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.