Living with Children: Parenting should be a part-time job

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OK, I’ve had it! I’ve reached my limit! My tolerance for well-intentioned nonsense is kaput! Over and done with! Maxed out! Stop it! Just stop it!

I’m referring to the oft-tendered recommendation that a mom and dad set aside a weekly “date night” for the purpose of taking a break from parenting and rejuvenating their marriage.

First, does anyone actually think that three to five hours a week spent in the roles of husband and wife is sufficient to maintain a vibrant marriage? Five hours over approximately 112 hours of waking time per week is 4.46%.

When I ask people who are married with children to estimate the percentage of overall waking time they spend in the roles of husband or wife, the average answer is 10%, which simply means parenting rules in the American family. That further means that the typical American child rarely sees what a functional marriage looks like. For one thing, a functional marriage is not a 5% or 10% marriage. It’s 80%. It’s certainly no less than 66.7% percent.

This is a fact, however counterintuitive and paradoxical: Nothing puts a more solid foundation of well-being under a child’s feet than the knowledge his parents are in a committed, vibrant marriage. A child needs to see his parents enjoy one another’s company, even that they would rather talk to one another and spend time with one another than to or with him. That defines the 80%.

The shrieking and blaspheming you may now be hearing is coming from people who have become ensnared in the mental straitjacket of parenting correctness, the most debilitating doctrine of which is “Children need lots of attention.”

No, outside infancy and toddlerhood, they do not. Children who act like they need lots of attention are nearly always children who are receiving entirely too much attention. The children in question are addicted to being center stage in their families.

Those children who tolerate, even prefer being virtually ignored under normal, day-to-day circumstances — they are rare but still exist — are the most secure, happiest children. They know they are loved. They know their boundaries, first and foremost of which is they are not members of the wedding. On an average hourly basis, their parents leave the children in question to their own devices, which, speaking as a former child who was left to his own devices, is an incomparable gift (so long as the devices in question are not screen-based).

Mom and Dad should be part-time jobs. During the labor-intensive first two years of a child’s life, part-time is an ideal. Past that point, part-time should be the state of things. Husband and wife should be most of the time. Most-of-the-time husbands and wives take vacations without their kids — not all vacations, mind you, but at least one a year. Most-of-the-time husbands and wives put their kids to bed relatively early because they look forward to being husbands and wives without distractions.

Most-of-the-time husbands and wives don’t have one night a week set aside for being husband and wife. They are husband and wife whenever they feel like it, which is most of the time.

KRT MUG SLUGGED: ROSEMOND KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY DON WILLIAMSON/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER (March 22) John Rosemond writes for the Charlotte Observer. (mvw) 2005

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at [email protected]; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.





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