Hollywood Tragedy or Healthy Parenting?Dan Pearce
Booze. Parties. Sex.
When you string those powerful words together, it sounds like the dastardly headline of yet another Hollywood tragedy. I’m guessing you wouldn’t conjure up any of those words while thinking of everyday moms and dads who work ceaselessly to be good moms and dads. I know I didn’t used to.
But what if booze, parties, and sex actually help a lot of parents be better parents? Is that possible? I know many parents who would adamantly tell you, YES. It’s not only possible, it’s very much a reality.
But before you string me up by my ankles for defacing the sanctity of parenthood, read the following paragraphs and let’s have an interesting discussion about it.
1) Tanya, a single mother of two, really enjoys any chance she can find for booze, parties, and sex.
2) Tanya, a single mother of two amazing girls, works two jobs to make ends meet. Finding time for herself can be challenging with how much she gives her little ones, and there is no doubt that the stresses of life can often be overwhelming. Her social life is usually the last thing she worries about, and her friends are lucky to break her away for a night of fun. Her boyfriend often feels neglected in their relationship, but is generally understanding that her schedule simply doesn’t allow much time for him. Sometimes, after the kids are in bed, the two of them forget about everything else, finish off a bottle of wine, and savor some much needed intimacy. On other even more rare occasions, she is able to find a babysitter and go out for a night on the town with her girlfriends. They go dancing, karaoking, and usually get drinks together. This, of course, leads to all sorts of silliness and fun. When the night is over (whether it’s with her boyfriend or her friends) and it’s back to real life again, she always feels so rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. She’s more patient and pleasant with her kids and somehow the strains of life give her a temporary reprieve. I really need to find time for that more often, she always thinks.
These are obviously two very different paragraphs, yet essentially they both say the same thing, don’t they? Tanya (a fictional mother) drinks, has fun, and seeks out intimacy. The difference is, when the only thing we read is paragraph #1, we tend to think something very differently about Tanya than we would if the only thing we read is paragraph #2.
As outsiders, we tend to watch other parents, and we scrutinize their every action. We judge parents like Tanya based on the limited information that we get from externally observing her and her activities. We hold her against our own beliefs of what is right and wrong and we blatantly decide whether she is a fit parent or not. We see her out and about, being careless, having fun, going a little crazy with her friends, and we think what kind of mom is she?
But so often in life, moms and dads like Tanya are some of the best moms and dads of our time. When they’re with their kids, they’re with their kids. When they’re parenting, they’re parenting. And, just like other incredible moms and dads, barely a moment goes by when they aren’t thinking of ways to better the lives of their children.
Yet at the same time they are fantastic parents, very unfairly, many in the world see them and only ever see paragraph #1. The everyday truths and day to day realities that bring balance to their parental spec sheets get overlooked completely. And, those parents end up being held to some standard that shouldn’t be theirs at all. At least in some places.
But the truth is, parents need to find time to fulfill their own social and personal needs. It may not be in the form of drinks, nights out on the town, clubs, or big social gatherings. Some parents will fulfill their social needs by playing cards or going to movies. Others will enjoy a night at a sporting event or browsing an art show. Some will enjoy meeting up with friends for board games and snacks.
It doesn’t really matter how a parent meets those needs, so long as they know their boundaries. What does matter is that if parents don’t find time to break away and do grown-up things, they will never be quite as good of parents as they otherwise would. I really believe that. Social health is so important. Mental health, just as much so.
As for me … I know that when I’ve been cooped up in the dad role for too long, I start to become shorter with my son. I’m more irritable. I’m less appreciative. I’m less approachable. I laugh less. I don’t enjoy the tiny wonder that he is. I don’t cherish the awesomeness of his developmental moments like I normally would.
Yet when life takes me to such places (as it often will), one night out with friends or one intimate evening with someone I care about has the power to change all of that. Instantly. It’s like a giant “reset” button that I get to push when life gets too heavy. It also has a way of reminding me that being a dad is my priority and my main duty but also that being a dad is not my entire life.
Nor should it be.
Not if I want my child to have the best dad possible. A dad who is healthy and completely invested in his life.
Yet many there are, I’m sure, who would look at me and some of the things I do to recharge and only see that paragraph #1. They would never see that second paragraph which I very easily could have written about myself.
But I’ll tell you this much. Some of the best parents I’ve ever known show up to the same places I sometimes do and for the exact same reasons. I see them at poker night. I see them at the downtown martini bar. I see them standing up with me belting Neil Diamond at karaoke. And, whenever I see them there, I also see the stresses of life literally melt off of them as the night gets going.
So often the evening will start out with these parent friends of mine (both married and not married) talking about how demanding life currently is as a parent, and it ends with them talking about how awesome their children are and how blessed they are to be parents. It’s a bit of a magical transformation.
And then those good parents go home to their kids and they really step it up as parents where just hours before they lacked the energy to do so. I know that’s how it usually is for me.
And so I’ll keep making sure I get out for occasional nights of parental decompression with my friends, intimacy with that special somebody, and a delicious drink here or there. I’ll also make sure that I keep things in check.
The key difference between good parenting and bad parenting, in my opinion, is knowing what lines never to cross. It’s knowing what is healthy and harmless and what is unhealthy and hurtful to others. It’s steering clear of addictions and events that could carry negative and long-term consequences. It’s letting go of parenting for the moment, but never forgetting what effects every choice will have on one’s parenting abilities or on one’s children. It’s putting yourself first temporarily so that you can put your kids first always.
So if you see other parents leaving parenting life behind for a few hours here and there, just remember … it’s probably not a Hollywood tragedy. Remember that behind every paragraph #1 there’s a much bigger paragraph #2.
Things are not always as black and white as we like to believe they are. Sometimes what we see as unhealthy is actually a good thing for everybody.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Would love your comments on this post. Are you a parent who knows the value of recharging via what was discussed above? When you read the different paragraphs are you swayed in any particular way?
Don’t miss the latest from Babble Voices — Like Us on Facebook!
More of me on Danoah Unleashed:
My Kid’s Booger Problem Just Got Personal
When Mommy & Daddy Believe Very Different Things
I Bit My Kid’s Head Off For No Real Reason Today
For My Kid’s First Birthday, I Got Him a Facebook Account
Why the Heck Would it Be Where it Goes?