No matter whether you work outside the home or not, parenting is a full-time job. No parent can afford to try to be a weekend parent and ignore all that happens during the week. Your child needs your attention in all sorts of ways:
She needs your attention to encourage her to move from place to place as she learns to crawl.
She needs you to pay attention when she cries so you can comfort her.
She needs you to comfort her so that she bonds with you, which forms the basis for loving and caring of others.
She needs your attention to tell her what a good job she is doing putting her toys away.
She needs you to be there to read a story to her, then another, and another.
She needs you to tell her how nice she was sharing her toys with her friend today.
She needs you to bring her cups for play in the bathtub so she can pour water from cup to cup.
She needs you to rave about how brave she is on the playground equipment or riding her tricycle.
As she enters school she needs to know you still will be there when school is out.
She needs you to kiss her goodnight and tell her how special she is to you.
Even when your child is older you remain important. Sometimes the normal rebelliousness of adolescence makes parents think their input is no longer important to their growing child. That isn't true.
Your child still is listening to you even when you don’t think she is.
She still is imitating you even when you think she is rejecting you.
So let her see you reading.
Let her see you talking out problems and solutions.
Let her see you being fair.
She even learns about being honest when she sees you calling attention to an item the clerk forgot to charge you for.
Let her see you being concerned about others.
Show her your ballot and talk with her about how you are voting and the importance of each vote.
Let her see you abiding by the law so she will do the same.
Your growing child also is learning about being a partner and a parent.
Your role as a parent is critical. You determine whether your child feels loved, becomes a reader, does well in school, eats healthy, gets enough sleep, behaves appropriately, accepts other kinds of people and feels good about herself. That is a huge amount.
You do not control everything in your child's life but you do control a lot. You cannot make her into something she isn't; but you can influence significantly who she is.
Never underestimate your role. How you parent is far too important to do that. The most important thing you can do is recognize your importance and do all that you can do to make your child into a responsible human being who is ready for school, life, relationships and responsibilities.
You, her parent, are the primary model for how she will live her life.
Whether you are a mom or a dad, this is the most important job you will ever have. Do it well because this is a monumental job.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.