Children take up a lot of energy and attention, and parenthood seems to have an amazing way of bringing out the selflessness in people. Children’s needs and desires often come before those of their parents. According to various studies, a majority (64%) of married couples report that their partner gives more attention to the children than to the marriage. One reason this is so common is that children are demanding. Their needs are evident.
While parents also have needs of their own, they are just not as apparent as the needs of their children. Also, many parents may feel as if they are acting selfishly if they ask for things for themselves. Ultimately, by the time one or both parents are finished taking care of the children, they have little time or energy left for themselves or their relationship (if the parent is in one).
One of the challenges of parenting is that sometimes your relationship with your significant other (if you have one) gets lost in the shuffle. Often, both parents are working outside the home, attending to the needs of the kids, and doing housework. A profession, raising kids, and maintaining a household add up to at least three full-time jobs regardless of whether you are a single parent, or in an intimate relationship.
Often the relationship is neglected while each partner concentrates on their professional responsibilities, the kids, and household tasks. The couple might be experiencing a lot of success in their careers, have great relationships with their kids, but they still end up getting divorced because they forgot to focus on their relationship with each other.
For those who are raising kids as a single parent, these individuals often choose to reduce or even abandon their own needs and interests all together for the sake of their children. I have met many single parents who have literally put their own lives on hold, and avoided pursuing their own hobbies, interests, dating, and intimate relationships for years, in order to give 100% of their time, energy, and attention to their kids.
Many harbor a fear that the toll of the divorce and the breakup of the household may have caused psychological damage to their kids, and in order to both minimize the damage, as well as prevent their kids from feeling neglected, they have to literally give all of themselves to their kids, at the expense of cultivating meaningful, healthy, relationships of their own.
The problem with this logic in my opinion, is that maintaining the priority of your relationship, or if you are single, pursuing meaningful, healthy relationships, both intimate and otherwise is both good for you, AND good for your children. Additionally, many studies have reported that any psychological “damage” that had been inflicted on kids as a result of their parent’s divorcing did not so much have to do with the breakup of the household, but rather their exposure to the toxicity of the tension, vitriol, and conflict existing between their parents.
Plus, keep this in mind, babies will morph into children, children will eventually become teenagers, and teenagers will grow to become adults. Part of the growing-up process for kids is a desire to separate from parents and experience their own individuality. While your kids are exploring and developing their own individuality and cultivating their own lives, how will you be spending your time? I’ve heard parenting be described as a long process of “letting go.” Children benefit from love, warmth, open communication, and regular, reliable involvement from their parents in their lives. But also give your children the gift of knowing that they are not your entire life.
Remember, whether you realize it or not, children are always observing and taking in your own relationships. By making your own relationship needs a top priority in your own life, you are modeling the importance of maintaining healthy relationships for your children. Studies have shown that a harmonious relationship promotes competence and maturity in children. Every bit of constructive, healthy, loving energy and focus you put into your own relationship is going towards providing a powerful template for your children to one day emulate for themselves.