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Us Time

Whenever I need a good belly laugh, I pull out a Garrison Keillor story. One of my favorite Keillor tall tales is – “My father always said that you can’t plant corn and date women at the same time. It just doesn’t work. You can only do one thing at a time.”

I love that line. Aside from the awkward relationship between corn and dating, this statement holds some merit.

Many of us have learned to multi-task, perhaps more out of need than desire. Churning 72 hours of “to do’s” into a single day, in order to make room for tomorrow’s “to do’s”, demands this skill. And, it’s always a work in progress.

Most parents would agree that the finite number of hours each day and infinite number of responsibilities leave little time for that precious “us” time. The “Date Night,” or even two hours of “alone time” to curl up on the couch and watch a scary movie together that’s entirely too inappropriate for a toddler to see, can easily disappear unless couples make a conscious effort to hold onto them.  

When a baby arrives, date nights are replaced with sleepless nights. Then, in the blink of an eye, the diaper changes and midnight feedings recede and you progress to helping with science projects and spelling reviews without missing a beat. Soon after, adolescent and teenage drama thrusts parents into unchartered territory, oftentimes demanding even more of their time.

Parenting our children is our most important role in life. We are charged with the blessing and responsibility of raising their children to be productive members of society. But, parents have to see to their own needs, too. Most mental health professionals from Dr. Spock to Dr. Phil will tell you that in order to build a strong family, you need to have a strong foundation.

Children learn from their parents. They learn how to: treat others with love and respect; have compassion and empathy; be disciplined in their work; bounce back from disappointment; express opinions and resolve differences; laugh and have fun. Children learn how to treat their future partners by how they see their parents treating each other. It is vital for parents to model these healthy virtues and behaviors at home so their children may learn to develop them. Of course, children will see their parents in disagreements; but, seeing how the two of you handle those rough moments models for them how to compromise and work through differences.

Stephen Bavolek, PhD, an expert in the field of child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment notes in his article, The Art and Science of Raising Children, “Parents whose physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs are not being met will have difficulty in meeting the needs of their children.” Consider that “us” time as a prescription from Dr. Bavolek. It can actually help you become a better parent.

It is difficult for some people to ask for help. Just try it once. Ask a friend to watch your children. Go to dinner, a movie or walk along the beach. Share a hot chocolate. Laugh. Hold hands. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; the idea of “us” time is to bring the two of you together without the distractions of the outside world.

Forget about Mr. Keillor’s contention that you can’t plant corn and date women on the same day. Even corn farmers take their wives out now and then.

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, profoundly said, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”