Every parent knows that kids make a great excuse. When people ask us to do something we’d rather not do, if we need a way to get out of a commitment we mistakenly agreed to, we have the perfect out: Sorry, something came up with the kids. Sorry, I can’t, I have to grab the kids.
If we’d actually wanted to, we’d have found a way. But they don’t know that!
Yet this strategy cuts both ways. We have to be aware of how we use this excuse to our detriment. To explain why we’re putting on weight, why our marriage isn’t getting the attention it deserves, why we’ve quit on our dreams. The great Margaret Atwood was offended at the idea, much more prevalent in her generation, that one couldn’t be a mother and a writer. “I didn’t see why it had to be either/or,” she said. “If you have a job in the daytime, you write at night. It’s all a question of how much you want it.”
We use our kids as an excuse to get out of things we don’t want to do. When we use them as an excuse elsewhere in our lives, it’s worth pausing and asking ourselves how badly we actually want or need to do that thing. If it’s still as important to us as we told ourselves it was when we didn’t have kids, then we need to find a way to make the time now that we do.
We need to find a way to construct our lives so that doing what we want to do and what we need to do isn’t an either/or proposition, it’s also/and then.