Over the weekend, a writer from eHow.com interviewed me for an article on the need for parents to carve out a social life in the midst of raising kids. It got me thinking.
When our kids are young and dependent on us for sustenance, wisdom, shelter, emotional support and car pooling, it is easy to shelve any social life that involves other adults. It’s difficult finding a babysitter for Valentine’s Day, for example. So let’s just make dinner for the family. Sure, I’d love to see Zero Dark Thirty, but what do I do with my 10 year old who wants to see … uh, (there are currently no G rated movies in the theater) but you get the point.
These plans are more often than not fueled by parental guilt. How can we go out to dinner with our college roommate and her husband when our 14 year old has no plans, is too old for a babysitter, and is going to be home alone? Even the offer of a let-loose ice cream sundae and any movie on Netflix does little if anything to assuage the guilt.
Often times, especially if we are a single parent, a child lets you know (insincerely) he or she will be “fine” if you leave them to go socialize with other adults. Translation: not really. As a result, if we have a child under the age of say, 15, we may feel the urge to bag the social event and hang out at home.
Not so fast.
My own children were very young when I first began dating as a widow. A few years later they were teenaged or approaching that milestone when I began dating after a second, brief brush with marriage. My guilt knew no bounds. I was a single mom and unless I sacrificed everything for my children, they would be unhappy. (This, of course, was my thinking. Not theirs.)
Fast forward to now. My children are young adults and in relationships (my daughter is married). I can assure you that if I didn’t have a social life now they would be miserable. Since they are happily socializing they don’t want to think that Mom is home eating an entire pizza by herself. They are relieved that I have been in a long term relationship for many years, and am rarely around on the weekends.
So, if you are where I was a few years ago, and you’re weighing a decision to go out with friends on Saturday night or stay home and watch the Disney channel, recognize that all you are doing is deferring the guilt.
And it’s not your guilt. It’s theirs.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!