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Your Kids Shouldn't Be Your Whole Life—Period

Photograph by Twenty20

There are a few parenting debates that never seem to end: vaccinations, breastfeeding and, of course, let’s not forget the never-ending working-mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate. Personally, I’m a "you do you" kind of mom. Work, don't work; breastfeed, don't breastfeed: It’s really not my business. I don’t want to be told how to parent and I won’t tell anyone else how to parent. But when a parent I respect gives advice, I’m inclined to listen. Suffice it to say, when Michelle Obama talks, I listen.

Our former first lady is on a book tour. And, while journalists are focused on the book’s revelation that Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia were conceived via IVF, Obama’s book “Becoming” offers an even bigger bombshell—that her kids are not her whole life, her whole source of happiness or her sole purpose.

Gasp! I KNOW.

In a recent interview with People magazine, Obama notes that her youngest is about to graduate high school. While many would be feeling major empty nest sadness, the former FLOTUS reveals that she's cool with her kids leaving home, and the reason is simple: "I don’t need my children to make me happy. I had them so that they’d happy."

Yes, Michelle, yes! There’s a lot of mom guilt and raised eyebrows that come a woman’s way when she admits things other than her children make her happy.

We miss out on the opportunity to reach our own full potential, away from our children, when we live through—and for—them.

I started noticing it when my youngest went to kindergarten. Many of my friends whose youngest were the same age, suddenly felt like they had a hole to fill. Their little ones were going to be in school for a longer day. Their kids would have after-school play dates and sleepovers. This all meant Mom wasn’t on duty quite so much. While their kids would still need them emotionally, physically, Mom’s role was changing. This seemed to cause a stir, if not an earthquake, inside a lot of moms.

They panicked, questioning themselves, their choices. Wondered if they should go back to work or ramp up their current schedule. Who can blame them? When you have infants or toddlers in the house, it's all hands on deck. There isn't much time left for thinking about personal happiness.

This is what happens when you make your children the only source of happiness and self throughout the early years. This can only lead to feelings of deep depression when they don't need us quite so badly—and that will happen. It's inevitable.

Every year of our children's lives, they grow more independent. They need us less and less, and that's a good thing. It means you did a good job, encouraging your child to spread their wings and see the world—even if that means not doing it with you.

We miss out on the opportunity to reach our own full potential, away from our children, when we live through—and for—them. It's not good for us or our children.

So, let's all remember that life doesn’t end when our children’s adult lives begin. Having a full life outside of our children doesn't mean we love our children any less. It's just one more way we can better take care of them and ourselves. I think we can all vote for that.

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