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Balancing parenting with . . . other stuff


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#1 Darren H

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:25 AM

My daughter will turn 2 in April, and at this point parenting has been even more joy-filled and fascinating than I'd expected. Honestly, my only real complaint is that, compared to this kid, everything else in my life suddenly seems downright uninteresting. I mean, I still take pride in my work, and I still try to make time for my other interests, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to strike the right balance. I only see Rory for 2-3 hours a day on weekdays, so I find myself feeling guilty if I don't spend every possible moment with her on evenings and weekends. Any advice along these lines?

#2 MattPage

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 01:06 PM

Well you said two things that seem a bit contradictory. On the one hand you're saying parenting is joy filled and fascinating, but on the other you say you feel guilty for not spending time with her. It's possible both are true, but it also makes me wonder if the 'feeling guilty' is the problem here.

Matt

#3 Darren H

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 01:22 PM

The problem (if that's even the right word) is that I do spend every possible minute with her. I'm becoming less sociable and abandoning some of my hobbies and other interests because the thought of doing them when I could be with her makes me feel guilty. Does that make sense? I'm sure some of this is just the inevitable shifting of priorities when your family expands, but I don't want to abandon all of the things that make me me (things like spending time with friends, volunteering, reading, exercising, writing, talking to my wife about things other than Rory). Right now, I'm cramming as much of the rest of life as I can into the two hours after she falls asleep and during nap times on weekends.

One other thing: Joanna is a stay-at-home mom, which is not a role she fits comfortably into. So the other part of my "guilt" (for lack of a better word) is that I try to relieve her as much as I can from the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting and running the house. That means, for example, that I seldom make plans to do things with friends or by myself on weekends because I genuinely want to give her a break.

I love being with Rory. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. I'm just trying to figure out how to balance competing desires.

Edited by Darren H, 19 January 2012 - 01:32 PM.


#4 M. Leary

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:01 PM

My kids need a father that is joyfully engaged in life. This requires me to continue to do all the things that are important to my personal and spiritual development.

Whenever possible, I include them in these tasks. But I can't take them to the gym. They can't sit with me through every conversation I have with friends. They can't go on dates with my wife and I.

As our lovely, perfect, treasured children grow older, we realize that they have become enemies to our marital intimacy. They often, unknowingly, threaten to undermine our time and passion for each other. Reading your above comments and questions, I realize that they also can become detrimental to my continued growth as a human being interested in engaging life as a gift from God. I think this the proper place to begin talking about balance. Of course being a dad means I have made the wonderful trade of children for all the stuff I once had the freedom and finances to do. But in order to be the best father I can be to them, I am going to need to moderately continue doing the things "that make me me." That's who they need as a dad, not someone who has lost his identity in the parenting process.

Also:

Just reading your post at face value, it doesn't sound like you have many friends with kids? A few of those friendships go a long way to restoring your ability to socialize and volunteer with all your kids in tow.

Edited by M. Leary, 19 January 2012 - 02:25 PM.


#5 SDG

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:15 PM

What MLeary said.

I started to write many of the same things myself, before Mike posted. It's great that you're enjoying being a dad so much, and that your daughter gives you so much joy. She needs your time together, and so do you.

But kids also need independent play. They don't need to be the center of their parents' world -- and it's probably better for them not to be.

Parenthood is pedagogy -- and part of that pedagogy is modeling for our kids what life is all about. That includes being interested in and committed to different things.

I spend a lot of time with my kids. Not infrequently, though, I'm away a couple of evenings a week with screenings, choir practice or show tapings, and I spend time at home writing and watching movies by myself or with Suz.

My kids are proud of their papa the film critic. Suz is supportive of what I do, and they take their cues from her: They believe it's important, that I'm contributing something to the world.

There's lots more to say about this, but I'd like to add something else, which is actually the first thing I wrote:

Have more kids.

Seriously. You have No Idea how much more pressure it is to have just one than to have a clan. With one child, almost inevitably, you are the whole focus of that child's world; with multiple kids, they play with each other, the older ones care for the younger ones, etc.

My SIL (not a practicing Christian, FWIW) has three and lives in an exclusive community where no one else has more than one. Other parents are forever scrambling to arrange play dates and such for their kids. It's a nuisance to Lori because she doesn't need any play dates; her boys play with each other. (I was going to write more about that, but I just noticed that Simcha Fisher, mother of nine, said it well.)

Incidentally, God willing, we expect our seventh in August.

Edited by SDG, 19 January 2012 - 02:19 PM.


#6 M. Leary

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:19 PM

Parenthood is pedagogy -- and part of that pedagogy is modeling for our kids what life is all about. That includes being interested in and committed to different things.


Yes. Very much this. This basic idea is what has pushed us in conversation toward homeschooling.

Incidentally, God willing, we expect our seventh in August.


Congratulations!

#7 Christian

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:27 PM

They don't need to be the center of their parents' world -- and it's probably better for them not to be.

Yes, a thousand times. The only change I'd make to what SDG wrote would be to remove the word "probably."

I don't actively distance myself from the kids. I just don't dote on them. I do try to dote on my wife, FWIW. But don't tell her I said that. She'd laugh out loud at the very idea of my trying to dote on her.

EDIT: I hadn't read off of SDG's message before replying. Now that I have, I'd also reiterate this:

Have more kids.


Edited by Christian, 19 January 2012 - 02:29 PM.


#8 Darren H

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:18 PM

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Parenthood is pedagogy -- and part of that pedagogy is modeling for our kids what life is all about. That includes being interested in and committed to different things.


In my second comment I almost wrote something along these lines. I understand this, intellectually. What surprises me, though, is that since Rory's birth I've become less interested in my interests. That's what's thrown me for a loop. It seems odd that I should be telling myself, "Darren, you need to go see a movie on Saturday afternoon," when I'd truly rather be hanging out with my daughter. For what it's worth, Joanna wouldn't even consider the possibility of me skipping my annual trip to Toronto, which takes me away from them for more than a week and at great expense. I'm thinking that at the core of this is just a need to be more intentional about fostering my community of friends.

Have more kids.


Easier said than done, I'm afraid. I'll spare the details about the miscarriages and about the failed fertility treatments and about that time I held my newborn adopted daughter only to find out the next day that the birth father had changed his mind. That's probably another factor in all of my anxiety about finding the right balance. But unless Andrew wants to chime in and send me a bill, I'll try to avoid turning this into a therapy session. ;)

I understand and appreciate the advice, though. We're still hopeful that there will be more.

#9 SDG

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 04:01 PM

Parenthood is pedagogy -- and part of that pedagogy is modeling for our kids what life is all about. That includes being interested in and committed to different things.

In my second comment I almost wrote something along these lines. I understand this, intellectually. What surprises me, though, is that since Rory's birth I've become less interested in my interests. That's what's thrown me for a loop. It seems odd that I should be telling myself, "Darren, you need to go see a movie on Saturday afternoon," when I'd truly rather be hanging out with my daughter. For what it's worth, Joanna wouldn't even consider the possibility of me skipping my annual trip to Toronto, which takes me away from them for more than a week and at great expense. I'm thinking that at the core of this is just a need to be more intentional about fostering my community of friends.

This is really beautiful, and my first thought here is that if you want to be with Rory, be with Rory. If you're doing other things (that you want to do) and feeling guilty (or uneasy) about not spending time with Rory -- or not doing other things (that you want to do) because you feel guilty or uneasy about not spending time with Rory -- that's one thing. But if you're spending time with Rory (which you want to do) and feeling guilty (or uneasy) about not doing other things, that's completely different. Don't worry about that, I say.

Being "more intentional about fostering my community of friends" sounds like a promising line of thought. The point has already been raised about the value of being friends with other families. Suz and I suffered for years in isolation before we finally found the community in which we are now thriving.

On having more kids: I'm really sorry to hear about your difficulties. FWIW, we had a couple of miscarriages early on, one before Sarah and one after. And is it a different thing when you have one. A child, one child alone, is a whole world of blessing, and a miscarriage that leaves you with a child still is a very different misfortune than one that leaves you childless. (We haven't had first-hand experience with adoption nightmares, but we have family and friends that have.) I hope a few more years finds you in different circumstances, but either way it's wonderful to see how obviously blessed you are with Rory.

Edited by SDG, 19 January 2012 - 04:03 PM.


#10 MattPage

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 04:41 PM

Darren,

I've not got time to go into the ins and outs of this now, but essentially we're in the same boat I think. If I ever figure it out I'll let you know. I'm not optimistic.

Matt

#11 M. Leary

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 12:04 PM

This seemed like a good place to park this Bonhoeffer quote: "I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith."

There is a lot of compelling fodder for thought about fatherhood in there.

Edited by M. Leary, 26 January 2012 - 12:04 PM.


#12 opus

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 12:40 PM

Especially if you're the father of a newborn who has had her days and nights mixed up.

#13 M. Leary

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 08:44 AM

Posted Image

I got booby trapped last night.

Edited by M. Leary, 27 January 2012 - 08:46 AM.


#14 Greg P

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 10:09 AM

Having four kids, I don't think I've ever achieved the ideal balance with this "being an individual/being a parent" thing, but i'm reminded of the popular analogy with in-flight oxygen masks-- first put the mask on yourself and then on your child. Perhaps the figure doesnt apply neatly in your case, but I think the more we as parents have a life with independent interests and social activities, the healthier we will be for the demanding task of parenting. I found at a certain point in my parental isolation tank (especially with my youngest two) I had to literally force myself to go out and do stuff with friends a couple times a month. I think i've gotten a lot better with this over the years and push my kids to do a lot of stuff on their own now, without around-the-clock engagement and surveillance. But I do occasionally feel guilty about stuff like not watching the new iCarly episode with them... but to a much lesser degree.

A shrink would have a field day with this admission, but I have a very similar struggle as you describe Darren, with my girlfriend. I suspect fear is probably the motivating factor in both equations. Fear of losing, fear of abandonment, etc... I find myself being hyper-vigilant and "on" every day, making sure I'm doing the "right" thing and connecting/engaging.

We've been dating for almost a year and I struggle internally with still going out with male friends, attending events solo, etc.. I naturally would prefer to do most activities with her and if she's unable-- and she frequently is because she lives 90mins away-- my instant reaction is to just not go. But something about this reflex in myself raises an unhealthy warning flag for me and so I've tried to again push myself to do things as an individual. And man, when i say "push" I mean it-- it's almost unpleasant to get out and do stuff at times, but I do it. Going out to dinner with an old friend, rehearsing, going to see a friends band play on a friday night, etc... The thought in this is similar to the struggle with my children-- if I'm a healthy, active individual I will be a better boyfriend/partner/parent. I'm convinced of it intellectually, but emotionally it's a tug-of-war.

I still have a lot of unresolved anxiety in this department and so i resort to faking it and doing what i know to be the healthy thing-- for myself all parties involved-- until the anxiety lessens.

Enter Andrew.

Edited by Greg P, 27 January 2012 - 10:17 AM.


#15 opus

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:49 PM

I got booby trapped last night.

Hilarious. "H is for Hell" is the one I frequently experience.

Edited by opus, 27 January 2012 - 12:49 PM.


#16 SDG

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 02:09 PM

I got booby trapped last night.

Hilarious. "H is for Hell" is the one I frequently experience.

Yep. They seem to enjoy contact with both warm bodies at once and go out of their way to find you. (I have drawn my own cartoons of this one.)

FWIW, as I commented on FB on this image, the dad here is clearly a savvy veteran co-sleeper. Note how he sagely never lies full on his back, in that position in which a man is most vulnerable to a stray heel from a baby in the basic "Jazz Hands" position (i.e., approximately aligned with the mother for possible nursing). A picture of that particular mishap could be called "Put Up Your Feet," or something less printable.

OTOH, there is clearly something wrong with the way the mother is depicted, as she has her back to baby in every single position. That's not right. Either there's something wrong with the pictures, or with the mother.

#17 Christian

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 03:56 PM

Repeat after me: No kids in mommy and daddy's bed.

#18 SDG

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 04:07 PM

Repeat after me: No kids in mommy and daddy's bed.

Christian,

Please pick the appropriate corollary:

a.) Mommy does not nurse.
b.) Mommy gets up repeatedly during the night and sits in a chair.
c.) Mommy sleeps with the baby. Daddy sleeps alone.

Edited by SDG, 27 January 2012 - 04:08 PM.


#19 Christian

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 04:15 PM

Repeat after me: No kids in mommy and daddy's bed.

Christian,

Please pick the appropriate corollary:

a.) Mommy does not nurse.
b.) Mommy gets up repeatedly during the night and sits in a chair.
c.) Mommy sleeps with the baby. Daddy sleeps alone.


b.

Sorry, Mom!

#20 SDG

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 04:22 PM

Right then. I'd rather have Mom and the baby in bed, myself. Certainly when they're as little as pictured above.