Thursday, January 13, 2011

# 6 - and a big WIP - Marriage.

(WIP = Work In Progress)

I am really slacking on finishing up what I set out to write, mostly because I am stuck on *this* topic. Getting what I know in my head out into a form of sensible text language is proving difficult.

My sixth "this is what I know so far about parenting" comment was about marriage.

Being that my husband and I will be celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary next month (although we've been parenting together and living together for a little over 6 years), I am really not in a position to speak from any type of experience whatsoever.

Let's look at some statistics:

Divorce rates in Canada sit at approx 38% (by 30th year of marriage) with the peak year for divorce happening at the 4th year of marriage and from there the "risk" gradually diminishes. 60% of divorces happen in the first 15 years of marriage and that sounds to me like the time period when children are young in the family. I would guess that the majority (but certainly not all) of couples who have children in marriage would do so in those first few years of marriage, and with the average age of a first time mother in canada sitting at just above 29 years old and the average age of marriage being 28.5 for women, it sounds like that guess is pretty reasonable.

Let me ask you something. It's rhetorical, so don't feel as though you *have* to answer, although I love the comments I get and like to know what people think. If you have young children, how much time do you feel like you have to spend on yourself and your relationship with your significant other? How easy is it for you to drop your responsibilities and focus on your spouse and forget about who unloaded the dishwasher, who remembered to take the garbage out, how those muddy footprints got in the livingroom or how you are going to "get it all done" by bedtime?

Now I'm going to be entirely unscientific and manipulate my stats to support what I want them to say. That's the purpose of statistics, right? When I look at the stats - I see a correlation between a family with young children and divorce. But this post isn't supposed to be about how to avoid divorce (or unhappy marriage) , it's supposed to be about how prioritizing your marriage is going to make you a better parent. And somehow I have to get that point of cross without giving the wrong impression: that single or unmarried parents are somehow lesser parents. Because I do not believe that at all.

Okay. Well, on that.

I've noticed some things. Well, a lot of things. But primarily, I have noticed that some of the happiest couples I know seem to find a babysitter on a fairly regular basis and go out together without kids. Going out on a date together is something visible to the outside world that I can observe that says to me "they value spending time together" and I also know that as outsiders, we really have no idea how happy the people who seem to be happy really are. Right?

I don't get the opportunity to go out on a traditional "date" with my husband very often. At all. Hardly ever. except for work functions. ahem. And that is largely due to the fact that 6 children are expensive and we're saving for a house, my husband works most evenings. Oh, and the small fact that finding a way to go out without children when you have 6 is challenging and downright scary at times. We do, however, go to Karate together during lunch hours twice a week, or go out to lunch together when all the kids are at daycare and school.

Going out isn't the only way to prioritize your relationship, of course. In fact, I'm not sure there is a task list of things to do in order to be able to say "Aha! I put my marriage first! check" It's accomplished by living each day with putting time with your spouse as a priority, even over bathing your kid every night (because really, they can go another night without a bath, can't they?) or checking your email before bed or dropping the dry cleaning off or RSVPing to that birthday party. It's taking the time to ask how the day went, a hug in the kitchen before you dish out food to the 'can I have ketchup?, can I have some milk? is it dinnertime? i don't have a fork! which plate is mine?" kids.

And how does this make you a better parent? Well - hopefully nobody is actually asking that question. But given that my post is to expand on my statement that:

#6 - If you are married, your family will benefit the most from a solid marriage. Therefore, the #1 thing you can do as a parent is invest yourself in your marriage.

I had better tie all this in on how this is so important. Well - like children, when parents feel right they act right. Feeling happy in your marriage will make it easier to parent effectively and be less reactive and knee-jerk about your responses to children's behavior. Happy, content parents are less likely to spend a lot of time arguing and bickering and the environment in the home surrounding grumpy parents tends to be reflected in grumpy, arguing, bickering children.

Tension begets more tension and keeping communication and mutual respect between partners is easiest to do when time and energy is put into the relationship rather than just taken out of it. (Life isn't all roses, and I also believe that children need to be exposed to problem solving and see a healthy argument resolved). The way I see it, keeping your marriage as the #1 priority in your family will trickle down positively into your role as a mother or father and be reflected back to you in children who feel more secure and happy and acting "right".

And if you've read the previous post on being an imperfect parent, I will need to reread what I've written here often to remind myself to act accordingly to what I believe :)







3 comments:

  1. Kate, you are definitely onto something (and thank you for sharing!) My hubby and I have always said that WE are the foundation of our family, therefore we have to take precious care of what started it all– us. Now, granted it's not always easy, but effort (with a capital E) from both partners pays off.

    This New Year's Day, I actually went through our calendar and pre-booked one date night every month and have put it on our list of monthly babysitting requests. Admittedly, it did feel quite awkward to have to schedule a date night 6 months out (no spontaneity in that) but it feels great knowing we are guaranteed uninterrupted time together.

    The one thing I have learned after being married for 10 years and together for 15 is both people in the relationship change, especially after children; worldviews simply shift. Dialogue, patience, space and remembering why you fell in love in the first place seem to be some of the main guide posts to beating the statistics.

    A quote I will always remember came from an elder woman on Oprah (yes, Oprah). She said the secret to her long lasting marriage was her and her husband never fell out of love with each other at the same time. Now that makes sense ;)

    On that note, I wish the Billson foundation always remains strong.

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  2. The number one priority has to be commitment. If the husband and wife are committed to each other and determined to keep the relationship alive and well, then they'll do what it takes.

    A date night is a good idea, but not always feasible. We simply couldn't afford dates when we were in the throes of parenting. Instead, we put the kids to bed a bit early and spent some time cuddling on the couch or sitting on the porch together, sans children.

    Communication is key, but again, it's not always easy. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus so the way they communicate is absolutely different. But spouses that are committed to the relationship will find ways to communicate, ways to understand, ways to continue the dialogue and not let misunderstandings escalate.

    Maturity is also key. Being willing to let the little hurts slide and not counting the wrongs is wise. We're all fallible human beings - and we WILL do things to hurt each other. It's better to forgive and work on the relationship than to keep a record of wrongs. Let them go.

    Being real with the children is also key. Kids are not stupid. They are very aware of tension in the home, even if the parents are not acting it out in front of them. So, working on the issues and then having a family conference to reassure the kids that yes, Mommy and Daddy were disagreeing, but for sure, they are okay and everything will be fine is very important. People disagree. But people who love and respect one another can work through the disagreements and keep on loving and respecting.

    Hugs to all of you...

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  3. ^ What she said. :)

    Jeff and I pretty much never 'go out'. But having coffee together in the morning etc. is a good way to have time together.

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