It's Father's Day, and so, today's NY Times Magazine cover story is about parenting, specifically what is lately being called "equal parenting." ("WHEN MOM AND DAD SHARE IT ALL - ADVENTURES IN EQUAL PARENTING")
I would assume that there are fewer and fewer parents these days who would argue against the notion that parenting should be an equally shared responsibility and that child-rearing tasks shouldn't be divided up along prescribed gender lines as they once were. So, rather than write about what's already been written about a lot on this subject, I would like to write about the notion of "equal unparenting."
I've talked and written a lot about how over-involved the recent generations of parents (Baby Boomers and Echo Boomers) are with their kids, and the kind of narcissistic disturbances that can cause. I have also talked quite a bit about how important it is for children to have parents who are happy and fulfilled in their sex-lives and creative lives.
Now, let's get practical and radical and take it out of the box. Raising kids the way most people try and do it today, even with the shifts towards equality of tasking, is inherently dysfunctional. Two parents, living together under one roof with their kids full-time, while also pursuing a self-actualized lifestyle of gratification in love and work is tantamount to climbing Mount Everest or competing in a triathlon every day! And how many of you have done either of those things even once? (I actually do know a mother of three who competes in triathlons as a way of taking a break from the rigors of mothering!)
So, when faced with this daunting situation (and by the way, most first-time parents don't have a clue what they're getting into), what typically happens? Well, like on any sinking ship, the first thing you do is throw overboard the things that seem expendable in an attempt to stay afloat. Sex is usually at the top of that list. No time, too tired, too angry - "Yeah, we'll make a date with each other." Never happens. Well, maybe it happens once. Next to get tossed are any avocations or hobbies that you love, but which don't bring in any money. Writing? Painting? Ice climbing in the Pacific Northwest? Can't afford it. Exercise? Yeah, for the kids - soccer, Little League, karate, ballet. "Should we let the gym membership expire?" "No!" Gourmet cuisine? Yeah, remember when you always cut out the recipes from the Wednesday NY Times to sample? "Amy's Macaroni and Cheese" sure makes cooking easy, now, doesn't it? And it's organic!
What follows the tossing overboard period is the spirit-crushing feeling of loss and emptiness because it "wasn't supposed to be like this." You're depressed and overwhelmed. This is followed by the insidious, relationship-killing blaming of each other - for not doing your share of the equal shared parenting, for not initiating sex, for not making me care that I've gained weight...
Now it's bad. At this point, it's usually the point of no-return for a couple and the only two choices are split-up or hunker down. In truth, the healthier couples can't hunker down, so... Couples therapy? An affair? A trial separation? Well, here's where I come in and where it's all about EROS. If the in-loveness hasn't been killed off completely, if there's still an ember of desire and passion for each other left alive, there's a possibility that the relationship can be revived, but it's rare. And it's going to require breaking the log-jam you're in and breaking the mold of how it's "supposed" to be done, and couples having the courage and fortitude to do that is even rarer.
How do you go about it? You start with your desires, the callings in your heart and soul, the ones that won't go away that you sadly pine about in bed when you're not having sex. You need to retrieve the very things you threw overboard because those things were NOT AT ALL EXPENDABLE. They were the essential things to living a good life and being good parents. Yes. That's right. Your kids need YOU to play soccer more than they need to play it. Your kids need you to have TIME OUTS more than they do. Yeah. Instead of sending more money on McLaren SUV strollers, violin lessons or Wiis, spend it on a good babysitter and housecleaning person. Next - and this is a big one - spend some time alone. Real time. Not just a couple of hours. A couple of days. Go in on a small studio if you have to. You're going to have to spend the bucks if you get divorced anyway. Think about it. A lawyer, child support and maintenance is going to cost you a lot more than a babysitter, housecleaner and a small studio to have some private time in.
Finally, assuming the EROS still burns somewhere for your partner, yes, do make a date with each other - and keep it. But DO NOT talk about the kids or the house or anything other than what you're passionate about and sex, sex, sex. Talk about it, reveal your hidden fantasies and shameful desires and then DO IT! Do it with more gusto than you've ever done it before. Sex only gets better with age. That's right, better. Anybody who has ever told you otherwise should get thrown overboard.
Okay, that's it for now.
And Happy Father's Day!