Privilege? Obligation? Yes to Both

Someone posted the following on an adoption Facebook group, including her own comment:

Being a parent is a privilege, not an obligation, some people need to learn the difference

“And if you feel like it isn’t a privilege, well give em to all of us!”

While I’m in judgmental mode, I thought I would pick this apart for the totally incorrect, judgmental, shaming message that it is.

First, being a biological parent is a right, according to the US Supreme Court. It is also a privilege, but it is a basic, constitutional right first and foremost.

Second, let’s take a look at the definitions of the words used:

privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment.

By definition, parents are obviously obligated to their children. There are 400,000+ kids in foster care whose parents presumably did not fulfill their obligations to their children. When you have a child, by birth, adoption, or other legal means, you are obligated to that child. He or she becomes an obligation. If you do not provide for that child, the state has the right to remove that child from your home. Children are, by definition, obligations. Obligations are not bad. In today’s culture, the word “obligation” has taken on a negative connotation, and that is so unfortunate.

By itself, the phrase is just an uneducated way of saying that people need to think of their kids as privileges instead of obligations. I could get behind saying that people need to think of their kids as privileges and obligations. Sometimes, we all need a little reminder that our kids are ours for such a short time, they grow so fast, this too shall pass, que sera sera.

It’s when you add the comment, then it becomes a shaming statement: “And if you feel like it isn’t a privilege, well give em to all of us!”

If you feel like crap because you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in a year because your daughter doesn’t sleep through the night, and you feel like she’s an obligation, not a privilege, then you’re not a good enough parent; give her to some hopeful adoptive parents. If you are at the end of your rope because your son has been bullying kids at school, getting into fights with his siblings, and just generally showing no respect for anyone, and you feel like he’s an obligation, not a privilege, then you’re not a good enough parent; give him to a waiting couple. If you’re worried about losing your house and finding a job and where next week’s grocery money is going to come from and how you’re going to pay for your daughter’s new glasses and how the heck you’re going to get to 3 different basketball games at the same time, and you feel like you need a break from all of these obligations, then you’re not a good enough parent; give your kids to that single hopeful mom who would kill for your problems (in theory). If you would give anything for a week in Hawaii without your children because you are so burned out on “Mommy! Mom! Mommy!” and the kids fighting and your husband being at work all day and everyone wanting a piece of you, then you are not a good enough parent; give your kids to that gay couple that’s been waiting for over a year.

Parenting is hard. It is a 24/7 job. The best parents are the ones who don’t have children, because it’s easy to look at someone yelling at her kids in Target, or keeping her daughter on a leash in Sweet Tomatoes, or arguing in public with her husband over discipline and think “I would never do that.”

Bull shit. Until you are there, you don’t know what you would do.

I love my kids. I know it’s a privilege to be their mom. I am obligated to do many, many things for and because of them. I need a break. That doesn’t make me a bad parent. It makes me human.

Instead of spending your free time judging others by posting silly little e-cards that don’t even make sense, do something for yourself that doesn’t shame others. Someday, you’re going to find yourself wishing you had been a little less preachy and little more understanding. (Oh, and sign up for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day while you’re at it.)

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2 thoughts on “Privilege? Obligation? Yes to Both

  1. Yes and I agree with the comment before mine. Doesn’t it also imply that someone isn’t obligated to become a parent? And I could take that a couple of ways. One is that it’s ok to remain childless. Two is that it’s ok to give up your child for adoption–thus a little encouragement to become a “birth mom.”

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