Now that every trip to a movie theater requires me to shell out for a babysitter as well as tickets for the show, I do most of my movie watching at home. It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin (two of my faves) finally made it to HBO. The funny pair play a long divorced couple who find themselves having a steamy affair.
Towards the end of the film Streep’s character has to explain to their adult children that the pair will not be reuniting. “This was something I had to do for me,” she explains to the confused twenty-somethings. And then, because it’s a boomer generation wish fulfillment type movie, and she has perfect children, they all share a group hug.
I like the sentiment of “I had to do it for me.” There is so much we sacrifice for our kids. (Seeing movies out being one example). But we need to hold on to a certain amount of selfishness, call it “self-care,” in order to hang on to who we are.
When we lose ourselves by shaping our lives entirely around those we love, loss of vitality is sure to result. My favorite couples book, Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, hammers home the point that couples need the inner strength to disagree with each other, to stick up for themselves, and that learning to tolerate the discomfort that comes from conflict will pay vast dividends in true intimacy and hot sex.
Something similar must be true regarding parenting. If we hold onto ourselves, tolerate letting our kids down sometimes because something we want for ourselves takes precedence, maybe a deeper intimacy with our kids is possible. By intimacy, I mean being known, not being appreciated. They probably won’t rush in for a big hug when you say “I had to do it for me.”
But it’s good anyway. For them, and for you.
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