Date Nights

“Date nights are so important.  In fact, they are critical,” psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling told The Huffington Post Australia last year.

How important are they to YOU? 

When my husband and I first became parents, I think we were so enamored with our little bundle of joy, that the thought of leaving him, of missing out on one his firsts and the many, many milestones that seem to flow like never ending debris upon the river’s currents, was just too unbearable.   We would squeeze in little hours of one on one time when we had the energy and frankly when we were bored with Davey’s non-productive days.  Let’s face it, Angelina Jolie said it best when referring to her first biological child as a blob with little personality during the child’s newborn days. 

When our second child came along, we were desperate to get back to who we were.   I suppose the “newness” of having a child had already lost its luster.   We didn’t hyperventilate with each blink of Henry’s eye, or post fastidiously upon social media about how well he burped, as we had so embarrassingly done with Davey.  I know, I know, poor Henry.   That second child just always seem to get the burn.  

As our children have gotten older, Davey is almost 6 and Henry is 3 & ½, my husband and I find we need that break from our children, to reclaim a part of ourselves.   We find that it’s worth the money to spring for an occasional babysitter and to dress up for a night out on the town, a night that now seems to end at 10.  My husband jokingly asks me if I recall the times when we were going out at 10.  I tell him “no”, as his children have seared those memories from my brain.   That’s right!  I said “his children”.

I have this conversation, about date nights, with so many of my fellow parenting friends.   I’ve found that the discussions are usually pretty split between those who think it’s important and those who feel that the children and family unit as a whole should be a top priority.  Of course, I encounter the occasional judgmental prone mother who tells me I’m selfish for wanting something more.   I’ve learned to not let those criticisms get to my inner heart and guilt me into a subversion, and I will tell all of you the same thing.   You’re no good to children, if you’re not good to yourself, and that includes the relationship with your partner.

I’ve noticed that our country doesn’t place as much emphasis on the parent’s one on one intimacy as others do.   According to the March 14, 2014 issue of The Guardian: 

Couples therapists would say parents like us should work harder to balance our priorities in order to preserve the family unit. It’s even on the political agenda in some countries; well, Scandinavia anyway. Last October, the government in Oslo issued a plea to parents in Norway to embrace “date nights” more frequently in response to rising divorce rates – now 40%, with those aged 40 to 44 most vulnerable to separation.

Therapists agree that it is important for parents to still have that time for each other, to find a way to rekindle the romance they once created or to just keep the spark going.   That’s great and all in theory, but when you’re on a budget, date night isn’t always that easy.   That same article in the Guardian said this:

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Key to Calm, says one couple she worked with could just about afford a babysitter but nothing more. “They found an alternative – driving around in their car for a few hours each week. It really improved their relationship.”  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/14/parents-should-embrace-date-nights

 

That sounds about like my household.   My husband and I find ways to take advantage of freebies where we can.   If the grandparents offer to take care of the children, we pounce on the opportunity and may walk around downtown for an ice cream.   Our local YMCA offers a Parent’s Night Out every 2nd Friday of each month.   Included with our monthly membership is one Friday night, 4 hours, from 6-10 of nothing but me and my husband.  

Since the date nights are few and far between for us, I’ve required us to capitalize on the time together.   We’ve set up ground rules:   no talking about the children, no discussion of work, and no conversing about outside family members.  

Friday before last we had a Parent’s Night Out.  My husband, understanding my need as a stay at home mom with very little talk of anything not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Magic Treehouse Books, read up on current events.   I steal the occasional time to get caught up while waiting in car line, getting a few moments alone in the bathroom, or via podcasts as I’m cleaning.   We put away our phones and any other electronic device and find a way to focus on ourselves, learning about each other again, remembering the little nuances that made us first fall in love, and just talking!  It’s important.

After all:

“Sustaining intimacy is probably the most challenging task a human being has in his or her lifetime,” says Jared Scherz, a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples.  http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/married-children-date-night-article-1.1833789

What about all of you?   How important is date night for you and your partner?  How often do you get that much needed, well-deserved, and long often overdue time together?   Have some ideas you want to share, i.e. where you go, what you do on a budget, or any rules you have (like mine of current events discussions), then comment below.  

Happy date night to all of you and try to remember what first made you fall in love with your partner!

Success and Pressure

Let’s talk about success in today’s society, with our children, with ourselves, and with our ability to emulate and imitate the Lord’s merciful acts. 

Technology has become quite my friend, just as easily as it has become my enemy.   While I rely on technology, and more specifically social media, to keep me up to date with the news of the world, I also find it to be quite stressful especially where my children are concerned.  

Podcasts are one of my favorite things to listen to.  I enjoy getting snippets of news via NPR podcasts, or listening to 60 minutes while I’m doing laundry or the dishes.   In a lot of cases, I’m listening to news specifically through my Amazon Echo and Echo Dot while I read and write blogs, pay bills, and finish up any writing projects I’m working on.   It’s a different level of multi-tasking, than what my parents were used to.   One podcast I enjoy listening to is Focus on the Family.   In most cases, they have short little 20 or 25 minute devotionals and/or anecdotes about family and living a Christian life.  Last week, one of the podcasts focused on success and pressure.   They asked the question, “How do you define success?”   And obviously, in today’s society success is defined in a more superficial and at times egotistical way as opposed to a spiritual one.   So, today I wanted to discuss that in this blog. 

Many parents will say their child is successful if he or she gets into a good school.   If he or she wins the MVP trophy in soccer, scores the most goals in basketball, wins the geography bee, the spelling bee, is the valedictorian, or makes the President’s list.   I don’t want to take away from these parents, because they are right…their children are successful, but they’re falling short at times in the way the Lord asks us to be.   The Bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, to live for something bigger than what is on the surface.  

So many parents these days have created a thin line between a child doing his or her best and satisfying the egotistical needs and desires of his or her parents.   Ok, ok, friends, I know what you’re saying to me, “let he who doesn’t sin cast the first stone.”   It is not my place to judge or to “preach” because I am just as guilty.  For any of you who follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my often times shameless posts about my children completing tasks, some of those tasks are completed at an earlier age than their peers.   That is my pride shining through and some could call it my gloating, and this is where I state that technology and social media, specifically, are my worst enemy.   They encourage me to not focus on success in a Christian manner.

How many of you out there post photos of your children online?   I’d be willing to bet that every one of you who reads my posts and have children, do this.   You’re proud of your children and you want to share it with the world.   I get it, I do, but does it add too much pressure on us as parents to encourage (and some of you go a few levels above encouragement) our children to succeed?   Are our children becoming an appendage of our own superficial egos?   Think about that for a moment. 

This past Sunday, my pastor discussed “The Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises of God” from 2 Peter 1:5-11 and it correlated a lot with how we determine success, or at least I was able to relate it in my Christian struggles to be a good mom and mold my children into successful adults.   I want to look at two particular passages from 2 Peter 1. 

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fail, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:10-11

Peter wrote a second letter because false teachers were troubling the church and disturbing the faith of some by their heresy, immorality, and greed.   Perhaps I’m seeing a parallel in what Peter found and how we, Christians and non-Christians, are determining what makes our children successful.   We are placing realistic and un-realistic requests and stresses upon our children, and why are we assuming these are the only ways to be successful?  Thanks to social media, the competitive factor amongst parents has increased.   Our children’s success, or lack thereof, becomes a direct reflection upon how well we are raising our children.   We can be seen as failures.   We are labeled as dead beats and disconnected parents.  We allow ourselves to dwell upon a shallow view of success.   I struggle daily to make sure that what I’m conveying to my children as “success” isn’t something that is just defined by our society. 

So, what was my point with the post?   To encourage all of you to relax a bit, to let go, to not pin your child’s goals upon what Nosey Neighbor’s kids down the street are doing.   God created us in His image and He has a higher purpose for us and our children than what society leads us to.   This is not to encourage an indolent nature with our children, but continue to guide them and influence what true success is.   And just like Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 5-8,

                “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

And isn’t that how true success should be defined? 

Creating Healthy Friendships

Being a mom is tough stuff. We keep crazy schedules, maintain households, and serve as the nurturing bond for our family (most of us do, anyways). Some of us work outside of the homes, which can only add more “crazy” to an already crazy existence. Trying to squeeze everything into the small 24 hours a day allotted to us can be a bit overwhelming and some days just impossible. I don’t need to describe a possible schedule, you’re all living it. So, what, you ask, is the purpose of this blog? Some of you may not even have the time to squeeze in for reading this blog. Time, time, time…it’s all subjective. One thing that we should have time for is friendships. When some of us hardly have time to spare for our significant other, how are we to create healthy friendships? It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

First, let me start with a blog I read the other day. It was titled, “The 3 Second Pause That Can Save a Morning & Spare Some Time.” I shared it on my Facebook page, Dreaming of Mommyhood, but if you haven’t read it, please take a moment to indulge yourself. Here is the link: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/01/12/the-3-second-pause-that-can-save-a-morning-spare-some-pain/

After reading that blog, I found that I too have the same problem at times as Hands Free Mama. There are days and instances when I feel that I don’t have the time to do a 3 second pause, but I need to find that time. I need to find that time if for no other reason than the sheer fact that it will make ME feel better.

Sure, sure we all cast away ourselves when we become mothers. Suddenly things that seemed so important, instantly seem trivial and not worth our efforts. We find ourselves forced into trying to be a vision of this “perfect mother”, perhaps the June Cleavers of the world. These days it’s virtually impossible, but what is possible is that 3 seconds. In that 3 seconds we have the opportunity to become our nurturing selves again. In those 3 seconds, we have the ability to feel good about ourselves which leads me to creating healthy friendships.

In this day and age, it’s hard to maintain friendships. I have some friends, who’ve maintained close friendships with people with whom they were friends for over 20 years! 20 years! That’s crazy! I don’t have friends from 20 years ago. In most cases, these friendships are healthy and are conducive to their lifestyles, especially when they all have kids together. They can create weekend outings with each other and their families. I know one group who have a “mountain weekend” together every year. It’s a wonderful time for all of them, spouses and children, included. It’s a healthy friendship.

Thanks to the era of social media, we can all be “friends”. It’s my way of keeping in contact with my friends from high school and college. It’s great and easy, because I can see what they’re up to without actually investing the time into a conversation that would tear me away from something else. Is that healthy? NO! Truthfully, some of them I no longer want to invest the time with and I’m actually thankful that we have other ways than the telephone call, but maybe that’s what we need.

I can remember my mother sitting in the kitchen talking to her sister-in-law, her best friend, in the evenings after dinner. It was just the two of them. They were able to hear the inflections in each other’s voices. They were able to convey their true feelings, and they were able to have a friendship, one that was healthy especially when asking for advice was broached. Social media doesn’t allow for this type of interaction anymore.

Social media is great at allowing us to be a bit nastier to each other, to take away some humanity at times. Hey, I’m not bashing social media. It is my livelihood and allows me an outlet, this blog. Social media; however, has allowed “friends” and strangers to become your worst enemy, your greatest nagger, your grandest criticizer.

The thought for this blog originally stemmed from a post on Facebook from Parents Magazine. On it, there was a picture of Kelly Clarkson’s daughter with a set of head phones over her ears with the caption of her “dancing” to mommy’s music. It was an absolutely adorable picture, but it was met with harsh comments on Clarkson’s mothering abilities. Most were upset that a child was wearing headphones, and the remarks were just mean.

What a world we’ve become when we, as mothers, instead of bonding together for the betterment of our children and society, choose to tear each other apart and sit in judgment of each other. Hey, I’ve been guilty of it, and on extreme cases i.e. a mother leaving a child in a locked car with over 100 degree weather, I’m still guilty of it…that passing judgment. Why do we do this to each other and more over, why do we allow others to do it to us?

I asked my mother about criticism, healthy and unhealthy, she received while as a mom. She said it was rare. The occasional family member would pipe in from time to time, but it’s nothing like today. The world knows your every move today and feels that it’s their job to chime in with some advice, warranted or not. She brought up my blog. Instead of wearing my emotions on my sleeve, I wear them on the world wide web. I open myself up for the criticism. And she’s right, but it shouldn’t be this way.

This all leads me to what further pushed me to write this blog, and that was Tuesday night’s Bible Study which was titled “Healthy Friendships”. The study opened with this passage, “A friends loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17. It went on to discuss the unhealthy friendships we create. There are times when I consider cutting off all friends and going at motherhood alone (not without my husband, though). There are times when I think I don’t want to invest in friendships. They’re tiresome, judgmental, gossipy, and all around unhealthy. Perhaps that just some of the friends I choose and I should purge them from my life.

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, the teacher states: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”

The Lord never intended for us to be alone, otherwise he’d never created Eve for Adam. Of course, I don’t believe the Lord ever intended for us to be as condescending and nasty to each other as we’ve become. The Lord created people to serve Him, and while in serving Him to create a fellowship with each other. Today’s “fellowship” is so skewed that there’s hardly a true definition which we’re all living up to.

Who are your friends and are they healthy for you? If you only count the ones on Facebook, then you’re not having a true, healthy friendship. We all need to find the time to be friends to each other. We all need to find a way to help each other when we fall down. We all need to find a way to go back to the days of our parents and investing time with a friend.

I encourage you all to take that time to make friendships. A strong, healthy friendship can encourage you in your 3 seconds. Get outside, be adventurous and open-minded. Be loving and compassionate. Find that friend who complements you and build each other up. Be a friend and find a friend. It could save your life and your sanity.

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business.” Ecclesiastes 4:8.

Social Media & A Mommy’s Guilt

“My Billy just started walking and he’s only 4 months old!”

“Susie just read her first book and she’s not even 1 yet!”

“Jimmy is already potty trained and he’s just turned 6 months old!”

So, perhaps those are exaggerations, but I can’t help feeling the pressures of raising my children in a world that is so immersed in social media (me included). I’m not just average and I don’t expect my boys to be that way either. I don’t settle. I set high goals and standards for myself, and I’m an overachiever. I fully anticipate my boys will be the same way, without me being a pushy mom.

I love social media. My iPad is always within arm’s reach and if I leave the house without my cellphone then I feel naked. I curb my intake of it as much as possible, but there are times when I just don’t want to think or work. There are times when I just want to be mentally lazy and peruse the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get caught up on what’s going on with my real friends and the other “friends”. What I’m encountering isn’t exactly what I was hoping to achieve. What I’m finding is that instead of using social media as a way to just have some down time, it’s becoming more of a hindrance and really just adds more stress to my life as I read about what other people’s children are doing.

I know I can’t be the only one who’s experiencing this. And the reason I know this is because there’s no way that the things I’m reading online are actually true. Parents are speeding up milestones to make themselves look good as parents or perhaps to make themselves feel better for not being as hands on as they should be (you know who you are). What this in turn is doing, is fueling the fire for those of us who can’t seem to turn off the social media chatter surrounding the raising of children. It can truly cause a person like me to question how I’m raising my boys, what I’m doing wrong, what I could be doing better, and in turn adding undue stress and sleepless nights. Yeah, yeah, my personal problem I know, which leads me to wonder what it was like for my parents when I was my children’s ages.

In 1977 (I was 2), there were no cell phones. Only the rich had cordless phones and answering machines. We didn’t have a computer and internet. There were no digital cameras, only Polaroids. Videos? My uncle had an old movie camera that had film rolled onto a spindle. You showed it using a projector either on a blank wall or screen and there was no sound. So, basically, back then my parents could enjoy life with me. I don’t think they ever really questioned their parenting skills or compared me to their best friend’s kid. Sure they bragged, but mostly to my aunts, uncles, and grandparents, not on a computer screen that transmits every word and character simultaneously throughout the world.

There were no immediate judgments or backlashes for what and how they were doing. Life was simpler and after talking to my mom this week, not necessarily guilt free, but a different, less stressful kind of guilt.

So, how do I go about enjoying my social media without letting it adversely effect my mommy guilt? I have absolutely no idea. I do; however, seriously doubt that other parents out there evaluate my parenting skills as much as I imagine them to. I sincerely hope that they’re more concerned with their children as opposed to making themselves look and feel better. Me? I’m completely truthful on my blogs and posts, but I gotta tell you nothing is more stressful for me right now than reading about all the other children who are potty trained and mine is still asking for diapers.

I wonder what the world will be like when my boys are parents and what sort of things will trigger their guilt as parents.