It is a line often spoken. But is it honest or helpful at times?
I have heard couples say this often. And I am not sure it is always true or helpful.
I spent some years working in a community that had a high percentage of fly in-fly out mining workers. Mainly the men would be earning huge money in mining but had to be away 2 weeks and back home 1 week. Many of them had young children. For some, the fly-in, fly-out rhythm worked OK. For a lot of others, it did not.
At school, we would notice very lonely children, or kids just needing a mentor, a role model; their dad. We saw marriages dying. People were still living together in great houses and driving great cars and viewing really large TV's! but really struggling to cope with the huge time apart in all kinds of ways.
That is when I would hear this line - "We are doing this for the kids". Sometime I would ask what people thought they were actually doing for their kids? They would say things like, "We are getting ahead to pay off our mortgage so the kids can have a private school education so they get a good job and make lots of money and have a good life".
Hmmmm. I get the good education thing. But I am not sure about the money and the 'good job" and how this automatically makes people happy - whatever 'happy' is. And who is this really for - the kids or the adults? Often seemed to be the adults meeting their goals and needs at the expense of the kids, even with the false belief that it wasn't.
What I have learnt as a father of four kids is that kids need education, but they need the presence and the patience and the care and love of their parents even more than school. They certainly need time with mum and dad than a better Xbox or Play Station. They might not believe that at times, but experience shows this is true over time. Time and conversation and fun with mum and dad is way more crucial to their long term well-being and success in life than a their parents healthy bank balance, flash house or cool car.
Problem is, I know, that as a parents, everything is important. Work is important for more reasons than the money. You do need a reliable car. You do need to save some money. You need somewhere t live and you need to pay childcare and school fees. But I guess the trick is attending to all these important things WITHOUT giving up the very needed thing of quality and quantity time with your kids.
Quantity time is quality time. Hanging around not doing much in particular is just as valuable as gearing up for a huge holiday effort with the kids where you climb a mountain, run the dirt bikes, kit out the 4WD, do a high ropes course and pretend to be Bear Grylls! Nothing wrong with going for a slow walk on the beach hunting for cool shells or playing Monopoly. Quality time is quantity time. Kids need the time, not the gear or the adult pursuits as much as you think.
But there is one other very serious place I have heard this line used by a parent. It is said as way of living in the pain of a marriage on the rocks. We are staying together for the kids. Soon as they are old enough we will part company". Woah. That is tough and it is everywhere. The question I have found myself asking a struggling dad or mum in this kind of struggle is, "What is better for your children: to grow up in a loveless or maybe even overly critical and sometime angry and disrespectful home as you 'do this for the kids" or to live with one dad or mum who is a much happier parent and visit the other much more at peace parent?
I suspect the second option might actually be the better option of we are 'doing this for the kids". Not always. We always want to give marriage the best shot we can and try hard to find true reconciliation and peace. The best gift we can give our kids is not more toys or screens or an A grade education or house or millio