“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Ask any parent, at any time throughout history, who has been judged for how they parent and they will debate that statement. Words break hearts. Words cause doubt. Words hurt.
The definition of what a parent is and what a parent does are two different things:
noun par·ent \ˈper-ənt\
- : a person who is a father or mother : a person who has a child
- : an animal or plant that produces a young animal or plant
- : something out of which another thing has developed
1. transitive verb
3. intransitive verb
- : to be or act as a parent
Definition from Merriam-Webster
The value of how much a parent loves and cares about their children should not be determined by how many hours that parent chooses to give to their work or craft, but rather by how much love they give from the heart.
I have always been driven to be involved in my community. I have always enjoyed taking on different roles and participating in various activities in the community, but I also knew I wanted to be a mom.
At first I thought I would be perfectly comfortable being a stay-at-home parent and not pursuing my career, and for the first two years I was. But I slowly found myself wanting to get back into teaching and entertaining large groups of children.
I would regularly take my daughter, then an adorable toddler, to a local drop-in center for parents where she could play with other children. It was also a time for parents, including me, to get a break from the monotonous routine of being at home. But my desire to work with children eventually kicked in and I started organizing Circle Time activities for all the children who visited the centre; the very place where I came to get a break.
When we moved to our first house I loved playing outside in the backyard with my growing three-year-old, but soon that desire to entertain children bubbled up. Eventually I was organizing backyard activities and games for all the neighborhood children. I mean, I even advertised with flyers and phone calls to the neighbours; going so far as to call mothers of my daughter’s friends who lived outside my neighborhood to join in on the fun. We played games like at day camp and had prizes like a game show. Planning and hosting these activities filled my days and my weeks.
With my daughter by my side I enjoyed seeing the smiles on people’s faces, especially hers. But one day that changed. A person, who was close to me and whose opinion I valued, asked me, “Why are you out trying to save the world while your daughter is out of control?”
You see, my daughter is just as high-energy and as spirited as her mother, and having two people with the same personality in the same house often made parenting quite the challenge. My daughter has always been herself, and I have never had the desire to break her spirit or make her conform. But because she was not as obedient or as soft spoken as my critic thought she should be, my enthusiasm to work my gift and fulfill the desires of my heart (entertaining children) was being questioned. I was being weighed. I was being measured and I had been found wanting. This person had decided, had judged, that I was not parenting my child properly – that I was not being an “available parent”.
Allowing the opinions of others to affect me is one of my weaknesses. This weakness only increased when I made the daring decision to reboot my idea of being a hip hop artist. My second child had just turned two when I began to build my dream and I was asked repeatedly, “Saidat, do you think ‘now’ is a good time to pursue this career?”
Unfortunately, I did not have a clear answer to give these well-meaning inquisitors. I really didn’t understand the drive within me; the unquenchable desire to have a music career and to work with children. I still don’t understand why I thought being a mother of two young children would be a great time to start a project that would take more time and require a deep commitment; but I did know that my two children would always be my first audience – my priority.
Many of the ideas for my work evolved because of the cute things they would say or do or challenges they would face. But the more my career grew, and the busier I became with practicing my craft and performing in the community, the more the judgments grew. It got to the point that someone, who meant a lot to me, told me that they were not supportive of my career or my dreams.
Although I continued to struggle with the judgements of my critics, and by what others thought of me, I persevered. For whatever reason, I did not let it stop me from making this career all that I dreamed it could be. But inside I was deeply affected by their words.
I have met thousands of children over my 12-year career but I know of two teenagers who are still my first audience, and always will be. My beautiful babies, they will forever be my babies, are the first people to see the shows I create for thousands of children nationwide. They are still my inspiration.
Some of my critics have changed their opinions of my work and my parenting. They have witnessed the amazing results that come from my shows and my parenting style, but still, from time to time, I get the odd comment like:
“You don’t spend enough time with your children.”
“I never see pictures of your family online as much as I see your career pictures.”
Now, mind you, some critics out there are coming from a sincerely concerned and genuine mindset, while some just enjoy being opinionated. But no matter what, I believe all parents should always remember these four thoughts:
1.Every family has their own path and no two families will look alike in how they live and love one another.
2. Quality time is more important than the minutes that tick by each day.
3. If you know in your heart that your family is OK with your schedule it doesn’t matter what others think. Make sure you check with your children from time to time to ensure things are still working for your family. If you need to reschedule or reorganize, then do so, but not strictly based on the opinions of those outside your immediate family.
4. Your kids are growing and learning along with you. With your family as your #1 supporter you are all learning to do what makes you happy. And your children are learning that their dreams matter and can come true.
Stay-at-home parents: You are amazing!
Working parents: You are amazing!
Any family that does what they can to help each other find their calling and make this world a better place is doing the right thing.
Remember the cycle: