When we were children, there were much stricter boundaries,” recalled Eriwu, a 42-year old mother of two teenage children as we discussed the vast difference of parenting in the past and how today’s parents mono-cuddle their children.
She continued: “Children did not stay up with the adults, or socialise with them, or sleep in their parents’ beds. We on the other hand, seem to have no boundaries at all. Our children spill over into all aspects of our lives. It is only rarely that I shout: ‘I need some adult time!’ and am promptly ignored.
“Our philosophy is that we want them to feel secure and loved so that they will grow into confident adults, but that’s been at the expense of any dividing line between their world and ours. Part of the problem is that we don’t have an extended family who are able to relieve us from childcare.
My mother and step-father live is a different state, and my father and his wife live miles away from our home. During the past 17 years, we’ve had only a few handful of nights away from our children and the constant caring for them and ignoring each other’s needs sometimes corrodes our relationship. All our resources, both financial and emotional go towards making sure our children are happy and healthy and up to scratch with their homework.
“I know that we are not unique, that there are millions of other couples going through the same thing. Yet this isn’t how I imagined life with my husband would be. He specialised in photography and I, a copywriter, and we met abroad while working for different publications.
I was instantly struck by his intrepid nature – he looked dashing and made me laugh and it was easy to fall in love with him. We began working together on exciting assignments but now our times away are mostly tame outings with the children; my snapshot images of my husband are now of him coaching the children or organising birthday parties!
The few precious nights we’ve had away in the past few years have given us rare chances to rekindle our marriage even though we haven’t been further than neighbouring countries. Even real foreign holidays are with the two of them in tow! “When the children were babies, our days off were even more precious and rare.
It felt as though we were running a very small boarding nursery school. We communicated wearily about nappy-changing and bottle-feeding, our conversations were brief instructions or demands, and not the stimulating or amusing debates we had been used to.
“Even with the help of the only domestic staff we had, my husband had to help at nights, rocking babies to sleep. Our entire weekends were spent working around naps and feeding times. “When our first child was born, I suffered a haemorrhage after giving birth, which left me exhausted. I’m not someone who has piles of energy anyway, but with the added pressure of having a baby, I could hardly function at all. I found it difficult to get up in the night to tend to our baby son, handling the bulk of the night feeds over to Ike, my husband, leaving him tired and resentful.
At times we barely talked to each other. The strain was so much that when Ike got transferred on the job for a few months, we virtually lost contact. The news on the grapevine was that he was having an affair. It was a sad and lonely few months for me.
“Thankfully, as soon as he got back home, we realized we missed each other. A few months later, I got pregnant. Unbelievably, I had another post-partnum haemorrhage and lost a lot of blood when our daughter was born.
I felt very weak the first few months that she was a baby, but this time, we had a good help and managed to hold things together. When both our children could spend time with any of their grandparents, we had blissful days and nights together. The mornings were so peaceful and we chatted over a cup of tea and sat down to breakfast. At a table. And enjoyed a conversation – a vast difference to our normal routine.
“While our son, at 15 can look after himself, our daughter, who had just started secondary school, still needs cajoling into getting dressed. ‘Put your shoes on! Brush your hair!’ She is often still staring in the mirror and rearranging her hair minutes before she is meant to be at school. My husband gets exasperated and shouts,’ sometimes we end up all shouting at once.
Although it is easier now that the children are older, it still feels as though they need constant care and attention. Any time that I’m not working or exercising is often spent organising their lives focusing on their health, worrying about their well-being, leaving virtually no time at all for my husband.
A weekend can be soul-destroying. They are all about the children, and as they have grown older, their demands have not abetted. This is our fault, for letting their lives overtake ours.
“Last Christmas when they got to spend a couple of days with their cousins, was heavenly. As soon as they were gone, we morphed from being grumpy, stressed and irritable to reasonable, loving and relaxed. On the first night, we went out to dinner, which is not something we usually do – and we could take our time.
In fact, we had so much time that we strolled to the restaurant – and we held hands. We felt frivolous and free and young. We chatted and laughed. It was like being together when we first met all those years ago. My husband wasn’t just any co-partner, a father to my children, but a man whom I love, my best friend. Ideally, we would have three child-free days a month to remember that we are not just parents to our children, but a man and a woman in a loving relationship”.
Why binge drinking is a risk to baby’s mental health
Pregnant women who binge drink could raise the risk of mental health problems in their children, research shows. The study conducted by the universities of Nottingham, Bristol, Oxford, Sheffield and Leicester, discovered problems with hyperactivity, attending deficit and poor exam results persisted at ages four, seven and 11.
The scientists world defined a binge as four or more units of alcohol – two pints of beer or four small glasses of wine – consumed in a single day at least once during the pregnancy. They monitored 4,000 women and then tracked their children periodically until the age of 11. One in four mothers reported binge drinking at least once during pregnancy.
Professor Kapil Sayal of Nottingham University, whose work is published in the journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said: ‘Women who are pregnant or who are planning to be, should be aware of the possible risks associated with heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs occasionally.
‘The study’s findings highlight the need for clear policy messages about patterns of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, whereby women who choose to drink occasionally should avoid having several drinks in a day.’