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Just a Guy Being Selfish?

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Bruce Sallan: OK, I'm setting myself up with this one -- but I think it's important. Sometimes, parents should be selfish. Yup, selfish. Think of ourselves. For instance, parents need vacations, too. Anybody who doesn't need a vacation after a family vacation is lying. Parents need time alone and more than a date night.

man thinking

Moms and dads will likely differ on this, as moms tend to think the kids come first. Sure, there are times they should, but not all the time. The kids will leave, should leave, and then you've only got each other. If you've not developed a relationship, separate from the kids, you'll be staring at each other wondering who is that strange person.

An example. Went skiing with my wife and younger son. He got a bloody nose and was freaked out. We stemmed the blood; it stopped and he was fine, calmed down, but clearly wasn't skiing this day. No big deal. I suggested my wife and I alternate going skiing, leaving one of us with our son. She was adamant about not going. So, I go at her insistence and she denies herself the pleasure of skiing (something she loves). It wasn't being selfish; it was living our lives, too.

Previous generations left kids alone a lot of the time. Kids actually served their parents, not the other way around. Why has it almost completely reversed? There is a middle ground between spoiling our kids to death and taking care of ourselves. I suggest this is almost a taboo subject and needs to be brought out of the closet. But, then what do I know, I'm just a guy.

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jessica April 11, 2009, 12:16 PM

Totally agree. It shouldn’t be so controversial. I think that husbands/wives come first before the children. Your job as parents is to provide a loving home and loving relationship between eachother as an example for your children. Our job is to raise the kids and let them out on their own to create their own families. Your kids eventually leave the nest, and you’re left with eachother. And you have to have a strong foundation if you’re gonna make it once the house is empty. My partner disagrees with me about who comes first, but he takes it to another level. He said “What would you do if you could only save me or one of the kids from death?” Of course I’d go for the kid, but that wasn’t what I was talking about. I just think that if Mommy and Daddy are happy, then the whole family is happy.

wendy April 11, 2009, 1:21 PM

I think you are right!!! As a Mom I have put my kids first and should have taken better care of myself! It’s all about to change.

ANDRIA April 11, 2009, 4:11 PM

Bruce is absolutely right. If we don’t take care of ourselves we will resent not taking care of ourselves. Women do that way too much!.

Dr. Michelle Golland April 11, 2009, 5:29 PM

I couldn’t agree more! I tell my kids (when they whine about Daddy and I going out) that we need playdates too. How would they like it if I invaded their lego games with their friends. Mommy and Daddy time is key to a healthy home and healthy family :)

Debbie April 11, 2009, 6:45 PM

Like I’ve always said to Bruce, “…it’s you and me first and then the kids…”. We are the primary relationship, if we’re happy the kids will be happy.
On our last ski trip my stepson did have a bloody nose, but it wasn’t an ordinary bloody nose, it was a gusher. As it turned out he broke a blood vessel blowing his nose to hard. Call it women’s intuition, I wasn’t comfortable leaving him to go skiing but I knew Bruce wanted to go badly. It was one of those kinds of days skiers dream about, SUNNY AND GOOD SNOW. I did what felt right to me. As it turned out his nose started to bleed again and this time he was really freaked (we’re talking 45 minutes to stop the bleeding)so I was indeed very happy to have been by his side at his time of need.
It is very important to have a partner who will support you in every way, it may not be the way you expect, but life’s not perfect and the sooner we all get over that expectation, the better. Communication is key in any realtionship and oddly enough it is the biggest challenge. So I agree that the husband and wife MUST carve out time for themselves in order to sustain their relationship, afterall, if you don’t water the garden, you won’t have one.

Bruce Sallan April 11, 2009, 9:58 PM


I love you. We WILL have a relationship after the kids leave.


Simone April 11, 2009, 10:28 PM

It wasn’t until I had children that I realized what a total moron I married! So they’re definitely the center of the universe in our house, and totally getting the wrong message (i.e., that it’s all about them and parents don’t have any other priorities, including their own relationship). Assuming we can’t make the marriage better but cannot divorce for now, anyone have any ideas how to teach our school-age children how to make better choices, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did? The only way I can think of is to spend lots of time with families that are anchored by great marriages, not easy to do when your own is so dysfunctional.

Bruce, you are right on the money. My parents were married for 46 years and crazy about each other until the moment my dad drew his last breath. The bar was set intimidatingly high, though. Thanks for a wise piece.

Mary April 12, 2009, 12:07 PM

Making a marriage better by making it a priority over “kids’ time” can make for better parenting. Too many parents want to be their child’s “best friend” instead of their parent — and that often means taking time for ourselves.

Good blog!

Monica April 12, 2009, 7:10 PM

If you don’t take the time to be away from the kids and rejuvenate ourselves and our marriages then how can we be better parents when we are around our children? Every hard worker needs their day off. And being a parent is hard work. Having a marriage is hard work. Its also good for the child so that they can develop independence and we can develop independence. When we hover over our children and act as if there is nothing in life but to be at our child’s attention all the time we loose ourselves. And likewise when we let our children hover around us sometimes we can be nurturing a needy relationship with the child feeling they need us to be there all the time. Its okay to be selfish, sometimes.

josh April 12, 2009, 9:09 PM

It’s true but so hard to do a lot of the time. I know that when I was a child, my mother attended to all of my needs so that I actually never learned to do a lot of things myself and have learned how to push her away and take care of myself as an adult. But now, without even realizing it, I’m doing the same thing to my kid! Some habits are hard to break.

cg April 12, 2009, 9:34 PM

you are so right. parents nnd private time alone away from the kids, if not for anything else to just apprecialte one another and to remember how it was before you had them. we are planning a family vacation on an 8-day cruise and i gotta tell you as much as i’ve always wanted to take a cruise- this ain’t it.i just know i’m gonna need a vacation from my vacation. eith days w/ my kids/ husband? with nowhere to go but overboard? “that ain’t right” as chris rock would say.

Jaime April 12, 2009, 9:50 PM

I think creating space for ourselves as a couple in little ways throughout the day is the key and not waiting until you go to bed or on a date. It is OK to have conversations with your partner when the kids are home and awake you just have to make the space for it, a few minutes of quality time here and there is all it takes. Teaching patience to our children is a virtue. So, Why is it that they seem to really need you the most when you are on the phone or taking time to sneek in a hug. So, I ask does being in a blended family also make putting ourselves first true in order for the kids to feel secure?

Linda Thompson April 13, 2009, 11:30 AM

You don’t say how old the kid was and if he wanted to be left alone. There should be other times that the parents could have alone time when a kid is not going to be left in an uncomfortable situation. This is a great example of why kids need a Mom and a Dad - two important kinds of parenting. Another side comment: Your wife just may not have wanted to ski alone, as much as she likes skiing. I like to ski, but not by myself.

Carolyn April 13, 2009, 11:52 AM

I don’t think Moms and Dads are so different these days. I’m finding fathers are more nurturing than in previous generations. I thought your suggestion of splitting up the skiing so you could also share in the parenting was a perfect compromise. I don’t doubt your wife’s sincerity, I just don’t believe in one parent being a martyr to make the other feel guilty.

Gina April 14, 2009, 10:46 AM

Bruce my husband is always telling me that he needs a real vacation, not a family vacation. I think he’s wrong to ignore the needs of the family, but I definately haven’t been listening to his needs to get away from all the pressures of work and home. I hope we can come together on this. Thanks for being so astute!!!

David April 15, 2009, 10:28 PM

Outstanding insight shown in this column on “selfishness.” I don’t necessarily think of this as “selfishness,” by the way, but rather something more along the lines of “being attentive to self.” In any case, I think Bruce in on target, and I send props to momlogic for including a dad’s/males’ p.o.v.

Monica April 19, 2009, 11:49 PM

So nice to hear a guy say that and completely agree. You need to put each other FIRST and the kids second. That makes for the best marriages (my parents are of this school of thought and going on 43 years of marriage!)

Debbie should feel really lucky that she’s with someone who puts her first, which is not always the case when you’re a step mom. Nice job Bruce!

kathy April 20, 2009, 7:55 AM

I agree. It is very important. So nice to hear from a dad’s point of view.

Colleen April 21, 2009, 12:44 AM

Again, Bruce, you have good advice. Thank you for your insight.

Mimi April 22, 2009, 6:44 PM

As a middle school teacher, I see the negative effects of parents ALWAYS putting their children first in situations where this is just not necessary, but rather acts as coddling. I adore my students, but this is an entitled generation that lacks a true independent spirit in many ways. Good blog, Bruce!

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