There’s an interesting trend that’s happening in many homes throughout our society – the act of placing parenting and children above marriage.
I’m not sure if this is new or if it has just been shoved into the limelight, but in many homes the children (their needs, schedules, wants) are placed above the needs of the spouse. Sure, some of this is necessary, such as when a newborn is screaming or sick and a conversation has to be put on hold – but I’m not talking about those instances.
I’m talking about the times when, as parents, we get so wrapped up in the children and their lives that we forget that we also have a marriage to nurture and a spouse to support. The times when we choose to invest so much of our energy into creating the perfect childhood experience that we have to forfeit an opportunity with our spouse. Or the weeks when we spend so much time driving the kids around that we barely interact with our partner.
I’ve often heard people make the comment that once you become a parent the first priority is the child, that the spouse is a grown adult and will understand. And in step-families you will many times hear that your first obligation should be your children because they were there first. But what does that even mean? Where is the line drawn? And when is it time for the marriage and your spouse to come first? Do you, should you, have to wait until your children are grown and out of the house? Do you stop being husband and wife, and instead be only on dad and mom? What type of family does that create?
If you say the words – I put my marriage before the kids – does it mean you are a bad parent or that you are tossing aside the children from your previous marriage? I don’t think so. If fact, I would argue that the best thing for your family and children is to put your marriage first.
That obviously doesn’t mean that you neglect the kids or that you withhold love, instead it means that you care about the family they are being raised in, and you want to give them the best one possible. You want to raise them in a happy home and to give them the opportunity to witness a healthy marriage. You want to build a strong foundation that they can place trust in and count on.
It’s not always easy to place your spouse and marriage first when you are dealing with a job, household duties and kids. In fact, it’s easy to get so engrossed in to the day-to-day activities that you may suddenly realize that you haven’t had a date in months. It’s easy to feel guilty when planning a night out or a weekend away when you have little ones in the house. And it’s easy to let the stress or busyness in your life kill off the little things that used to mean so much. (Hand raised – I’ve found myself guilty on all counts at one time or another.)
That’s why it’s important that we keep talking about it. It’s important to remind ourselves, every single day, of what our priorities are and how we can achieve them. It may be starting with one small gesture or finally booking that long overdue vacation. It could be starting to attend marriage counseling or finally taking your mother-in-law up on her babysitting offers. Whatever steps you take, it’s important to start.
I know it’s easy to get off track but I also know there are many resources available to help reset your focus and to strengthen your marriage during whatever season you may be in. One of these opportunities that I would recommend is an upcoming webcast hosted by Marriage365. On May 18th, How to Save Your Marriage From Your Kids, will cover health habits, practical tips and do’s and don’ts in the journey of strengthening your marriage while parenting. This webcast will also be available with a recorded option if you miss the live stream, and will come with a worksheet for you and your spouse, along with the ebook, 20 Ways to Show Your Spouse Love. You can register here.About Amy Bellows, PhD Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, ContinuedOptimism.com or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.