquiring knowledge, and giving of oneself for the good of humanity.
In the realm of the family, self-actualization can mean many things for a father:
- A satisfying, upwardly mobile career.
- Spare time to pursue interests and goals.
- Teaching his children to grow up to be good kids.
- Physical fitness beyond basic levels.
- Creation of something that benefits a ton of people.
- Inward peace and spiritual development.
- Feeling gratitude for all that he has.
Self-actualized people know what chronic sacrifices are and seek to avoid them. Self-actualized people are too involved with improving themselves and those around them to be in sacrifice mode.
Self-actualized parents are good for their kids.
So what’s better—for children to learn from two fully self-actualized and happy parents?
Or for kids to take their cues from miserable and “sacrificing” parents, and then repeating the whole cycle again generation after generation?
The answer is clear for me. At this point in my life I have my household running smoothly, my daughter growing up at light speed before my eyes, and a happy marriage with my wife. With everything running smoothly, I have striven for self-actualization so that I can be a great role model for my little one and any other tykes that follow.
I want my daughter to be happy, creative, and fulfilled in her life. In order for that to happen, it follows that I need to be happy, creative, and fulfilled.
Some may say that my point of view is selfish, that self-actualization must take a back-seat to driving the kids to dance lessons, feeding them the most nutritious fad diets, and sacrificing evenings for PTA duty.
I say, everyone can do BOTH. Do BOTH self-actualization activities and child care activities so that everyone is happy!
Anyone who says they don’t have the time, I call bullshit. Create the time to fit it all in. I’ve got a book in the pipeline to show you how.
I say that there is a better model for parenting than the chronic sacrifice model. I think that it is far better for parents to be self-fulfilled and happy, which transfers a positive attitude of life over to their kids.