All of them complain about a partner who has checked out.
A loss of connection.
A lack of attention.
A feeling of "I deserve better than this."
A loss of identity.
A yearning for an escape.
I have no doubt in my mind that the men in these relationships feel the same way. In fact, I had many of these same complaints in my own marriage.
"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
~ Theodore Hesburgh
The fact is, raising small children is extremely difficult work. As the parents of the children, there has to be a stronger effort to stay connected, to listen, to be attentive, to show appreciation, to take time for each other AND for ourselves. So many of us lose ourselves in our children. So many of us parents today are trying to be more attentive, more allowing, more something better than MY parents did for me.
And when we do that, I think we're sacrificing a big part of ourselves, aren't we?
We're losing ourselves. One of my girlfriends told me she "deifies" her children. When we do that, doesn't that mean we're nothing but slaves to our children? Nothing but mere worshipers to their every whim, need and desire?
Maybe what I'm saying here sounds blasphemous to new parents or even newly single parents. I remember feeling that way. I remember those first few days without my girls... as a new mom... as a newly single mom... I thought I would die. They were my very soul, my lifeline, the blood that coursed through my veins.
Then one day, I thought, "Ok, I need to do something for me. Something that makes me feel like ME again." I felt guilty about it. How dare I do something I enjoy that takes me away from my children!
Then I got over it eventually.
Well, ok, I still have those mom-guilt ridden moments...
Now, because I nurture me, I feel like a better parent than I was before. Sure, I'm a *different* parent. There are lots of things I wish I could do for my girls. Because of lack of time or money or the fact that there's only one of me and two of them, I can't always do those things. But you know what? They're doing JUST FINE. In fact, they're blossoming into two intelligent, mature, sweet, caring, independent young girls who appreciate the things I AM able to do for them.
I am a better me to my man too. We're both parents but we take time for each other. We both realize the value in staying connected to each other. We both recognize that date nights MUST BE HAD. Time together is very important. Time alone, even from each other, helps us stay sane.
The sad part is that each of us had to move on from past relationships where we *didn't* do that in order to see the value in it.
And come to think of it, I think losing yourself PERIOD is probably the leading cause of relationship demise. Many of us, parents or not, lose ourselves in our partner and forget to nurture ourselves.
Ya know how, when you're on an airplane and they're going over the safety features of the plane, they always say,
"In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop from overhead. For those traveling with small children, be sure to fasten your own mask before assisting your child."
And that whole "it takes a village" to raise a child?
Well, hey, as cliche as they sound, I've come to realize they're true.
- Take care of yourself first or you're no good to your child or anyone else. Find an outlet of pleasure that isn't harmful to your relationship with your partner or yourself. Eat healthily. Exercise.
- Ask for help. Then ALLOW others to help you.
- Let some things go. I promise the mess will still be there tomorrow. Even better than that, reward your children for picking up their own messes.
- Say "no" sometimes. To those things that push you into overwhelm mode. To your children. I promise they'll survive.
- Laugh more. Alone. With your partner. With your friends. Then you'll find yourself laughing more with your children.
- Get a babysitter and get your 'bow chica bow wow' on with your partner. Go see a movie. Hold hands and take a walk through the park. Sit quietly on your patio and stare at the stars. You don't even have to talk.
These things take effort on the part of BOTH parents. Unfortunately, we're not taught these things. We're not warned. We're not even aware.
I'm no divorce counselor but I do know that if more parents of small children did these things, I think the divorce rate would decrease and there would be a lot more happier people.
Big people AND little people.
***Coincidentally, I wrote this blog post and then saw Shrek Forever After that evening. The movie's focus was this exact same topic.***