Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SECFR Social at the NCFR Conference

If you're planning to attend the NCFR conference in Minneapolis, you're invited to the Southeastern Council on Family Relations social on Thursday, November 4, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event will take place in Marquette Room 5. This is a great opportunity to mingle with friends, students, and professionals from around the Southeast. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Same As It Ever Was

And you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"
From the outset, I need to make it clear that I'm not complaining in this post. I wouldn't trade being a parent for anything in the world. Being a father and a husband are, by far, the most rewarding roles in my life. Having covered myself (I hope), I'll proceed.

Building and maintaining healthy marriages is the theme of a seminar I'm teaching this semester.  In the seminar, I really emphasize the value of having realistic expectations. Anyway, on Wednesday, our focus was the parenthood-marriage relationship.  Knowing that many, if not most of my students, tend to romanticize (over-romanticize perhaps) parenthood, I began by talking about the fairly dramatic changes you experience when you have children.  My list included the usual suspects:
  • Less money
  • More stress/worry
  • Less free/"me" time
  • Less couple time (and a decline in marital satisfaction for many)
  • Less sleep/rest/relaxation
However, I wanted my students to also be prepared for the one thing that no one ever told me about and that I never read about in a textbook or "how-to" parenting book:  How incredibly routine life can become once children arrive on the scene.  As a married father of three, occasionally I will be struck by the realization that every day is almost exactly like the day before.  Typically, when this realization hits me, I concurrently think of the words to the Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime."  Although there's a bit more variation on the weekends, during the work week, there's not much to distinguish one day from the next, other than the shows we watch on television in the evenings.  On the upside, research suggests that things such as routine, predictability, and stability are important for healthy child development.  If that's the case, my children ought to be developing nicely! 

Anyway, in our marriage and family life courses, when we talk about things to keep in mind when considering having children, we should probably also mention the routinization of family life.  Just a thought.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Date Night

Last night was our date night. My husband and I have been married 13 years and we know more than ever just how important it is to get away from the drudgery of the house and kids and just spend time together having fun. We had the sitter all lined up, the kids knew the drill—we even had the movie and restaurant picked out. After the weekend of cleaning the yard, planting flowers, trimming trees, and assembling a hammock, my husband lovingly looked into my eyes and said “if you are too tired, we can just rent a movie and eat doughnuts”. He knows me. I love that he knows me.

We schlepped into the car, I in my sweat pants and he with our 6 year-old in hand, and off we went to find a lazy alternative to our date night. We chose Date Night--the movie with Steve Carell and Tina Fey playing Mr. and Mrs. Foster. Did we see the irony in that choice? Of course we did! Did that add to the insane amount of laughter that we enjoyed for the remainder of that evening? In deed.

Once the kids were in bed, we settled into our reclining couch chairs where we each reached across the non-reclining center seat in order to hold hands. As the movie started, we eagerly anticipated a great comedic escape. Instead, however, we saw ourselves. The movie starts with small children jumping into the bed of two overly tired parents. Been there, done that. In fact, I started my morning much that very same way—the only difference was that my daughter had actually been in bed with me for the entire night, so she didn’t get the running start.

The next scene, and this is where we knew we had to scoot even closer, was when the babysitter showed up at their house. Both parents had forgotten that this was “date night”, and both were so tired, they pretty much wanted to stay home. Unlike the Allen’s that took the lazy night, the Fosters practiced a heck of a lot of positive self talk and headed into the city for an amazing night on the town.

From there, our night, as well as the Foster's night, turned into an amazing range of events--some that look and feel exactly like our normal life mixed with exaggerated events that would simply never happen in real life…to anyone, not even the Fosters. It did, however, give us the chance to laugh really, really hard. We almost even felt bad for waking up the kids with our laughter. Two times.

I study relationships. That’s my job. I know statistically just how important it is to spend time rekindling those old flames and making new memories that support relationship goals. I know that it is very important to simply have fun with my partner. What I know and what I do at home, however, are not always the same. Sometimes life is just really hectic and hard, and I don't always take the time to just relax and have fun. This time it worked out. I was reminded in the nicest way that date night can be anything from a simple movie in sweat pants on a reclining couch that results in laughing so loud and hard that every child in the house wakes up to come and check on their mom, only to discover tears of joy streaming down her face. Spending fun time together makes us happier, helps us feel better connected to our partner, and is good our relationships.

As they say--the cost of the rental movie and Krispy Crème doughnuts--$10. Cost of a night of extreme laughter, rekindled love and a lazy date night with my best friend—priceless