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?
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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
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