The joy of parenting

Are you a parent to be and feeling a bit of dread about the responsibilities laying ahead? Or are you a parent of primary school kids and struggling between your career, kids’ activities and looking after yourself? Or do you have grown up kids and are now second guessing whether you could have done a better job? Or are you the lot that has kept yourself away from the parenting business, but from time to time guess what it would be like? No matter which category you are, we can all appreciate the complexities associated with parenting.

As a mum of a 21-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, I have had my share of the joy and dread of being a parent. As a Chinese immigrant to New Zealand, I see further complexity brought into the picture with cultural mixing. And in more than 20 years of my career as an accountant / business advisor / consultant, how many times I have heard about and will keep hearing about, the financial planning and decisions that parents face in relation to their kids.

Here are some key decisions I see very often, that a parent needs to make.

  1. Have a child or not? Does DINK (double income no kids) feel attractive?
  2. How to arrange childcare? One parent staying at home… which one? Asking help from grandparents i.e. inviting your parents back to your life?
  3. Private, public, or home schooling?
  4. How much effort should we put in to keep the language and culture? When to move kids from one country to another?
  5. Keep them close by or send them far away for tertiary education? If away, should a parent go and accompany?
  6. Immigrate or just overseas studying? Citizen or just green card?
  7. Discipline or let them free fall? How strict should I go?
  8. How much resource I give to kids: my time and financially?
  9. Do I intervene or advise on the major decisions they will make? Their career? Their relationships? Their first investment? If yes, the balance?
  10. Should we brag about our kid’s achievements? If we can’t help bragging, how much is okay?
  11. Should I take them with me to overseas trips?
  12. What kind of financial education should I give?
  13. Stay with the other parent for the sake of kids?
  14. How much family wealth should I leave to them and how?
  15. Should I help looking after grandkids?

Obviously, I cannot give individual answers to these decisions. One general principal I think we should always stick to, is that making sure our decisions are based on our resources and the means we have on hand at the time. In a Chinese saying, ‘only wear a hat that fits your head’. And if you decide that for the good of your kids, you must sacrifice some element of your own life, please do not remind your kids to appreciate it. Remember it is your decision, not theirs.

One of my own secrets to keep me out of the stress of parenting is to ‘follow the flow’. It is much easier to pedal along with the flow. Parenting is a daily business that keeps going for the rest of your life, I would rather take it easy and enjoy it instead of trying to challenge all the time.

And remember once our kids grow up and can make their own decisions, we will find the tables have turned and now it’s their turn to decide what they should do with us! Would you like them to challenge you all the time? Or take easy with you?

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