Sometimes kids will get in your way. This should be what they tell you before you have children. Kids will get sick. They’ll cry. There will be school events, and even flat our tantrums to deal with. When you become a parent, life as you knew it changes. You are no longer the center of your own universe, and your relationship with your partner may change.
However, meeting the needs of your children probably won’t kill your marriage as this article suggests. What this author, who claims to be a physician, posits is that a strange “religion” of parenting is killing marriages because children are put first, and according to the author, this is a sin against a partnership.
Calling parenting a “religion” is about the most polarizing thing I can imagine for parents. It’s as if dedicated parents are now being equated to cult members. I do realize there are some people who do not have a life outside their children, and I might say they should nurture their own interests to some level because one day, those children will be grown. A person should not live through another person. Individuality is important for happiness, but there is an amount of individualism parents sacrifice.
When children are born or adopted in the context of a marriage, there should be a basic understanding that sometimes the needs of the adults will fall to the wayside in order to tend to the needs of the children. If both parties cannot agree to this caveat, then it would be my suggestion that they not become parents.
Being a parent is a delicate balance of me, us, them, and we. Each parent and child must be an individual, the parents must be a partnership, and the entire family must be unified. In order for this to happen, there must be an atmosphere of respect amongst all members. To say that when parents put children first it destroys the marriage, is to say that respect for all members of the group was not present.
Yes, parents need to have time for themselves both as individuals and also as a couple. This time gives them the strength they will need to make it through the times when life is cracking them about the head and shoulders. It gives them a sense of mattering—a sense of self and self-worth. However, this sense of counting also must relay to the children. They must count enough that they don’t look to other places for attention, which children are often wont to do when they feel like the parents don’t care. They must know that the parents will sacrifice for them. It is imperative parents instill in their children the knowledge that they are valued above a night out or drinks with friends so they can have their own sense of self-worth to carry into adulthood.
When done correctly, the family-centric household will value all its members equally. Sometimes, one or two members will sacrifice for the good of the others, and later, probably when the parents arrive in the fall of their lives, that sacrifice will be repaid as children care for aging parents.
Equating solid parenting with religion is just another way to attack those of us who choose one way of life over another. There is no “right” way to live. Some choose to marry. Some don’t. Some choose to have children. Some don’t. When two people choose to marry and have children, and they choose to put those children before their own needs most of the time, people should not belittle their choice by labeling them as cultish. I can’t help but wonder where the author of the aforementioned article would be if their own parents didn’t care and sacrifice for them? Maybe they didn’t. I can’t answer to that. What I can answer to is that I, too, am a parent who put my children first. Even as they are becoming adults, I can say I don’t regret one moment I gave to them.
Being a parent is tough. Putting your children first is not about abandoning your relationship with your significant other. It’s simply about making a commitment to your children–the people you chose to create-that you will always consider their well-being first, above and beyond all things. If your marriage can’t withstand your commitment to your own offspring, then I’d suggest there are other underlying issues you should explore.