This statement has many meanings. The most obvious meaning is the parents who whether knowingly or unknowingly, pressure their children to fulfil their unfilled dreams. This is seen as having a negative effect on the child and the child’s development.
Jodie came to see me because of the damage done to her by a mother who pressured her to do the things the mother could never achieve. This caused great distress to Jodie because she was forced to follow a path in life that was not of her own inclination. She found herself pursuing a career path that she had no desire to follow. After counselling she felt empowered enough to stop pursuing her mother’s desired career path and instead follow her own. She was also able to set loving boundaries around her mother’s behaviour and continue a relationship with her.
Caspar came to see me because his father pressured Caspar’s older brother to follow his dreams to be a professional footballer. The sad thing about that was that Caspar’s brother was not good at football. Caspar, however, was an excellent footballer. Caspar’s father, instead of encouraging Caspar to pursue the dream, instead set out to suppress Caspar’s abilities. He ignored anything good Caspar did and instead celebrated every little thing his brother did, sometimes dragging the same event out to be talked about to cover up mention of Caspar’s achievements. He even told Caspar he was no good at football. Caspar believed his father and felt he was no good at football and suffered from low self esteem as a result of his father’s behaviour. He found he became extremely nervous whenever out on the football field and frequently was unable to play well due to the belief he was making mistakes. After counselling, he started to see his abilities as they truly were and was able to go and play football without being nervous.
There is another meaning to Jung’s saying. That is that parents frequently stop pursuing their own dreams because of parenthood. Life just gets too busy. Of course there are people who pursue their dreams despite the busyness. But many people find it hard to step outside their comfort zones and find the busyness of life with children is a handy excuse to not pursue their dreams. Instead the parent places all their focus on their children. This actually harms the children.
The purpose of our lives is to fulfil them. But if we fail to fulfil our lives by putting our own dreams aside then we deny our lives meaning and risk teaching our children to lead meaningless lives. If our children do not see us following our dreams, they can never learn that they can do this too.
Many people tell themselves they are virtuous to sacrifice their dreams to care for their children. But there is a problem with that. It is not possible to love others if you do not love yourself. If you value yourself so little, you are prepared to give up your dreams, how can you love others?
If you do not strive to fulfil your own dreams, how can you help your child fulfil theirs? If you don’t know how to help your child. If you have never struggled and succeeded how can you understand that struggle does not mean defeat? If you do not understand that, how can you teach that to your child.
Too many parents put their dreams aside and focus everything on their child. They become obsessed with their child. That obsession is seen in the behaviour I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
There is another dark side to that obsession. Patty came to see me because her mother was unable to function without her and never wanted her to grow up. Her mother would take her to school in the morning and hang around. Patty just wanted to play with her friends but her mother would be constantly there. She would constantly ask if Patty was okay, would she be alright if Mum left. Mum would leave and come back to ask if Patty was sure she was okay. Mum would leave again and come back and leave again and come back until Patty would cry and cling to her mother. As she grew up her mother tried these tactics every time she wanted to go out with friends, or on a date, or move away to university and later to get work. She was constantly led to feel she has to cling to her mother, even though she wanted to have a life of her own. With counselling she was able to learn new skills to allow her to set firm boundaries around her mother’s behaviour. She moved away, made new friends and found a partner. She also learned not to fall for her mother’s manipulative tactics any more.
Parents, follow your dreams. You may find that, after your children are born, you may have to pursue them more slowly. But don’t stop completely. Follow your dreams and let your child learn from that. Let your child have a happy, fulfilled parent who does not cling to their child and make every move to stop that child from growing up. Instead celebrate the joy of parenting your child and delight to watch them pursue their own dreams. Instead of being like Patty’s mother, be like Emma who came to see me to find the courage to continue to fulfil her dreams and to balance that with parenting her children.