Child-free time could save your relationship!

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It may seem like a pipe-dream and perhaps even one you feel you don’t have the energy to take up even if you did have the opportunity but some research I came across this week made me think about how little we mums prioritise our relationships beyond being a parent.

According to research by Care.Com (apparently the worlds largest online destination for finding and managing family care) 3 out of 4 parents are spending five or less date nights out a year.  The findings also show that 81 per cent of parents say spending quality time with their partner is at the bottom of their list of things to juggle.

This is pretty depressing news.  Although the research focuses on those with a partner I think the all-consuming nature of parenthood can sometimes impact our friendships and the other relationships we value in our lives too. I don’t have a partner and as a working, single-mum it’s sometimes even more difficult to find some time just for me.  If I do find that rare occasion I either don’t know what to do with myself or feel guilty for not using it to do all those things I never have time to do, which really need doing but are really boring, stressful or just not fun!!

There seems to be a new world-view of parenting that you are only doing a good job if you are putting your child’s needs before yours at every opportunity, pouring yourself into their existence and well-being, even if it is to the detriment of your own.  I would argue this is counter productive.  As we’ve often said here at MTAM, we believe a happy and fulfilled you makes for a happy and fulfilled child!

Marriage experts and authors Nicky & Sila Lee (authors of The Marriage Book and The Parenting Book) are often quoted as saying the best way to do a good job of parenting is to prioritise and make a success of your relationship with your partner and then to live this out in front of your children.  They argue that by prioritising your spouse/partner and the needs of your relationship is actually what enables and empowers you to be the best parent you can be.

The guilt factor, as usual, also emerged in Care.com’s research, they found 62 per cent of mums feel guilty about the lack of time they spend with their husband, and half feel like they are judged about this too.

Liz Fraser, one of the UK’s best-known writers and broadcasters on all aspects of modern family life. blogs for Care and wrote on the subject this week (see article here).  she stressed the importance of ‘building some child-free time into your life.’  She also said parents need to be realistic about it though;  ‘Not every day. Not even every week, necessarily. But every month is a very good plan.’

You may be looking at your life right now and just thinking it is utterly impossible to go out with your partner or best friend right now for even one night a month, but by enlisting the help of a sitter, friend or family member, it really is.  It really is a case of MAKING IT HAPPEN.  After all it could be what saves your relationship and your sanity!

Liz Fraser’s grave words in her blog remind us of the devastating effect neglecting our relationships and indeed ourselves can have on us:

‘The biggest killer in any relationship, whether romantic or among family and friends, is not spending enough time together in a relaxed, sociable way. When parenting becomes a business, and the two of you exist only as cohabiting babysitters and housekeepers, you are walking in a direct line towards…sorry, who are you again?  And almost more worrying than wondering who your partner is, is wondering who YOU are or where the ‘You’ who existed before you had children, has gone.’

So in the name of being ‘More than a Mum’ we challenge you; Find ways to go out for that one drink; that one film; that dinner, and be the old, child-free ‘You’ again – at least for once a month.  You deserve it and your relationships will thank you for it!

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