(Guest post by Michelle LaRowe)
Even the most attentive and caring parents can feel a twinge of guilt when they enjoy time alone without the kids on a date night. The reality is that scheduling time away from your children not only benefits the adults, it helps the kids, too.
With families drifting further and further apart, children don’t always have the built-in support system of family living right down the block. This results in their main adult contact being with their parents, which while fine as toddlers, can leave them with no adult confidantes as they grow. Fostering strong bonds with trusted adults in the form of family or friends allows children to make other adult connections.
The same is true for adults. While you may like nothing more than spending all weekend with the kids, getting a chance to hang out with your own friends or plan a date night helps strengthen your social network. By placing time aside to interact with friends and family as separate family members rather than a whole, children and adults can strengthen relationships.
Parenting is a stressful job between the constant messes, bickering and negotiating. While other high-stress career holders get to clock out at the end of the day, many parents don’t believe they should get an escape. Instead, they pour all their time into their children.
Parents who grant themselves a break, whether it’s for a weekly date night or a daily jog around the neighborhood, can decrease the amount of stress they’re carrying. They come back from their time away more refreshed and more level-headed, so when the dog tracks mud all over the couch or a cup of juice is spilled for the fifth time that day, they can handle it without going off the rails.
While you may hate the idea of your cuddly toddler or loving grade-schooler leaving home for college or the working world, the fact is that day is coming sooner than you think. Parents act as a safety blanket for young children and allowing them to form strong bonds with other trusted adults creates a bigger circle of protection. The revelation that children can survive and even thrive outside the home can lead to more self-discovery and confidence. By engaging in your own activities and leaving children with trusted adults, your children are given a larger circle where they feel safe to explore.
Socialization is a core tenant of children growing into healthy adults. They need to not only form strong s0cial bonds but see them implemented. Parents who maintain a social life outside of their family life teach their children what normal social interaction looks like, which can help them form the same relationships with their peers.
Socialization goes both ways. While you’re enjoying some time to yourself, children left in the care of a trusted adult are able to form bonds. Rather than interacting with a parent, they are interacting with a new, adult friend.
Taking time away from the children isn’t a selfish or even mean act. It’s an act of love, trust, and security in knowing you have a social circle that can help ease the burdens of parenting. Parents can benefit from time away as much as their children can benefit from an occasional break too.
With more than 20 years of experience in the nanny world as an award-winning nanny, agency director, and parenting author, Michelle LaRowe is considered a leading industry expert. A mom herself, she loves to educate parents and nannies on the importance of quality in-home childcare. Find out more by visiting @eNannySource on Twitter.