“I have a life too!” I found myself saying mostly into the wind as my 16-year-old daughter had already moved out of hearing range and was on her way out of the house. As most of you will know “hearing range” for a teenager, from their parents (particularly Mom), is about 17 inches. Unsurprisingly, I could see her eye roll from ten feet.
It’s as though they don’t care, or more disturbingly, don’t believe that I do in fact have a life outside of caring for them. What could I possibly be doing that was in any way more important than driving her to the store to pick up erasable pens, that she desperately needed for class the next day? Apparently my advice to “not make mistakes” wasn’t good enough for her.
“Well what else are you doing?” is a constant refrain I’ve heard from all of my teenagers (I’m on my 3rd and 4th at this point), as though there is nothing I could be doing that is the least bit important compared to whatever they need me to do at that particular time. But here’s the thing; you don’t ever have to answer that question (you’re the boss, remember?) but it might do you both some good if you did.
While you should never find yourself in the situation of justifying to your children why what you’re doing for yourself is more important than what you could be doing for them, explaining to them what you are doing might one day help them to appreciate why your time is valuable. This might not happen until they are parents themselves, but it’s still worth it.
When we first become parents, we know the demands of an infant, newborn, and even toddler, by necessity, need to come before our own. They eat when they’re hungry (and even when they’re not), we eat when we can stuff it into our faces in between diaper changes and loads of laundry. They sleep when they want to sleep, or not, and we sleep when they’re not stopping us from sleeping. But as the kids get older, and acquire the power of reason and sometimes even logic, we need to start educating them that not only are eating and sleeping just as important for us as it is for them, but that we are also entitled to have our own wants met as well.
Yes, I did it. I used the “e” word. What am I thinking? Entitlement for someone who isn’t a Millennial? Yes, it can happen. I’m aware that a sure-fire way to prove that you’re old is to make a comment about the next generation being entitled. So I say we need to not only say the word, but reclaim it, and that feeling, and bring entitlement back to where it belongs, before the generation after Millennials (Generation Z as it’s been coined, and my children) try to claim it as well.
Why do they get to own being entitled? People, including children, become entitled because we hand it to them. But we’re the ones who have earned it. So we need to prove it. Just do it.
Go forward now, and entitle yourself to a pedicure, a new book, a coffee with a friend, travel, a class, a promotion, or a work out at the gym. And the next time your kids ask you where you’re going, flip ‘em an eye roll and walk out the door.
Kathy Buckworth is the author of six books, including “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” (Random House). She is currently at work on “Oops I Helicopter Parented The Kids”