by Trevor Waddington, Principal at TYW Education Group
It’s a typical Tuesday afterschool in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Stoller family comes home to their GoldenDoodle, Markie (named for the spunky Markie Post from Night Court fame). After some casual ‘how is it going’, they grab whatever food they can as the typical evening gauntlet awaits. Sylvie, a high school freshman, has a final dress rehearsal for the fall musical at 7:30 PM. But not so fast, she first must go to physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff (she’s a standout left winger on her traveling hockey team). Nicholas, a junior, begrudgingly pulls his cello from the closet. He has a private lesson starting in 10 minutes. Then he has an appointment with his psychiatrist. He’s been experiencing panic attacks for 2 years. Because of his diagnosis, he is afraid to drive, so mom traverses him around town. The evening ends around 9:15 leaving little to no time for quality togetherness.
For many families this seems like a typical weekday afternoon/evening. But why? Is it because the kids love all the activities? Nicholas doesn’t seem to enjoy string instruments. Is it because the Stollers want immaculate profiles to get the top colleges and universities to notice? Maybe.
Or maybe remaining in a state of perma-hustle and bustle keeps an unhappy marriage on the back burner. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research released a report recently showing that the divorce rate was at a 40-year low. Many factors explain this statistic: The spike in couples living together before marriage and couples being more financially established when they tie the knot are at the top of the list. Among all married couples, the rate of divorce of 30 – 44 year olds has regressed the most and sits between 11.6% and 5.1%. At the same time the divorce rates among the 50+ crowd has more than doubled because that’s when the last of the kids head out on their own.
If the average marriage begins at 28, the average family has 2 children, and the average time period between marriage and last born is 4.5 years, that means a couple will become empty nesters at 49.5 years of age.
So with the big 5-0 on the horizon the weekend hockey tournaments are no more. The cello is now collecting dust somewhere in the attic. The evenings are you and your spouse and the unhappiness that festered now bubbles to the service.
Gale Rosner, a retired child psychologist and couples therapist has seen this before. “Parents are so hyper focused on their children’s happiness and success, they condition themselves to equate their children’s happiness with their own. They do not fully comprehend just how unhappy they are in their marriage,” says Rosner, “Parents feel that as long as my children are happy, I can live this life. I don’t want my kids deprived of any opportunity that will keep them from achieving more success than I did.”
In the end, today’s parents highly value the experiences their children receive, and if shuffling them around keeps them from having an awkward to devastating conversation with their partner, even better. But that’s masking the real problem. Many of us have unlearned how to meaningfully connect with our loved ones. This causes distance, evokes resentment, and gone unchecked makes for a tough ride…to all the places your take your kids.
If this sounds like you, leave a comment below.