Ok, so how do parents of 4 girls not only get through day to day but have fulfilling lives as individuals and as a member of the family team? I have titled this “parents of 4” to stay consistent with my theme of the blog but I think this is relevant if you have 12 kids or no kids or 4 cats (though that’s weird). Here are my thoughts on why we don’t pull our hair out on the really bad days:
A support network– Rae and I could not do half of what we want to accomplish in life without our support network (most notably my Mom and sister-in-law Trudy). I believe we are unique in many regards in terms of how much support we get. There is never a weekend or an evening where one of those two individuals or the community at large won’t take care of our kids. It is truly amazing what they do for these kids and it is always appreciated. The number of times we get “ummm, where are your kids?” when we are out…”well, actually where are the kids?… oh they are at Trudy’s.”
Quality time– Rae and I spend a few minutes connecting and hearing about what happened or what is going to happen tomorrow. We usually don’t have cable (she cancels it after the NHL season is over), so we are forced…I mean I am lucky enough to have the chance to sit and talk at the end of a long day. Not only quality time for 15 minutes at night to connect on what needs to happen in terms of tasks and drop-offs but we also have committed to trips without the kids for a couple of times per year with another couple. With short trips (we have done NYC, Nashville, Toronto) you have a smaller budget and shorter time to ask for care for the kids, yet you have the lead up to the trip and then the pics and the laughs afterwards that brings you back to when you were 20 (wow, almost 20 years ago now).
Mutual interests– we volunteer together, we work out together (she selects out of some workouts, ha) and we cook together. It kind of becomes automatic that you just say ‘yes’ when the other asks you to be involved. It connects you on a different level and you have time to work on a task other than laundry or the groceries. It creates opportunities for conversation later and often a lot of laughs.
Organization– it’s tough, real balancing act. If you decide to ignore lunches and laundry tonight because it gives you more quality time with the kids to watch a movie then you better be prepared to have the day start in chaos and crankiness. Rae is great at convincing us just to get the last few details figured out before we start our movie. I don’t think mess is a linear equation. I think once you hit 5+ people living in one house it is a recipe for an utter disaster.
A community– our kids carpool everywhere. People see our family and other similar families and they reach out and offer rides and we do the same. There is no way one set of parents can work and get our kids to everything we want them to experience. We need to have a network and communicate clearly and frequently.
Most importantly, a belief and a desire to help each other accomplish personal goals. Parents want to be parents, attending games and concerts, hosting birthday parties, meeting the first boyfriend and helping our kids when they need us the most. But many parents want to contribute more, or should I say differently (I support parents 100% dedicated to their kids if that is what the find fulfilling). Maybe it is the CEO, maybe it is a teacher, going back to school or maybe it is being a community leader with sport or home and school. Life isn’t complete for many people in a single role. The role of the spouse is to ensure that the other has the opportunities to experience everything they want to. So maybe as guys we need to give up a night of hockey, maybe we need to cart the kids everywhere a couple of nights a week. And maybe by the look on her face, you need to get the kids in the car and just go for breakfast and give her some breathing space. Do it…happy wife, happy life.
I am not financially wealthy, I don’t live in a huge house on the water, and I have lots of weaknesses that I am trying to sort out. The one thing I am proud of is the relationship I have at home with Rae and the kids. Anyone who has the same thing will agree with me that this is not something that happens automatically, everyone needs to work at it. But when you do, the results are amazing.