This post is a mini-carnival post – please check out this post for another take on this topic 🙂
There seems to be a pervasive idea in the Christian community that the husband’s needs should come before the children’s needs. It seems that people (in general – not just in the Christian community) have the idea that if the children’s needs come first, it will only serve to place the husband’s needs last to the detriment of the marriage relationship. Underlying that, as far as I can tell, is the idea that if the children’s needs come first, the marriage relationship will automatically become child-centered and the marriage will fall apart. I don’t think that has to be the case at all.
I think that this whole child-centered vs. husband-centered premise is a false dichotomy that completely lacks balance and perspective. Why must it be an either-or situation to begin with? Why can’t the husband help the wife meet the children’s needs and her needs so that she’s better able to meet his needs? If both adults in the family are working together to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, doesn’t everyone win?
I just don’t understand why there can’t be a “working together” mentality instead of the children’s relationship with their parents, specifically with their mother, being perceived as a threat to the father’s relationship with the mother. Shouldn’t the father desire his children to have a strong bond with their mother? Shouldn’t the father desire his children to have a strong bond with himself too?
The marriage relationship is extremely important, but I do not believe that it should be elevated to the level of causing harm to the parent-child relationship – the definition of which will naturally be vastly different depending on the child’s age. Adults are adults. They can handle some delayed gratification – certainly better than a baby or toddler can! As children get older, they can handle more delayed gratification as well.
Date nights, as nice as they are, are not a need (I suppose they could be for some people but I don’t think they are a need for everyone or even most people). Date nights are a want and a baby or toddler’s needs should always trump an adult’s wants. Now… taking our children on “date nights” and then putting them to bed early so there’s alone time afterwards is one of the compromises that my husband and I have come up with to satisfy the adults’ wants and needs as well as the children’s wants and needs.
A wise mama whose children are grown, wrote a lovely post about “date nights” and her relationship with her husband now that the children are gone. I highly recommend that you read it to see how this issue can be handled gracefully and with everyone’s needs in mind.
I just don’t understand why it has to be so adversarial… Father vs. children. Why? Sure there’s a limited amount of time and energy… but if both parents work together in order to meet the children’s needs, the time and energy left for the parents to meet each other’s needs together can be extended quite a lot!
The Bible is very clear that there is no male or female at the foot of the cross. My husband and I are (by my interpretation) to be one flesh, raising our children and teaching them in the ways of God; taking care of, loving, and submitting to each other; and helping everyone in the family while following and giving honor to God. There’s no room for selfishness or striving against fulfilling the children’s needs in there.
Naturally, my relationship with my husband is much different than my relationship with my children. I married an adult – an adult who can wait longer than the children can (at least at their current ages – all 5 years old or younger) and who can help me out with the children in order to ensure that his own needs are able to be met because my needs and the children’s needs are being met as well.
Maybe this sounds a bit like Utopian thinking to you, but I assure you, that it can be done! You do not have to choose between your husband and your children – you can choose both, but it does take a willingness from both parents to make everyone’s needs a priority and to sometimes shelve parental “wants” until the children are older.
The time when your children are very small is but a short time in your life – please don’t compromise their needs in the name of “putting your husband first” in your family. Put God first instead. Take care of everyone’s needs without compromise – including your own. Ask for help when you need it. It doesn’t matter whether that help is coming from your husband or from a good friend or church member, but everyone needs help to make this scenario possible.
Examine the false dichotomy of putting husband first vs. children first for yourself. What can you do in order to ensure that everyone in the family has all of their needs and a reasonable number of wants met? What would you need to change? Whom can you ask for help when you need it? What can help you and your husband recharge without compromising your young child or baby’s need to be with you?
Paying needed attention to your children is not going to ruin your marriage, nor does it automatically equal a child-centered family. As KatieKind put it in the blog post I linked to above – if you and your spouse are both working towards the common goal of raising your children you will not all of a sudden wake up strangers when the children leave. This is especially true if you’ve both been working together throughout your childbearing years to meet the needs of everyone in your family – yourself, your spouse, and your children – without hierarchy.