A parenting question I responded to recently gets asked frequently. We've all been there: so busy devoting time to giving our best for our children that there is little left to give to our marriage. If you have children, the mother's dilema will probably sound familiar. The solution is simple. But with all the pressures put on parents today to be involved in nearly all aspects of their childrens' lives, it can be an exercise in battling guilt to actually put the solution into practice. Give it a read and let me know if this is a solution that has worked for you.
Question: My husband and I seldom have time to go on a date because our children (ages 8, 11 and 12) require most of our attention when we are not at work. Between keeping up the house, and taking our children to soccer practice, music lessons and school functions, we’re left exhausted and without much free time. What can we do?
You clearly are very devoted parents who want the best for your children. Unfortunately, the approach you have taken is not only exhausting, it robs your children of some important experiences they need. When parents focus on their children to the exclusion of the marital relationship, they communicate that the children are the center of the world.
Yes, I know, you want to tell me that they are in fact the most important thing in the world to you. I understand, but let’s make a distinction between them being the most important thing in your life versus being the center of the world (which is what your failure to make time for your marriage communicates).
Is that a healthy perspective for them to develop? If your child believes him/herself to be the center of the world what impact will that have on their peer relationships (most peers will view them as selfish).
Will teachers respond well to that view if your children express it through their behavior at school?
As young adults will their employers smile approvingly when they assert their central place of importance?
I’m going to assume you answered “No” to each of those questions.
Here is something that I have found very helpful to remember when raising my children. The job of a parent is to raise children who become healthy, productive adults who “play well with others.” This is a great gift to give to a child. Feeling loved, valued, and recognizing the he or she is not the center of the universe, although they may very well own all the real estate of your heart.
If you are still unconvinced, take a moment to think about how many adults have you admired who believe themselves to be the center of the world? Not many, right?
More precisely, zero, zilch, none.
So why would anyone want to raise a child with the burden of believing the world should revolve around him/her? Of course, no parent wants to do that, but it is easy to fall into the trap of conveying that message by putting aside important commitments/relationships for the sake of our children.
Please don’t misunderstand. Sacrificing for your child is a good thing. Even a noble thing. But it needs to be done with due consideration of balancing other things of importance. Such as the health of your marriage.
Children need to understand that they are deeply loved, that they are supported, and that their parents believe in them. They should not, however, grow up believing they are the center of the world. That saddles them with a liability.
To help your children develop a healthy perspective about their place in life you and your husband need to change your approach to parenting. How so you ask? Quite simply, it is by putting your marriage first and your children’s affairs second. NOT your children’s wellbeing second, but your children’s affairs (such as soccer, music lessons, help with homework, etc.).
This will mean that your children will not be involved in as many activities. Moreover, your children, even at this young age, will be doing more chores around the house (mom and dad are not the hired help, everyone needs to pitch in).
Starting now, as in “right away”, you and your husband should carve out a weekly date night.
Also, make sure that during most evenings of the week you and your husband have some ‘grown up’ time, 30 minutes or more just to yourselves. Sure, the children can be around, but they are not to interrupt your conversation.
If you take this advice and follow it for several months the exhaustion will lessen dramatically, and your children will be comforted and strengthened by the devotion they see their parents expressing to one another.
Let me know how things work out.