Last month I celebrated my birthday by taking a week-long trip to the beach. Besides the beautiful sunsets, white sand beaches, and general state of relaxation, the trip was made special by a visit from two good friends and their young children. Our dear friends from Washington D.C. are allies in the child rearing experience. Before my family moved to New Orleans two years ago, we spent long afternoons and weekends with each other, comparing notes about being parents. So it was no surprise that one night my friends and I were sitting on the balcony talking about my birthday wish. I paused, recalling the wish that I had made when I blew out my birthday candles. Now I’ll break the rule of “not telling anyone your wish” and admit that mine was for a year of good health for my children, my husband, and me.
When I said my wish out loud, it felt lackluster, commonsensical, and very abstract. Then my friends and I proceeded to have a discussion about wishes and desires that become goals, and I began to wonder whether more concrete goals get put on hold in specific phases of life, like parenthood. Are certain goals marginalized because they feel unrealistic or incongruent with being a parent? Are they viewed as desirable but not feasible? Are parents lured into an abstract way of thinking about goals that are futuristic and elusive? Or are there other parents that are so focused on the concrete that the abstract is neglected?
Goals for parents can take the shape of child-centered goals (I want my child to sleep through the night) or parent-centered personal goals that do not involve the child (I want to speak Spanish). Perhaps the greatest opportunity for flourishing, as parents, is to ensure that there is a healthy balance between the two.