Stop here every day for a new question and answer, practical help for busy parents.
Raising children takes a lot of time, which leaves my husband and I with less time together. Should I make up for that by spending all of my free time with him? If I want to spend some time by myself or with friends, does that say something about my marriage?
There is no magic formula for a good marriage. Some couples have different interests and spend a lot of time doing their own thing. Others try to grab every possible minute with each other, eschewing time with friends and hobbies. Both types of marriage can be healthy, as long as the people involved are happy with the allocation of time.
If your husband thinks you don’t spend enough time with him, then try to free some up. But all of us need at least some time to ourselves, and for activities other than hanging around the house with the spouse. Don’t listen to anyone outside of your bedroom who tries to tell you the “proper” amount of time to spend with your husband.
Talk with the man about it and come up with a schedule that works for the two of you. Just be aware that if one of you wants to spend every spare minute at home and the other wants to leave the house and go shopping or bowling every time the kids to go sleep, a compromise will be needed.
An attitude of gratitude
As parents, we may act like we have superpowers. But we don’t. We get tired, irritated, angry, and depressed. It’s tough to keep your spirits up all the time when dealing with disobedience, stubbornness, and just plain boneheadedness.
So the answer is to pamper ourselves, right? Buy something expensive, order an ice cream cake and eat the whole thing, or whip out the credit card and take an impromptu vacation to Fiji. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that those “solutions” can leave you worse off than you were before.
This time, I’m not writing to give you the answer. Sometimes I can help people with parenting problems, but I don’t have the key to happiness. However, one guy, a lawyer in Los Angeles, appears to have discovered a piece of it.
John Kralik was pondering his many failures when he heard a voice from the sky say, “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want.”
Rather than just write the experience off as a fluke, Kralik decided to address the problem with his pen. For each of the next 365 days, he wrote a thank-you note to someone. He wrote to such people as a Starbucks barista who remembered his name and former business associates who had helped him out years earlier.
In a newspaper interview, Kralik said, “People were very moved by these letters. I realized there is such a gift in connecting with others. These people thought what they were doing wasn’t significant. Reading the notes was this little piece of validation.”
Kralik found the experience personally rewarding, making him focus on gratitude and ditch the bad attitude. After his attitude shift, things got better. He repaired breaches in relationships with his children and also started seeing professional success that had eluded him in the past. If you’re interested in Kralik’s experiment in kindness, check out his book, “365 Thank Yous. The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.”
All too often, we parents focus on what people want from us, the demands of our children, the stress of balancing work and family responsibilities. Perhaps Kralik has discovered something special. I’m not necessarily going to advise that everyone start writing a lot of thank-you notes. That was Kralik’s journey, it may not be yours. But he’s on to something when he talks about gratitude.
There is power in contentment. The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that happiness is not about having more, but about wanting less. And the first step to wanting less is being grateful for what we already have.
Thank you for reading today’s Q&A. Check back here tomorrow for another installment of the Ask The Dad advice column. If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked today’s column, click on the Subscribe link to receive e-mail whenever a new column is posted. Don’t worry, it’s free.