Friday, June 12, 2009

A Little Marriage TLC

If you didn't know who Jon & Kate Gosselin were, you probably do by now. Their names and faces have been showing up all over national television, magazines & tabloids and even in our local newspaper. It's a shame that what once was a great show about a very unusual family has now turned into something that should more appropriately be called 'Jon & Kate Set a Court Date'.

Our 10 y/o daughter loves this show. About a year ago, she begged me to send an e-mail to invite Jon & Kate to stay at our B&B . At the time they were still living in Lancaster County, but have since moved to Berks County, about an hour from us. As crazy as I thought the idea was, I did send that e-mail. Of course, to no one's surprise (except our daughter's), we never heard anything from them.

So what does this have to do with the B&B industry in Lancaster County? Well, for one thing, I like to think that as an innkeeper, I provide that much-needed retreat from the world. Bob & I are big proponents of the philosophy that 'happy couples make effective parents; and effective parents make well-adjusted kids'. It's really a trickle-down effect. If parents put a priority on working on their marriage, then they'll be more satisfied people in general. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time with this person you've chosen to marry. Problem is that many parents do nothing to grow and support their marriage relationship for the 18 or 20 years while raising the kids. When the kids leave the nest, the couple looks at each other and says, 'who are you?' and then realize that they've grown into two different people. I guess with Jon & Kate, the time it took them to get to that point must have accelerated by a factor of 8.

While supporting our children physically, socially and emotionally during their formative years is very important, neglecting the marriage relationship during this time is most likely not going to lead to a desirable result. That's why it's important for couples to get away from the kids for a little while. Now, I'm not suggesting a mandatory yearly 3-week vacation in Tahiti while the kids are parked at grandma & grandpa's. It need not be that elaborate, lengthy or expensive, and this is where we come in. A lot of Bed & Breakfast properties do not accept children and this is one of the reasons why. We're trying to create an atmosphere where adults can come to get away from all the kid-centered aspects of their lives.

It's interesting that, even at 10 years old, our daughter gets this! She understands that while mom & dad love her very much, they still need time to themselves. Prior to owning our B&B, we were never able to really have a 'date night' on any kind of regular basis. And we still don't, but every year around our anniversary (20 years this week), we would make sure that we took at least a long weekend to reconnect. Our daughter looks forward to this time, too. She stays with cousins, aunts & uncles and grandparents and gets a little spoiled (it takes me a few days to get her back to reality when she comes home). We're fortunate to have a great support system not too far away.

Do you have relatives you can count on to take the kids for a night or two? Maybe some good friends? We have friends who do not live close to family, so they 'swap' kids with another couple on a routine basis so each couple can take some time to be together. Again, it's not an elaborate vacation, but just a few days away, without the kids, to reconnect as a couple. They return feeling, refreshed and ready to be the best parents they can be.

So, it's really too bad that Jon & Kate ignored our invitation. I'm not suggesting that one night at a B&B would have solved all of their problems or prevented them from ending up where they are today. I do believe, however, that an attitude and desire to grow a strong marriage will help when encountering the inevitable challenges along the way. I sure hope you'll put your marriage first.