Archive for the ‘marriage first’ category

Tanning Mom — do as I say, not as I do

May 21, 2012
Patricia Krentcil looks pretty scary. When she got charged with child abuse because her 5 year old got sun burned, it's an over-reaction by the media. Tanning is not appropriate for kids, obviously. Patricia Krentcil clearly has a tanning addiciton. Good parenting is about setting a good example.

Patricia Krentcil, the famous tanning mom who is charged with child abuse because her 5-year-old daughter got sunburned.

I feel empathy for Patricia Krentcil, the tanning mom charged with child abuse because her 5-year-old red-headed child came to school with a sunburn.The authorities over-reacted to Patricia Krentcil’s bad example for her five children.

Since when is a sunburn is considered child abuse? If anything, the tanning salon is guilty of negligence for allowing a 5-year-old into a tanning booth. If that happened at all. Mom says the kid stayed out in the sun too long.As the mother of four children, I understand the need for parental self-indulgence, and the results of insufficient “me-time.” I became cranky, depressed and resentful when I spent little time and money on me.

With five kids, hiding away alone in a tanning coffin sounds like much-needed peace-of-mind for Patricia Krentcil. All caregivers can benefit from “me time” to make us better parents and keep the marriage going — in activities that aren’t self-destructive.

Tots-to-teens can see through parental hypocrisy of, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Tween and teens abhor hypocrisy and will call parents on it. Kids absorb unspoken messages when we tan until we bake, drink until we fall down, smoke until we hack, and eat until we waddle.

When kids witness addictive behavior in action, they’ll feel the impact for the rest of their lives. They’ll understand addiction as something to turn to in times of despair and depression. They’ll experience the anger, helplessness, disappointment and frustration of addiction in those they depend on. They’ll either see addiction as inevitable and acceptable or an evil to be avoided.

The real message from The Tanning Mom is parents need a break from their kids, that sets an example worth imitating.

Me and we time

June 27, 2011
For parents, the most valuable investment in your family is your marriage. Take time to spend together because parenting is all about family. The stronger your family, the happier and better-adjusted your children will be. You are the role model for how to take care of yourselves and sustain a marriage.
“We time” is an essential investment in a family’s well-being and preservation.

I remember my last few hours of “me time” in June: the baby was down for her morning nap, the boys were at their last day of preschool and my oldest was in first grade. I thought, “What should I do with this time, probably my last uninterrupted moment until September?”

I got myself a snack that I didn’t have to share, sat in the recliner and treated myself to an hour of reading a book. It was my last uninterrupted daytime moment until September. My daughter calls this “me time.” Mothers and fathers — especially full-time mom/dads — need
“me time” to be better parents. Me time makes us more patient, loving and kind.

Couples need “we time” to stay connected, to forgive each other for being imperfect and to have fun together — one of the best ways to preserve marriage.

Bob and I created “we time” at least one weekend a year, and week-long vacations alone together every few years. We hoodwinked relatives (usually my mother), asked single friends to come for the weekend, hired nannies, and traded childcare with other families to re-connect and have childless fun. We also went out on dates at least once a month.

I recommend a regime of “we time” to all parents. Kids grow up and leave home. Marriages can erode and leave home without regular nourishment.

“We time” was money in the marriage bank. If both parents are employed, “we time” is just as essential as it is for domo-gurus (stay-at-home moms/dads).

I worried for our marriage when our nest emptied after 25 continuous years of parenting. Regular doses of “we time” along with frequent tune-ups (marriage therapy and marriage encounters) and intensive workshops helped our marriage survive and thrive.

The first 20 years of marriage and raising little children creates the most stress on time, money and your relationship. Hang in there. Schedule “we time” and “me time” this summer. It’s an enjoyable investment.

How to live happily ever after

April 11, 2011
a strong marriage is the most important thing to a family. Children need both parents. Parents need each other. Families work together when there is no divorce. keeping a marriage going is one of the most important aspects of family life. Parents must take time together to have fun without the children.

A marriage starts out with high hopes of living happily ever after.

You know the grim reality — about half of all marriages fail.  The best investment we can make for our children is to defeat that statistic.

HOW? Work at it. Working at marriage can be fun — especially spending time together without the children. I recommend parents leave the kids home and go out on monthly dates and to go away annually for at least a weekend. The excursions can be simple, frugal and fun.

After having fun together, practice these three relationship basics.

1. Show up. Make home, marriage and family a priority. Some pursuits might have to be put on hold while raising children. Do what you say you’re going to do. Have family meetings.

2. Pay attention. Notice each other. Talk to each other. Be fully present. Give each other compliments, do little things for each other without needing recognition. Tune up your marriage in therapy and at workshops. Treat a marriage like a car that needs regular maintenance. If you don’t take care of it, it will fall into disrepair.

3. Tell the truth. Nothing undermines a relationship faster than if you can’t trust that person because they can’t be depended upon to tell the truth.

Children grow up and go away. Marriages can also go away if you don’t feed and water them regularly.

The first 20 years are the toughest years of marriage maintenance for two reasons:

1. You’re young and can be self-centered,  selfish, impatient and have high expectations your partner will anticipate and fulfill all of your needs. I started out this way and it took about 20 years to grow out of those mistakes.

2. You’re focused on the children, advancing in a career and making ends meet. Combined with youth and mistaken expectations, and neglecting your connection by not spending time together, marriages can wobble and break.

After 20 years, the kids and you have grown up and your career and income are more stable. It also helps if you both agree on money, sex and kids.

Schedule a monthly date TODAY and set up child care or trade with friends so you can get away for a weekend alone together. Have fun!

The kids go back to school Monday!

February 24, 2011

Dealing with stress, Part 2

For those of us in New England, the February vacation is almost over!

To get through the next three days and survive the stress of vacation [yes, vacations are stressful times!  here are a few suggestions.

1.Get outside with the kids. Sunshine, fresh air and trees are marvelous stress-relievers. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the woods, using some of that snow for entertainment, or walking in a city together.

2. Get a change of scenery. Get a library pass for a museum — any museum will do. Visit a train station and watch the trains come & go. Ride a public bus or subway. That’s an adventure for the kids. There’s always my favorite place — the library.

3. Get together with another family for a pot luck, games, and to play your musical instruments for each other. Great fun.

4. Trade child care with a friend so you can get out alone or with your spouse for some child-free time. Marriages that ignored will eventually crumble, like a building that is neglected falls into disrepair and become uninhabitable. Cultivate cheap thrills, like the suggestions in number one. Get out the x-country skis and snow shoes. Track animals in the woods. Trade sleepovers with another family so you can have the house together alone.

5. Cook something adventuresome that you normally don’t cook. Don’t worry about the mess.

Remember, this too, shall pass. They will grow up faster than you can believe.

Good parenting is sustainable and worth effort. Back to school is three days away!

Empty nest isn’t so empty

September 1, 2010
Empty nest comes and goes. Empty nest is an opportunity to re-discover couple hood. Empty nest is hardly and empty feeling. This is a shot of our full nest, with four chidren. Raising children is one of life's greatest challenges. Raising children together meant a lot of good parenting and sacrifice of our couple-hood.

The gang. It feels so normal when they're home, and equally as normal when it rebounds back to the two of us.

“Be prepared for the possibility of your parents divorcing during your freshman year,” read the letter from my daughter’s college in 2006. I, too, wondered if our marriage of 26 years would survive.

Our youngest had prepared us for empty nest during high school with a universal strategy.

  1. Avoid parents.
  2. Get involved with a job, friends and school activities.
  3. Interact with enough courtesy to access the car and money.
  4. Be out when parents are home, and home when they’re out.
  5. Claim, “I can’t eat dinner with you tonight, I have to work.”

When Saturday soccer abruptly ended during her freshman year, it opened up possibilities I had forgotten existed. When she quit Sunday afternoon soccer, whole weekends arrived with no demand for our witnessing, wallet or chaffering.

Even weeknights brimmed with possibilities — no need to whip up dinner, wolf it down and drive someone somewhere.

Her senior year of high school launched us into unfamiliar turf: home alone together often. It was like visiting a foreign country I hadn’t been to in ages, with an old friend, who I hadn’t had time for in a while.

At first, our couple-rebirth was awkward and unfamiliar. Then it blossomed into glorious, fun and eventually, normal.

With our new life for two, we moved into a house in need of total renovation, a distraction for our first two years of empty nest. We’ve always shined under a full-court press.

Next, we took some trips together and rekindled an old interest, duplicate bridge. We play with gusto at least twice a week. It’s a partnership game that’s a lot like staying married. The best teams succeed under duress, don’t berate each other too much for mistakes, and celebrate victory.

The college schedule brought them home with astonishing regularity for a dozen years. As soon as we got used to them being home, filling the fridge with food, sharing cars and TVs, they departed. Silence and stillness descend, until another holiday.

The final curtain has fallen with youngest settled in graduate school. We’ve rehearsed during the renovation project, across the bridge table, and in the quiet of the dinner table set for two.

I fell in love with him. Again. It’s hardly an empty feeling.

Children will not go away when ignored. Marriages will.

July 28, 2010

THE MOST important relationship in a family is between the parents.

Parenting means keeping marriaging. Keep the marriage going by investing in it. Bob & I are spending time traveling in china together, without the children. We make the effort to spend time together. We have marriage dates. We have fun together. We have sex. We laugh.

Here we are in China, having fun together. You can have fun in your own back yard and bedroom, too. Go to China when college tuition bills end.mother, or father-father.

Divorce is the MOST disruptive event in a child’s life – emotionally, economically, and logistically. No child wants his/her parents to get divorced. Period.

Hence, parents  invest in your relationship. Take these actions.

  1. Take time to be together regularly. Set a monthly date if necessary. Laugh. Have sex. Have fun together doing something you both like.
  2. Talk daily. Ironically, when my husband traveled for corporate America, we talked MORE because I set aside 30 minutes at the end of the day after the kids were in bed to talk to him, uninterrupted. I made it a priority to stay in touch with him. We had a rule — no fighting when he was on the road because it felt like a dead-end when we hung up, with nowhere to go.
  3. Go away together as a couple once a year, for at least an overnight. “As a couple” means without the children! Find someone to take care of your children – pay, trade, ask relatives or friends. I found people to care for our four children and a dog. Crazy people are out there! Some of them are childless & might enjoy the adventure. Others do it because they’re related to you. We did all of the above – paid, traded, and asked friends/relatives.
  4. GET TUNE-UPS regularly. You maintain your car and your house, do the same for your marriage with the same regularity. Without fail. Filling up your tank every week with gas translates to weekly dates as simple as reserving time together after putting the children to bed.We had a standard in-house date of dinner and a movie. I fed the kids early, put them in front of their movie while we ate. Then we put them to bed and watched our movie.
  5. Get professional help until you learn to communicate openly and heal your childhood wounds. Therapy, workshops and groups are all WAY CHEAPER than getting divorced. Invest in your marriage, it’s worth it.

We followed the above guidelines and are going on 30 years together, and survived raising four children, moving five times and financial crises.

The first 20 years are the hardest. After the children leave home everything seems so simple. I fell in love with my husband again after the children left home. It’s wonderful to be with my life mate and the father of my children.

We drove over many bumps in the road to get here, with unexpected stops and destinations. HANG ON for the ride. It’s worth it.

A smashing book launch party

May 13, 2010

The book launch party was a success because of my support crew. So many people came from so many areas of my life, it was like a big birthday party for me. I really appreciated the love, support and encouragement. The dog started reading the book and had some comments.

The kitchen sink faucet broke 15 minutes before the party started and stayed broken even though Bob tried to fix it. NO WORRIES! It was a wonderful party and launched the marketing efforts of “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.”

I really appreciated my daughter Casey’s contributions as official party helper. It made the party much more fun and less stressful. I felt supported and loved. My son Noah came to the party and I forgot to give him a chore. Oh well, he would have if I asked. I was happy he came.

Gonzo is reading my recently published book, "Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people." Gonzo is learning about how to get teenagers, teens, children and toddlers to behave, without praise, pay, punishment or reward. They only get allowances when they contribute the welfare of the family. Why not retire from being the house servant?

I'm not motivated by money, either.

Casey and Bob support me in getting ready for the party. A key element to reducing stress in families is ASKING FOR HELP. CAsey is making cookies for the book launch party and Bob is fixing the broken spigot. They are my support system. It takes a village to raise a child.

My support system for the book launch party. My eldest daughter Casey is making chocolate chip cookies and my husband, Reliable Bob, is fixing the faucet that broke 15 minutes before the party started.