Nurture the Adult Relationship
Anyone who has children knows that the amount of time you have for a romantic relationship can dwindle to almost nothing. Between household chores, carpooling, your child's extracurricular activities, homework, and other family obligations, you might ask, “What romance?” You wouldn't be alone in that sentiment. Now add to the mix a child with depression and you begin to feel that not only do you have little time for romance, but also that you shouldn't be selfish to want anything for yourself.
Stop right there! This sort of thinking is unhealthy and unrealistic. It's part of human nature to crave the closeness of another adult. So whether you are single, dating someone, or married, this part of your life should not be neglected. But how do you fit it in when you are spending so much time parenting your depressed child?
Finding the Time
The first thing you must do is assess your schedule. Sure, it's probably chock full of have-to's and musts. On top of that, you have therapy and maybe doctor visits for your depressed child. By the time you finish your day, who cares about anything else but falling into your bed for a few precious hours of sleep before it starts all over again?
Often, a depressed child will complain of feeling smothered by her parents because they want to make sure she is okay. Spend some of that time tending to your own adult relationship. It's also a great way to model healthy relationship behavior for your child. It also helps her escape from being under your microscope, focusing on her every breath!
It's been said before, but you need to understand that your needs are very important. If you are married, that relationship cannot be taken for granted. Research shows that when there is no focus on the relationship between a husband and wife, one or both partners can begin to feel neglected, angry, and lonely. Obviously, that's when trouble begins to brew in your relationship. The same is true for a single parent with a serious relationship.
A parent who is single and not in a relationship will often say she doesn't have time for dating because her main focus is on helping her depressed child. She may be right about her lack of time, but she certainly shouldn't ignore her romantic life just because she is burdened with many family obligations.
Communication with your partner is key if your relationship is going to endure. If you are feeling resentful because your wife is spending all of her time dealing with your depressed child, tell her. You are not being childish, just honest. Mothers in particular seem to become more engrossed and enmeshed with a child who is experiencing trouble. She doesn't mean to ignore her partner, but it does happen.
Recent studies have suggested that spending as little as ten to twenty minutes together every day is enough to keep your marriage on the right track. It gives both of you the opportunity to share news from your day, report on the children, and maybe indulge in a kiss or two!
What You Can Do
Parents worry about financial pressures, time, and other important matters. How can you make time with your partner without breaking the bank if your schedule is bursting at the seams?
Schedule the ten to twenty minutes described earlier. It may sound contrived and artificial, but if it's on your schedule, you are more likely to actually do it!
Schedule a weekly date with your partner. It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. Take a walk together, go to your favorite pizza joint, or sit on your porch after the kids are in bed and enjoy a glass of wine. One caveat — no kids!
If you can't find a babysitter or can't afford to have one, enlist your friends or family. Grandparents are always a pretty good bet for availability! Other parents are tight on resources, too, and good babysitters may be hard to find in your area. Offer to take care of your friend's kids for a few hours in exchange for her doing the same for you.
Meet for lunch. If their work schedules permit, some parents use this time for a date. It might put some constraints on what you can do, but it's still a good way to have fun together.
Don't forget about flirting. Leave a note for your beloved listing all the ways you love her. Send flowers. Call her and tell her you are thinking about her. Make sure you make her feel loved.