So I’m a relatively new dad. I have a beautiful two year old whom my wife and I love and adore more than anything in this world. And that’s the problem sometimes. It is so easy for parents to get wrapped up into the lives of their children and prioritize them over all else. What’s wrong with that some of you may ask?
Everything. And here’s why.
If you ask the average person (especially a church going person) to prioritize their lives, they will say something like, “God, family, work” as their main commitments and areas of focused attention. But in reality, for anyone who is married and has children, their lives are usually broken down like this: “Kids & their activities… and then everything else when I have the time”. As parents, our lives naturally revolve around our kids, but there is a fine line between loving your kids well/giving them the opportunities you desire for them to have and having them rule your schedule and life.
This is especially dangerous when your kids become the only glue that is holding your marriage together. A lot of couples will have nothing left in their marriage once their children leave because the focus was so heavily on the kids that no effort was put forth towards maintaining a healthy marriage. When the focus is primarily on the children, by default the focus is not on your marriage.
In this scenario, spouses become nothing more than glorified roommates. When kids come first, your roles as a husband or a wife slowly get put on permanent hold. Wives start to feel like nothing more than a maid, chef, and taxi driver. Husbands start to feel like little more than a financial provider for the family machine. You are so busy focusing on the family (and everything else for that matter) that you forget about each other and just become robotic in your roles to make it through the day. But days turn into weeks, into months, and years, and then suddenly the kids are gone and you have a hard time recalling why you married each other in the first place. Everything that held you together is suddenly a thing of the distant past.
No one wants to end up this way, so here are a two quick tips to help avoid that pitfall:
Work your schedule… don’t let it work you.
Have a game plan for maintaining control over your schedule. Ask yourself some key questions that both you and your spouse agree on:
– What does a healthy schedule look like to you?
– When is the time in your weekly schedule devoted exclusively to your marriage? (Follow up question to that: what needs to be taken off the schedule to make that happen?)
– What would you like to do regularly as a family? (Eat dinner together 4 nights a week? Have a family outing every weekend?)
Once you have a visual of where you want to go, then plan accordingly. Most couples are trying to hit the bulls-eye of a target that isn’t even set up yet, making it impossible to feel like you have succeeded because you have nothing to aim at! Give yourself something to aim for and then you can actually gauge whether or not you are moving in the right direction by going back to your original plan. This way, everyone is on the same page.
When your marriage is solid, your family is solid.
This entire blog is about maintaining and pursuing a healthy marriage, so I won’t beat a dead horse here. Check out some of the previous posts for more info on keeping your marriage solid (100/0 , How to Fight, Marriage is Not About Your Happiness, When the Romance Dies, etc). The best thing you can do for your children is to prioritize and love your spouse well. Prioritize them over the kids and over your schedule. Give them an example of a healthy, loving home that focuses on the right things. You reproduce what you are, so make sure you are paving the way for your kids in a way that points them to a healthy marriage and lifestyle. Don’t you want your kids to grow up and marry someone who puts them first? Of course you do! And, its your job to teach them what it looks like. Show them with your marriage first.
When you prioritize your spouse and then your family, all parties benefit!