From the time their first child is born, parents – especially mothers – seem to be bombarded with messages from the word around them about how ‘wrong’ it is to have time to themselves, or to leave their baby in the care of someone other than the other parent. If they leave their child in the care of someone else they are automatically being ‘neglectful’; their child/ren must be the one and only priority in their life; time spent away from your children is time that they ‘miss out’ on…I could go on and on and on, but I won’t, as I’m sure you’ve heard them all before. Within reason of course, I’m all for parents – and children for that matter – having a life seperate from ‘each other’ that can be just as fulfilling as the relationship they share. And here’s why:
Why it’s good for parents
*Think of your life before you had kids…you most likely had a job, friends, outside interests, committments, hobbies and everything else that formed a large part of your lifestyle and identity. These things don’t just disappear into the ether once you have a child, and you needn’t give up every part of who you ‘used to be’. Sure, your priorities obviously change, but if you maintain contact with the ‘outside world’ your life is more likely to be enriched than adversely affected. You are more than just a mother or a father. If you take the time to nurture all parts of yourself and your life, you will end up being a better parent for it. You can’t give the best of yourself to your kids if you don’t take the best care of yourself.
*The joys of adult conversation – My best friend put this one very well. She once said that she loves her friends who are also parents, but she wouldn’t give up her kid-free friends for the world. When talking to other parents, the topic of conversation almost invariably ended up reverting to their children, and all related topics that come with the territory. Why have a break from your kids if all you’re going to end up talking about is your kids?
Why it’s good for kids
*While Mom and/or Dad will most likely be the focal point of a child’s life, I also think it’s important for them to develop relationships with other adults, be they grandparents, family friends, uncles, aunts or childcare staff. Not only do children learn to trust other adults, but I also think that exposure to the different ways adults have of communicating, thinking, acting & relating to the world gives children a broader, more diverse and more open-minded base from which to draw their knowledge & ideas of ‘how the world works’.
*Children need relationships too. Just as it’s beneficial for adults to spend time with other adults outside the family unit, the same goes for children. While the family is the centre of their world, having other little people to whom they can relate on their level, and experiences that are unique to their life, helps children develop a healthy identity as an individual as well as a family member.