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.