As part of our Time Out series, JEMS founder Christine Ma-Lau 劉馬露明 talks to us about why parents need some time out from their parenting roles.
When I got married, people immediately asked my husband and I when we would start having kids. We wanted to wait for a bit and enjoy being married. Our well-meaning friends and family responded by warning us that our home would go from being a peaceful haven to a jungle gym of kids’ toys. We wouldn’t be able to go on holidays for years and even when we did, it would be that it would be more tiring than being at home; and don’t even think about a date night that doesn’t include watching the baby cam for at least 50% of the time.
Of course, as a parent now, the joys of parenthood outweigh the challenges and hardships. What all of our well-meaning friends were telling us was this: once you have kids, your kids will be the most important person to you in the world and your marriage will take a backseat.
It’s easy to let an adorably cute, helplessly needy, bundle of joy take on all the attention but it’s equally important to take time out to nurture the marriage in order to build a strong, stable family for your child.
The importance to take time out to focus on your marriage
As an educator, I’m all for focusing on children and their development. But there’s a balance. In order to foster your children’s healthy development, parents have to take time out for themselves to focus on their marriage. The benefits are many.
1 – Role modeling for children
Showing children how to treat your spouse with love and respect, teaches them how to treat their future spouse and those of the opposite gender. Children who observe a positive, loving and respectful marriage between parents who prioritise each other will learn what to expect from themselves and their partner in a healthy relationship.
2 – Positive impact
Studies have shown that children growing up in families with strong marriages are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, feel more secure and confident, and are more likely to have strong marriages themselves. All these results reflect the positive impact a healthy marriage can have on a child.
3 – Empty nest
For parents with young kids, it’s hard to imagine the day when your children will leave the nest. It won’t mean they don’t need you but their needs will evolve as they do. In addition to not physically being there, they’ll move away from being the centre of all your attention. All parents experience the ‘empty nest’ reality when the birds they have nurtured will fly away using the wings they have given them. In those times, when the house is quiet, it’s important to have a strong marriage to be anchored to.
The day before I got married, I wrote a letter to my father. I thanked him for being such a great dad over the years and also for being a good husband. Knowing that I leave my parents with each other gave me comfort to start a marriage of my own.
Parents, take some time out for yourselves. Don’t just use time away from your kids for work, but create space and time you can enjoy one another’s company: date nights and taking short trips together. Your ‘time out’ will be good for you and your kids.