This week I read a very thought-provoking piece called “How American Parenting is killing the American marriage” by Danielle and Astro Teller. This piece truly spoke to me on many levels and I basically agreed with 99% of the content.
The gist of the whole article is that at some point between the previous generation and today’s parents we’ve shifted from trying to create a self-sufficient functioning adult to holding up parenting as a religion. We have somehow put our children on pedestals worshiping nothing else besides them. With this shift the american marriage has suffered.
The idea that if you ever speak ill of your child you’re blasphemous and to not constantly put them first makes it seem like you do not love “the gods” aka children enough. Even worse if you do not put all of your time, focus and love on the “gods” then you are not a good parent. Because of this trend most marriages in America are not surviving or having major issues.
I will say that I have been lucky thus far that my mother (mother of four daughters and still married for 37 years) repeated to me over and over that I needed to foster and nurture my marriage and friendships. She repeatedly told me that your children are important but not everything.
I have seen this over and over again with friends and even myself that it is easy to almost lose your identity and only become “MOM” or “DAD”. I hate to say this but I see it more so in women where they no longer foster their relationships including the one with themselves. We put everything into our children and unfortunately forget to put anything into our own happiness.
Why must we worship our children? A 90-year-old woman told me “Children were a wonderful addition to the family and yourself, they were not the only part of it or the sole focus!” She continues “God forbid your children are wrong? Your generation has no trust in anyone including teachers, friends, community, or yourselves. You take the word of a child as scripture and it is ridiculous.”
As much as I hate to agree, I do. We no longer believe in ourselves and we sure as hell don’t trust others. We live in this constant, anxiety filled world where we are thinking if I am not perfect my kids will suffer. If I am not protective enough something will happen, and if I ever try to put me or my husband before my kids I will somehow explode.
Do not get me wrong I am a scientist by training I understand that it is in our nature to protect and love our children so fiercely but how about a little self-love and a little love for the partner whom you chose to have these fabulous kids with? I hate the term “date night” – maybe we should call it “Happy SANE Parents” night.
I speak to countless friends (and feel it myself sometimes) and they speak of the problems, stress and craziness that comes when children come. They always feel disconnected and downright annoyed with their partners. When I ask “When is the last time you and your partner did something without the kids that didn’t involve grocery shopping?”
Most cannot remember.
I remember people giving me and my husband looks and comments when we planned a week-long trip alone without our son (he was 2 years old). The plan was to have some fun before we got pregnant again with our second.
“Oh my god! How can you leave your child? I would be so nervous? I would miss them so much. I could never do that!”
Well first off I did miss my son but you know what I realized on that trip? I realized I missed me and my husband even more. We reconnected in every fashion and were carefree, rested and loving for a whole week. It re-energized us to get back up on the saddle for a newborn. We all know that a baby equals no sleep which is torture. That awesome trip lingered in my mind while I wanted to murder my husband only after our 2nd baby was born because I had not gotten more than two hours of sleep in 3 weeks.
Americans need to realize that while it doesn’t have to be a trip away to an island, we do need time away from our kids. You have to nurture your relationships. It is also okay to not always put your children first ALL THE TIME. It is OK to not “like” your kids all the time either. I do not like my husband, my parents, friends or siblings all the time. I’m pretty sure they don’t like me all the time either! This does not mean I do not love them or wouldn’t die for them in a second if need be. Recognizing that children are people and flawed as opposed to perfect is imperative to relieving the pressure that we must always be working to make a perfect child and thinking they are perfect. By changing the way we think, and including ourselves into our daily happiness equation we can probably relieve extra stress. Who wouldn’t agree that happy parents make for a happy family life?
IMAGINE less tension with your partner, and even less stress/pressure/anxiety within yourself.
We have enough pressure and stress from parenting, work, and society to add in our own.
So to my hardworking, stressed out disconnected mothers out there, I say plan an overnight, date, or even a walk with your partner and then plan a get together with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. You will be shocked at how much better you will feel about yourself on a personal level but also a parenting level.