One compelling image of the family is the child's journey as an ever-widening elliptical orbit, with the parent(s) at the center providing the essential gravitational pull. As the orbiter, the child comes close, moves away, comes close, moves a little farther away, and so forth, onward along the curving path of growing independence. According to Northwestern University's Qualitative Reasoning Group, "Orbits are the result of a perfect balance between the forward motion of a body in space, such as a planet or moon, and the pull of gravity on it from another body in space, such as a large planet or star." It is that balance we constantly seek as we guide our children on their path to a healthy adulthood
Crucial to this process is the understanding that one cannot orbit and also be the center of the universe, much as a child may seem to want to be. (They don't, really, but that's another post.) The parental unit was there before the child arrived, and if all goes well, will remain once the child leaves home. It stands to reason, then, that parents nurturing themselves (whether single or in a partnership) is easily as important as parents nurturing their young ones--in fact, nurturing themselves is nurturing their young ones, and modeling an important habit of the healthy adult. To put children at the center of things is to deny them the opportunity of experiencing their parents' relationship as separate from them, and the solid foundation upon which their family is built.
So...call a sitter! Plan a night out, or take a walk together, or...? And make it a regular thing.