Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 19, 2015)
Around the time I got married, lots of people started asking me and my husband when we would have kids (as people in Hong Kong seem to commonly do!). And we would answer them by saying that we wanted some time to ourselves first and, God willing, we’d have them later on. That response typically garnered the reply that it was a good idea because once after having kids, our lives would be turned upside down, our home would not be a peaceful haven but 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’d be more tiring than being at home, we wouldn’t be able to go out on date nights to have a romantic meal without checking our phones constantly to watch the baby cam and spending the whole time talking about how our baby’s appetite and bowel movements were that day. Of course, the joys of parenthood outweigh the challenges and hardships. But essentially 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 on 2nd place.
And 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.
I was having date night with my husband at a Thai restaurant about a year ago and we surprisingly bumped into a couple we know. They have 3 boys, all below the age of 8 at the time, and they were having their date night too. When asked how they could leave their kids at home, they said they needed time to themselves and each other and it also helped the kids be more independent.
As an educator, I’m all for focusing on children and their development. But I also understand that in order to have the healthy development on a child, parents have to take time out for themselves to focus on their marriage. The benefits are many.
Role modeling for children
By showing children what it’s like to treat your spouse with love and respect, they will one day also know how to treat their future spouses and those of the opposite gender. But more than that, when girls see the way their dads treat their mums, it will set an expectation for them for how they want boys to treat them. It will also shows daughters how to be a woman who respects men. For sons, by watching their dads, they will learn what it means to be a man and how to treat women; by watching their mums, they will learn what it means to be a son but also learn how to take care of a woman.
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 marriage can have on a child.
For parents with young kids, it’s hard to imagine now that there will be a day when your children will be off to college, having their own jobs and families and being independent. It doesn’t mean they don’t need you but they will certainly need you in a different way. And in those times, your children won’t be the centre of all your attention, or shouldn’t be. All parents experience the ‘empty nest’ reality where the birds they have nurtured will fly with the wings they have given them and in those times, it’s important to have a strong marriage to be anchored to.
The day before I got married, I wrote a letter to my dad. In the letter, I thanked him for being such a great dad over the years but I also thanked him for being a good husband. Knowing that I leave my parents with each other gave me comfort to start a marriage on my own.
So parents, take some time out for yourselves. Enjoy date nights and going on short trips together. Take time out to enjoy each other’s company without kids being there. Because your ‘time out’ will be good for you and your kids.