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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Me, We, and Family

Family of four
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Having a good life while married--especially after kids come into the picture--can be challenging. Finding a balance of me, we, and family time can be difficult. In our case, it doesn't happen organically. What happens organically is that the kids come first, then we take time for ourselves, and once in awhile we remember to spend quality time with each other having a conversation that doesn't also qualify as a fight.

Mike and I want to give our children the luxury of having both a mom and dad who not only live together but who love and care for each other, who treat each other with respect. And we both know that if we want to keep our marriage alive and well, we have to work at it. This isn't news to most couples, but I'm blogging about it to remind present me and future me of my feelings and intentions.

This summer I'm spending a lot of time on the me part of the equation. The outpatient rehabilitation program I am in for drug/alcohol abuse is all about me. I'm taking these twelve weeks to really focus on my behavior. I'm learning a lot about how I feel, why I may do the things I do, and how to be honest with myself and others about both my behavior as well as their behavior. I'm learning skills like listening, relaxing, self-awareness, assertiveness, and more. A lot of the groups I am in encourage self-discovery and honesty, and it's sometimes horrible and sometimes great. But it's always about me and that's what's nice about it.

Other things I do for myself include working out, eating healthy, caring about what I wear and how I look, spending time away from the house when Rosa's here or on the weekends, having hobbies such as blogging and decorating and gardening and photography, keeping abreast of what's happening in the news, having friends whom I see without bringing my kids, and going on mom's weekends away.

Being a better me helps me be a better we, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to work at my relationship with Mike. One thing that we have come to realize is that we tend to spend most nights once the kids are in bed working on our own, solo projects. He's usually on his computer and I'm on mine; we may or may not be in the same room. We rarely even watch TV together and he tends to go to bed before me. This isolation on weeknights would be fine if we spent more time together during the day, but with Mike at work and me at home, that doesn't happen, although we do eat dinner together every night and spend almost every weekend together as a family.

In an effort to make time for us, Mike is going to restrict his online poker playing to one weekend day instead of playing every weeknight. I am going to try blogging in the afternoon, while the kids are playing, instead of blogging at night. With our new time together, Mike and I are going to watch more movies. I'm re-joining Netflix and I bought a book called The 501 Best Movies of All Time. It doesn't really matter what we watch, but hopefully the films will inspire intelligent conversation.

We still have our weekly date night when we go out to dinner and reconnect without the kids, and occasionally we get to do other, more elaborate nights out and weekends away.

I'm also making plans to take golf lessons and one day I'm going to get my scuba certification. Both of these hobbies--golfing and scuba diving--are ones that Mike and I can do together. They're also great hobbies for travelers, and I hope that our future together contains lots more traveling, too.

We seem to be pretty good at spending quality family time together. We frequently go away on vacations and we spend most weekends at some child-friendly venue. We do eat dinner together every night and because I'm a SAHM, I spend most days with the kids going on fieldtrips and taking them to parks. We spend several nights a week hot tubbing together after dinner, and Mike recently started having us do a nightly, public speaking-inspired project where we each spend one minute talking about a specific topic.

If these efforts seemed contrived, it's because they are. That's what I meant when I wrote that having a good life when you're married with kids is challenging. While some of the decisions I make about how I spend my time are strictly my own and that's exhilarating and brings me the joy only spontaneity can, I also make conscious decisions about how I spend my time and when I do, I consider the wants, needs, and desires of my husband and my kids. That's what marriage and family life is all about.

But it's not all about schedules and forced fun; it's more about the idea that this partnership that I've entered into requires maintenance and care. It requires attention and love and lots of deliberate action. It requires that I communicate even when I'd rather not, and it requires that I always keep in mind the consequences if I choose to neglect it.

Because this life that we've made for ourselves is really, really good. And when it's not good, it's great. And that's what I want to remember.