A reader emailed me the following question:
“Many dads and moms, especially those that work full-time, are torn by guilt when it comes to time allocation. They have been away from the kids so long during the working week that the weekends MUST be spent with them. Result: There is simply NO couple-time. Any suggestions?”
One thing that is often not realized by parents is that a happy and harmonious marriage is one of the greatest gifts they can give to their children. Most children will gladly spend less time with their parents when they know that some of the time being spent away from them is about creating and maintaining a loving relationship between their parents.
Parents who work full time do need to be sure to spend some quality time with their children each evening. I was in this position when I was raising my three children. My husband and I would each spend an hour each evening, sometimes with one child and sometimes with two. On the weekends, we set aside some time alone with each other and alone with ourselves, which our children learned to respect. Then we spent the rest of the time in family time. Parents need to understand that they are the role models for their children, and if they are not taking responsibility for their own needs, their children will not learn to take responsibility for their own needs. What we role model regarding personal responsibility for our own happiness and well being is as important as spending time with our children. Both are equally important in raising healthy children.
When parents do not find the time to be with each other or to be alone with themselves, they may need to examine what else might be going on within themselves and in the relationship. Are they using their work and their children to avoid themselves and each other? If their time alone or together is not fulfilling, then work time and kid time can be ways of filling an inner emptiness. Or, the time problems might be a result of unexamined priorities.
We all tend to do what is truly important to us. If work is important to us, then we may work a lot. If parenting is important to us, then we might spend lots of time with our children. If our creative pursuits, hobbies, or sports are important to us, then we will find time for them. The same is true for our relationship. If it is very important to us, we will find the time for it. So, if parents are not finding the time to be together, they might want to examine their priorities and explore why time together might not be important.
Often time together is important to one partner and not to the other. When this is the case, partners need to explore what is happening between them that is leading to the one partner not making time together a high priority. Some of the issues you may want to examine are:
- Is one partner fearful of being pulled on for sex?
- Is one partner fearful of being pulled on to fill up the other partner emotionally?
- Does one partner feel fearful of being criticized in various ways when they are alone together?
- Is one partner emotionally unavailable and the other partner feels lonely with him or her when they are alone together?
- Has one partner become so preoccupied with being successful or making money that they no longer have anything to talk about?
- If fun lacking in the relationship?
- Does one partner feel resistant to being controlled by the other partner?
- Is one partner resenting the imbalance regarding work, chores and childcare?
- Is one partner feeling angry or withdrawn? If so, why?
If the real reason for not spending time together is truly about not enough time, then you need to consider how you can get help, such as hiring a neighborhood teenager, to do some chores or spend some time with young children.
If spending time together is a high priority, you can find a way!