Raising children can be exhausting work… not to mention time consuming. There are days where, after your child is in bed, the only thing you want to do is rot your brain in front of a screen and be left alone. And if you are working as well, you an find yourself feeling pretty strapped for time and energy. There can be a very strong temptation to cut any further demands on your time and energy out:
- We can neglect our relationships with our spouse.
- We can choose to let creative hobbies slide.
- We can limit our time spent on working out and staying fit.
- We can cut out social activities that don’t center around our children.
In the end, may people I have worked with have settled on being just a “stay-at-home-parent” or a “work-at-home-parent” and let themselves be content with that.
The problem is that we can’t afford to be just those things. If we narrow our focus to greatly, we start neglecting our basic psychological needs. We need a great deal of variety in our lives in order to be healthy:
First, we need to have healthy relationships that include both give and take an have strong, clear boundaries. We can’t rely on our children to give us the kind of companionship we need to be emotionally strong. For that we need healthy adult relationships, with our partner and with friends. If we don’t get our emotional needs in healthy relationships, human beings have a terrible habit of building unhealthy ones with our children to get those needs met – relationships that hurt our children a great deal in the long run.
Our relationship with our spouse (or co-parent) in particular is critical for both our health and the health of our children. The relationship that you model with your partner will shape the relationships that your children have in their lives.
Children sometimes have conflicting needs in their development. They need a parent who loves them unconditionally and generously, on the one hand; on the other, they need a parent who will be critical, hold them to high standards, and whose approval means something. One parent can’t be both, we need someone else around and engaged to give children what they need.
If we are the primary caregiver in a family, then we need to make sure that other parent is engaged both with the kids, and with us. That means making sure that we are putting effort into our relationship. In a marriage, that means being supportive and emotionally available, it means being honest, and it means keeping the sexual part of our relationship alive by keeping ourselves attractive an remaining receptive.
The funny thing is, that the things that make us the most attractive are often our work, hobbies, and interests. We are attracted to our spouses not just because they are physically healthy, but also because we see them behaving in an attractive manner. For many years I worked with people to help them revive sexless marriages. One pattern I saw repeated over and over again was people giving up hobbies and activities in order to become more “responsible” and “selfless” spouses or parents. Almost always the fact that the person’s husband or wife wasn’t seeing them dancing, playing instruments, going hiking, playing hockey, or racing motorcycles slowly lowered that spouse’s attraction and the amount of sex in the marriage tapered off. There is a good chance that the things you do for fun are also the ones that make you most attractive.
Our hobbies and interests are also essential to our health because they keep us from falling into ruts. Getting out and doing something we love draws our minds into the present moment – they give us a sense of joyfulness and flow that is critical to breaking unhealthy patterns of thought. These breaks keep mood disorders like anxiety and depression at bay. If we are always staying at home with our kids (as we are going to be tempted to do,) we are not doing what we need to go out and get an emotional reset, and problems like getting depressed are more likely to happen.
For that matter, we need more exercise than chasing around a pre-school age child can demand of us. While they may feel like a handful, kids do not make their parents burn enough calories to keep themselves healthy. We need way to get more exercise than a kid alone can provide.
In other words, we need to always be a parent, plus something else. Being a stay-at-home or even a work-at-home parent is just not enough.
● We need to be dedicated to getting out and having some kind of fun with other people.
● We need to intentionally work at being an attractive spouse and a good lover.
● We need to be a fitness nut and encourage our kids to be the same.
● We need to have at least one exciting, time-consuming hobby that we want to make the time to enjoy.
I strive not just to be a Dad and a Coach, I try to be a Dad and Coach plus a Dungon Master to a local D&D club, plus s guy who an turn anything into innuendo, plus an excellent masseur, plus a guy who does aerobic dance every day, plus a guy who builds and flies his own racing drones, plus an amateur photographer.
Finding the energy to be a charming friend, excellent lover, and keep to your hobbies all at once can seem like an impossible task. There are things that you need to do to make it happen:
● You need to learn Time Management so that you can make the most of your day.
● You need to learn a little Assertiveness so that you can get what you need and draw boundaries around your hobby time.
● You need to give up on being the perfect parent – instead realize that a parent who is sane and happy is going t teach their kids how to be the same, and that will be better for your kids in the long run.
● You need to eat right and sleep well.
● You need to earn to make yourself a priority.
● And, thankfully, you just have to actively apply these things for a little while actively, and then they will become habits. If you can keep your energy up for a little while, it will become natural and effortless to maintain in the long run.