It's not just kids who need their parents - we need them too

Senator Richard Di Natale embraces his children Luca and Ben after announcing his resignation.
Senator Richard Di Natale embraces his children Luca and Ben after announcing his resignation. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It's becoming a common event: high profile people stepping back from their careers so they can be home for their children.

This week, Greens leader Richard Di Natale was the latest to announce he's leaving his leadership position and federal politics.

He joins a stream of recent resignations from people in high profile positions who wish to spend more time with their children, including Tanya Plibersek, Kelly O'Dwyer and Jessica Rowe.

And these are not parents of babies or toddlers acknowledging the fact caring for young children is a 24/7 job in itself. The children of these parents deciding now is the time to lean out of the workforce are mostly school-aged  - a stage when it is often assumed kids are more self-sufficient and have less need for mum or dad's constant attention. 

However it turns out, our older kids still need us. And they need us in a big way.

I say this on the back of two years of helping my children through grief, bullying, friendship issues and school challenges. It was almost as full-time a job as when they were babies.

Di Natale can see this, saying, "I've got to the point in my life where I've got two young boys [and] I want to be there for them."

He added, "When I've got my youngest boy saying, 'I wish you weren't a politician, Dad, because we don't see you,' it's telling you something."

That's how us parents usually frame it: our kids need us. We have to be there for them. They want to see us more.


Here's the surprising thing: we need them, too.

We were never told this would be the case. We tend to hear more about the times we need to get away from our kids: the relief of having them go back to school, the importance of kid-free time, the relief of finding a babysitter so we can get out without them.

Many of us wanted children so intensely, only to put much of our effort into trying to get away from them.

As it turns out, though, we miss them and need them.

But no one seems to talk about how much we might want to be there for all the moments, and how enjoyable this part of parenting can be. I've found this many times now:

I like seeing my child's proud face as she's presented with a leadership badge at school.

It's worth sitting through an hour of random kids doing bad dance moves, just to see the three minutes of my child basking in the spotlight.

I enjoy taking them out for long walks and the chats that come with it.

I live for the cuddles on the couch, as we read side-by-side.

And it isn't just that I like those things; I need them. I need the connection that comes with being around my kids.

And it shouldn't surprise me. After all, we all need connection from the people in our lives. 

We can't expect that such connection is always amazing—there are arguments and frustrations with the kids, too, and a whole lot of mundane tasks to be completed—but the pros far outweigh the cons.

When we see someone leaving a high profile job to spend more time with their family, we immediately assume their children need them. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if those high profile people are stepping back for their own sense of family connection, as much as for their children's benefit.

The truth may be that they need their family, too.

Megan Blandford is a freelance writer and the author of I'm Fine (and other lies).