Monday, April 3, 2017

Parenthood: Week 198 – Spring Break . . . kind of

Diana, Ollie and I all have different spring breaks this year. So when people asked about my upcoming spring break and I told them that Ollie didn’t have the same spring break as me, I generally got two responses: “That’s great, you can take Ollie out of school and spend time with him,” and “That’s fantastic, Ollie can go to school and you can get some time for yourself.”

The latter response came from people who currently have younger kids or are older parents who don’t have too bad a case of parental amnesia. Many parents, including myself, forget a lot of the really tough parts of parenting. I’ve forgotten a lot of the struggles of when Ollie was a baby and without past blog posts, these feelings and moments would have been lost. Some parents of older kids I’ve met still have a keen awareness of the challenges of parenting, and some do not. It’s not a good person or bad person thing, it’s just one of those things that effects people differently.

The idea that parents want to, or should enjoy spending every minute of their day with their kids goes against theories of child development and evolutionary biology. Psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Perry, argues in The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, that humans were evolved to be raised by multiple adult caretakers in cross-generational family communities. In the context of emotional development, he outlines how kids who are surrounded by aunts and uncles with cousins develop effectively develop empathy. Part of this thesis is that parents have and should have time away from their child, which allows them self-care as well as time to provide for the family.

I love my boy, but I need time away from him.  I got stuff today like my taxes, getting a haircut and getting my car’s air conditioning fixed. We are blessed with a fantastic school for Ollie that provides many things for him, that I can’t.

There’s parental guilt from all directions. The important thing to remember is that those who would make you feel guilty, who do not actually know you are speaking out of ignorance or insecurity. People who are surprised that I’m still taking Ollie to school for a good chunk of this week don’t know how hard it is to get stuff done with a toddler in the house or are projecting their own regrets about their own parenting.

If you’re cool spending all day with your kid, and it makes you and your child truly happy to spend that much time together, great.  However, I'm not one of those people and I refuse to feel bad about that fact.

Parents don't deserve breaks from their kids, they require them.  Everybody needs time away from the ones we love.  

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