Discovering the right balance between perfect parenting and a meaningful marriage can be difficult. Dr Clare helps us address the issue.
Finding balance is one of the most common concerns among people seeking help from a life coach. Some people need help finding the right balance between their working and private lives; others need help finding the balance between their parenting and their marriage.
Many of these people seek help from coaches, despite the fact that they have confident, thriving children. Why is this so? The main reason is because they are struggling in their marriage. The transition from being a married couple to being a married couple with children can be a real challenge. It demands a totally different routine and for many people, this can come as a great shock.
Let’s go back for a moment to the life of a childless couple. Pre-children, there was time for you, time for exercise, time for friends and family, time for your husband, career, study, travel and everything was relatively calm. You were in control and you had the freedom to do a great deal of exactly what you wanted. You had uninterrupted time with your partner and, quite often, less to worry about too!
In contrast, after children enter your lives, having even a little time to nurture your relationship with your partner is a real treat. The needs of your children can leave you drained and exhausted, both emotionally and physically, at the end of each day. Despite all the joy of sharing the successes and milestones together, many boats capsize while navigating these rapids.
Marriage breakdowns happen for many different reasons. However, neglect, owing to the fact that both parents spend more time attending to the needs of their children than looking out for each other, is a popular contributing factor.
Wanting to spend every waking minute that you aren’t working with your young children is a completely natural response. They grow up so fast and so it can feel like time with them is short. It is tempting to think that you can put intimacy with your partner on hold for a while, until after your children have reached some vital milestone. This isn’t the case though. The key, again, is finding the balance. Happy parents, who are secure and confident, are more likely to bring up well-adjusted children. So, ensuring your connection with your partner is key to a happy marriage and to happy children.
For many parents, the only time they have alone with each other is after the children are in bed. It is hard to come up with thoughtful appreciations or intimate overtures when, mostly, especially during the first few years of a child’s life, you may barely have enough energy to stagger into bed and pull up the covers. If this is the only time partners make for each other, what’s the impact? The worst case scenario is a slowly sinking ship.
It can make a big difference if couples set aside time for themselves together, when they are fresh and have some energy to offer each other. Some couples choose a set time each week, where family or children’s activities permit them to, for example, have a coffee together. Weekend mornings are often a good time for this. As the stress of the work week recedes and before the daily demands of the children start stacking up, couples sometimes find their best opportunity to focus on each other. This time should be spent truly “checking in” with your partner, to see how they really are right at that moment.
Why is this so difficult? Well, because whilst you spend this time together, you will be aware of all the jobs that need to be completed before the party that afternoon, before the delivery arrives and before the children finish their club or sport. What’s the solution? Give yourself permission to let things go and to really live in the moment just for a while.
This time together needs to be planned in advance. It’s about being willing to co-operate and be flexible and truly understand the big picture as well as what are the essential things on your “to do” list.
Even if you have no one close who can look after your children for you, try designing an alliance with them once they are old enough. This could involve allowing them to choose a DVD together that they watch whilst you are allowed to sit outside together. You can coach your children about how to make a snack and occupy their time by themselves. In fact, many people believe that children in modern times are given so much structure that they find it difficult to just play and occupy their own time. If a sibling conflict breaks out, teach them how to solve it on their own.
If they know that you are not going to get involved, children quite often just get on co-operating with each other because, actually, many conflicts can stem from a need to draw upon adult attention. Just ensure that they know they will be getting their family time too.
So, you’ve developed a fool proof plan for how you can get some time together. What next? Once you have allotted yourselves some time, be sure to use it wisely.
Whatever you do, focus on being together. Pay attention to each other and consciously try to say things that build a sense of connection. Looking after your relationship in this way is one of the best things you can do for your children.