It’s easy to undervalue what you do as a parent. It’s harder to recognize that some of the greatest influence you can have on the world is through parenting. If you want to make a change in society, start by raising good kids.
Nobody sets out to raise asshole kids — obviously. We all think our kids are going to be amazing human beings. But parenting is a lot of hard work, and good parents know that raising good kids takes time. It takes effort. It takes spending time with teenagers whom you don’t like some days and playing games with kids so they’ll listen to you when it comes to the important stuff. It takes recognizing that raising good kids really can make the world a better place.
When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I remember often wondering if changing diapers and folding laundry was the new purpose of my existence on earth. It actually felt kind of depressing. I suffered from feeling a sense of loss and purpose since I was no longer working outside the home. I struggled with postpartum depression and was jealous of people still traveling, doing service in foreign countries, and living exciting lives outside of the house while I seemed to do nothing but clean up after other people all day.
In the early years, it was hard to wrap my brain around how important parenthood was and is because parenting felt so physically draining. In all honesty, I felt like a cook, maid, and doer of all the things. Picking up toys and reorganizing toy closets multiple times a week didn’t bring me much satisfaction. I wondered whether I was really cut out for parenthood, after all. Some days, it felt like there was so much more I could be doing.
I never wanted to be a world leader or anything, but I found myself in this interesting place where I could see others in my peer group starting nonprofits or going out protesting important issues, and I would look around and think, all I did today was literally walk around the house picking up after people. I want to do more. I yearned to do more.
But I’ve realized something very, very important as my kids have gotten older. Raising good kids is one of the most effective ways to change the world. I feel hope about this world that seems to be broken most days when I look at my kids and see them doing simple acts of kindness and taking genuine interest in important social issues.
I was reading my daughter’s school journal after school ended this year, and in one of her entries, she wrote that one of the things she wished for most was equal rights for women. Hell yeah. She is 11 years old. When I was 11, I’m pretty sure my main concern was riding my bike down the street to get snow cones. I was certainly not giving much thought to social justice issues or thinking about bodily autonomy. But kids today are doing that, and I believe that’s because parents are doing better in their attempts to not raise assholes.
Kids are thinking about important issues in society, and parents have the unique opportunity to pounce on the fact that they’re more interested than generations before. It’s our job to help teach and empower them, so they go out into the world confident and kind and ready to turn things around for the better.
Previous generations want to say that kids today are more spoiled than ever. But I see my daughter and her friends raising money for a friend of theirs who has cancer, and I know that’s not true. I see my middle child hugging a friend with Down syndrome as he’s leaving school at the end of the day, and I know that he truly cares about this boy and considers him a friend. I see small acts of kindness from my 5-year-old and know that making the world a better place starts with parents who are willing and able to have a talk in the middle of the grocery store about letting someone else go ahead of them in line.
As your kids get older, you’ll realize more and more that the time you spend with your kids talking about everything from equal rights to just being kind to others has a much larger impact on the world than you can imagine.
So don’t underestimate what you do. It matters. The diaper changing stage is just a short blip on your parenting timeline. As your kids get older, you’ll see that it’s the heart-to-heart talks over dinner or on a car ride home from school that add up to raising great people, kind people, caring people.
And those people we’re raising will grow up to change the world. They really will. That’s why it all matters. The diapers, the late-night feedings, the mundane tasks of dinner and laundry all add up to one day having a talk with your kid about bullying or equality or the importance of taking a stand for important issues.
Raising good kids is how you change the world. And I’m grateful for the chance to do that.