A while back I read a post where someone was wondering how kids change your marriage. The guy who wrote it was fairly recently married. He and his wife were thinking about starting a family and he was worried about how it would impact their marriage.
It was a thoughtful question.
What do kids do to your marriage?
Do they make it better, or worse?
Do they alter the bond between husband and wife?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most people don’t even consider this. They just think hey, we know we want to have kids one day (though they probably can’t say why they want them).
And so they do.
And then they find themselves woefully unprepared for what comes next.
At first, it would seem as though children should make the bond between a couple stronger; after all, children are a product of your love for each other, right? Fine, they may also be the product of one night of bad decisions; but let’s assume for the moment that they are wanted by the couple who decided to have them.
In that case, do they strengthen the bond?
Well, it seems the reality is a bit complicated.
In fact most studies state that relationship satisfaction decreases after kids are born. According to The Wall Street Journal:
About two-thirds of couples see the quality of their relationship drop within three years of the birth of a child, according to data from the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle, a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening families. Conflict increases and, with little time for adult conversation and sex, emotional distance can develop.
In theory a baby can help strengthen the bond between a couple. But for some reason when I think of “strengthening the bond”, emotional distance is not one of the things I think of.
So why does this happen? What changes?
When you go from being single to being part of a couple your life changes. But for the most part, you are still you. Yeah some people lose themselves too much in the relationship, but their identity is still as a person (who is fitting someone else into their life). When you need some “me” time, it’s usually not that difficult to do.
When you become a parent however, your life changes irrevocably. You are now a parent fulltime, 24-7, every day of the year.
And for the next however many years, the needs of the child will always trump your own.
It’s not better, or worse (though I suppose it could be argued that some aspects are definitely better while others are worse). Looking at it on the whole though, the best way to describe it is that it’s simply different.
And in addition to your life, it also fundamentally changes the nature of your relationship.
The needs of the baby/toddler/child don’t just trump the needs of the individual – they trump the needs of the couples as well.
So as a couple one of the biggest and most noticeable changes is that you no longer have nearly as much time for each other as you used to.
This seems obvious, and something people should know going in. I mean, it’s simple math. People only have so much time and energy, and kids take time and energy. So adding them to a relationship will reduce the amount of time the couple has to focus on each other.
But I don’t think most people really realize exactly how much it changes their “couple time”, or how much of a toll it can take.
A while back I posted on stress, and on the impacts stress can have on relationships.
Basically, stress is corrosive to relationships.
When stressed, we tend to become inwardly focused. We see how the stress is affecting us and tend to forget that it is also affecting our partner as well. We are also more likely become more sensitive to and notice smaller things and allow them to become blown out of proportion. There are other issues, but basically high levels of stress can kind of make us selfish jerks.
Well, kids can be rewarding but they can also be a great source of stress.
First, they are a responsibility that doesn’t go away. In the early years they basically need us 24-7, and the weight of this responsibility can take a toll. We want the best for our kids, and we want THEM to be the best they can be. This leads to immense pressure on our ability to be a parent. When we are struggling, it can make us feel like we are failing our kids and this can make us feel like failures as parents.
Add in things like kids getting sick, fighting, trying to figure things out on their own and just being kids? Well, it can be at once stressful and exhausting.
All of which can make us less patient with our partners.
And this is even before you start looking at the breakdown of who is taking on the lion’s share of parenting duties (hint – it’s usually the woman).
Which brings me to the next fun part – parenting conflicts, which tend to come in a few different ways.
The first of these is the approach to parenting. It would be great if parents agreed on “how” they wanted to parent in advance, but chances are they haven’t even thought of it. Instead we often just go with what was modeled to us growing up without even thinking about it.
When we do this there are bound to be differences, and these conflicting parenting styles can cause serious conflict.
It’s usually pretty easy to accept that your partner is different from you and has different outlooks on the world. When those differences impact your children however, it’s easy to become possessive and defensive (mama/papa bear will ALWAYS protect their cub). Approaches to discipline is often a prime example of this
When we can’t agree on an approach to parenting, often each side is convinced that their way is right while their partner is wrong. This attitude is terrible for a couple, as instead of being a “we” it becomes a case of you vs. me.
Perhaps the biggest change that happens when a couple becomes parents is a change in roles. Before they were both individuals and a couple – probably in fairly equal parts. This is not only a life change but also a role change, as the role of parent becomes the primary one.
As a couple you likely started as friends and lovers, but now you are primarily parents and this change can result in a sense of loss and cause conflict in couples.
Marriage counselors talk about how one of the biggest complaints couples have is that they don’t feel their partners make enough time for them anymore. While they understand that the kids are the priority, they don’t feel like they are a priority anymore.
Maintaining being a couple even after kids is extremely important, and many counselors talk about the value of ensuring there is still time for the couple by carving out time in the schedule for things like date night.
Although most couples seem to understand why that’s important it is still something that often goes ignored. It’s one thing to understand why it’s important, but actually making time is not always easy when there seem to be a million other things that need to be done.
Diminished Sex Life
Going hand in hand with the changing roles comes a diminished sex life. This is an unfortunate yet understandable side effect of having kids – especially in the early years. It’s hard to feel sexy when you are always exhausted or worried about the kids. Stress has huge negative impacts on sex drive, and as discussed earlier kids are a source of stress.
Many couples say that after the first few years of kids they see their sex lives bounce back somewhat. Likely not to the levels they were at before kids, but generally to a level both partners can accept.
In some cases however, the sex drive doesn’t come back at all.
This is usually (though not exclusively) an issue faced by women. Last I checked I’m not a woman, so I won’t pretend to understand all the reasons. But from what I know it can be a combination of things, from body and hormonal changes, to feeling solely like a mom instead of feeling like a woman, to sheer exhaustion and resentment from the unequal burden that is normally faced by women when it comes to child rearing.
Sexual problems are often associated with feelings of guilt and shame, so this is an issue that often goes ignored. Some couples convince themselves that it’s not that important, or that it’s just a natural part of getting older. Or things will just come back on their own if they give it time.
It’s only true that it’s not important if both people in the relationship agree with that, and a lost sex drive is not simply a natural part of getting older. If this loss of sex drive occurs it shouldn’t be ignored as it is often a significant factor in the breakdown of relationships.
In a relationship it’s always important to have time for “me”, and making time for yourself is even more important once kids are in the picture as it allows people to retain a bit of their own identity and not get completely lost in the role of parent.
It’s still very important to balance this with time as a couple (without kids) though.
A challenge here is that many couples don’t have a strong support system that allows them to get time as a couple. So each partner ends up taking turns, going out as individuals while the other partner watches the kids.
This time is valuable, and important. The danger is that without sufficient couple time as well, each persons only real break or “fun” time comes as an individual. And when you start to associate fun, and a freedom from the stress and responsibilities of kids as also being time away from your partner it can start to create doubt about the relationship.
Family time is not couple time. And couple time is not me time. Finding a working balance between all three is needed to keep the relationship alive and well.
Another challenge presented by kids is financial. Adding kids to a family adds a new expense center. Food, clothes, activities; all these things cost a fair bit. And maybe it’s just my job, but I don’t think people get pay increases to offset these costs. So the end result is couples have less money to do things.
They also have less freedom, as things like holidays soon are limited to times that they kids aren’t in school.
It’s not that you can’t do the things you did before. It’s just that it takes a lot more planning, and you probably can’t do them as frequently.
Adding It All Up
Reading over this it probably seems as though I have a negative view on having kids, and that’s not the case at all. I’m a father, and I love my kids and wouldn’t change a thing. In fact I believe my children have enriched my life considerably.
Kids do introduce all of these things though, and they all require adjustments and take a considerable toll. In fact, indirectly I’ll go so far as to say that the additional stresses caused by kids are probably one of the leading causes of divorce. Which is ironic, as they are a product of the love a couple shares.
Kids put additional stresses on relationships, but I want to be clear that I don’t think this has anything to do with the kids themselves. They aren’t to blame, ever. What IS to blame is that people generally don’t talk about these things, so couples aren’t prepared.
They run into these challenges, and they start to believe that something is wrong. And since people rarely walk away from their kids the relationship is often blamed, when what they are going through is actually fairly normal.
Being a parent is a fantastic experience, and it can be very rewarding. But it can also be very hard, and many couples can’t handle the strain it puts on their relationship.
Making it Work
I’ve heard a lot of couples who have “made it” confirm the challenges of being a parent. And often I will hear them say things like “stick it out, and things will get better”.
Sometimes couples that are having troubles stay together “for the kids”. 90% of me is completely against that. You need to stay together because you love each other, and want a life together. If you no longer love each other for whatever reason, then it does the kids no good to have a loveless relationship modeled to them as they grow up.
The remaining 10% of me thinks that if kids give you another reason to stay together and stick it out through tough times, then that can be as good a reason as any. But that’s only if you then use this time the kids have bought you to actively work on and improve your marriage. I’ve heard of some couples who stayed together “for the kids” who then learned to love each other again and rebuild, and were happy they had done so. I think that’s great.
Ultimately you need to be with each other because you still love each other, and still want to share your lives. Not just because of kids.
More often though I think couples who split up do still love each other. And it’s really just the stress that comes with being parents that has put emotional distance between them. I think often they do still want to love each other, and have just lost sight of how. In being parents and not making time to be friends and lovers, they have lost each other.
25 thoughts on “How Does Parenting Affect Your Relationship?”
An excellent piece. My husband stayed together “for the kids.” It was a disaster. And the stresses you discuss – those are spot on.
I think it’s best if families can stay together, but I’m really against staying together for the kids. I see couples who live largely independent lives, and don’t seem to have any love for each other left and I think what’s the point? Life is short – why waste it like that?
“For the kids” is a cop out to me if the kids aren’t being used as a reason to improve the relationship. And actually I think people often do more damage to the kids than good if they do that.
I know this opinion isn’t popular, but I think “for the kids” is often an excuse people tell themselves because they are actually afraid. Of the financial impacts, of losing the standard of living, of being alone when they feel alone anyways. So they tell themselves they are staying “for the kids” while they have checked out on the relationship and can barely even be civil with one another.
And since kids learn from what they see, I think the kids in those situations grow up with broken views of what a relationship is.
That said, I really do believe in always doing our best to improve our relationships. And I think if people accept that maybe just maybe their problems aren’t really due to the relationship, and instead are due to other things then maybe they could look at each other with love again, and see past the hurt.
If more people were aware of the stresses of parenthood up front, they could do a better job of remaining united, and going through them together instead of letting it tear them apart.
Having children was no big deal for Loser…it didn’t change anything for him…just me. I was the mama, daddy, teacher, Doctor, entertainer and babysitter. He got to do any and everything he wanted to do.
I had a family….he had progenies.
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Hi Laurel, that’s a pretty foreign concept to me. I would like to think I’m involved in every aspect of my boys lives (though I’m sure that will change once their teenage years hit), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To me parenting is a heck of a lot more than just providing food and shelter. I think my main job is probably to prepare them mentally and emotionally to believe in themselves, and to one day be in a position to be out on their own. I’m not sure what sort of job I’m doing, but I’m trying 🙂
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At least you’re trying and not leaving it up to the other parent. Loser treated his children the same way he treated our marriage. He destroyed it and now his tramp is getting the benefit of the inventory.
I raised the children virtually on my own. Now he’s pretending to be an interested father. He certainly didn’t have to do any of the work…but he and that WTC are getting the benefit of my children (after they poisoned them against me.) C’est la vie.
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I’m not really sure what to say to that beyond it sounds awful.
Sadly, men have traditionally felt their role is just to make money to provide food and shelter, and that’s it. I think that is changing now, but some still hold to the traditional roles.
And in my estimation, those traditional roles are very, very broken.
Loser was raised believing that he was the “Almighty” and everything was my job. He didn’t have to pay any attention to the children….he “made” them and the rearing was up to me. Now, when they were being named “the county player of the year”, he suddenly became their proud papa. It’s okay. His tramp has a daughter. He can to be an adoring father with her because she nor the tramp knows how he treated his own children. LOL
Not making any excuses for him (or anyone), but sometimes there seem to be cultural or upbringing reasons behind that stuff.
As I said, it’s a very broken mindset that needs to change.
I think he’s just a pig. LOL
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I must be the last person the the world to realize that a highlighted name iin the comments means a link to their blog. Lol. I followed you here from Matt’s blog must be this talk to ride.
Great post! It does seem sadly ironic that when you decide tonnage kids it usually damages your marriage relationship and it appears it’s more of a recent phenomenon.
“A 2003 analysis of approximately 90 studies looking at marriage showed that after the first baby’s birth, the drop in marital satisfaction is 42 percent greater among the current generation of parents as compared to their own parents. Additionally, research done by Dr. John Gottman found that new mothers experience a precipitous drop in relationship satisfaction starting about four to six months after their first baby is born and continuing through the end of the first year. The father typically experiences the same decrease in relationship satisfaction, but it begins late in the first year and continues through the end of the second year.
I’m wondering if the modern expectations for parenting have increased and the support and community help has descreaded making the modern experience of having a baby much more lonely and frustrating. When I was a kid for example, my mom wasn’t expected to spend every waking moment entertaining and educating me while also planning Pinterest worthy bedrooms and birthday parties. I think the balance of parenting has gotten more distorted over time.
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Lisa – welcome to my little part of the blogsphere. Hopefully what you see makes you want to stick around.
I have wondered the exact same things you are talking about here. Why has this changed? What has changed? Or maybe it was always like this but we just didn’t see it?
I suspect there are a few factors. And I think a big one is fear. For some reason there is a perception (which statistics don’t back up) that the world is less safe then it was today. So now, kids have less of a chance to just be kids. Instead, they are highly scheduled and monitored, and there is more pressure on parents to take kids to assorted events. I think these pressures have increased and at the same time the sense of community has decreased. Parents have less of a support for the parenting duties, making the parents feel more responsible and stressed. And as mentioned in the post, stress is toxic to both individuals and relationships.
You made a comment about birthday parties, and I am sooooo with you on that. I don’t know why there is a belief that kids need these crazy parties. I think maybe the world has become more superficial in recent years. Related to the rise of social media? Not sure. But appearances sure seem to be important to many people.
Anyhow, welcome again to my part of the world. My focus is similar to Matts, but a bit different. I try to look at relationships from a general sense, and look at problems that face a lot of people. I touch on stuff from identity to mental illness to affairs and try to look at what I think is needed to make things work.
A few of my favorite posts are https://thezombieshuffle.com/2015/06/06/it-will-never-be-the-same/ and https://thezombieshuffle.com/2015/07/22/forever-is-now/. Well, there’s lots more but I’ll let you discover on your own if you’re interested.
Interesting question of why it has changed. I have the added perspective of being an older mom so I have been able to experience the differences directly. Here’s my theory. When I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s it was common for middle class families to have a mother who was a housewife (notice the term). This was before and during 2nd wave feminism. My mom spent a lot of her time cooking, cleaning, and taking care of errands like having the car inspected. My dad worked and did yard work. Although they were good parents and read to me at night and we had family meals, neither of my parents spent a lot of their day playing with me. They told me to go outside and play with my neighbor friends. We were gone for hours at a time and came home for dinner. Of course, there were more parents at home to keep an eye out if something got too out of hand but basically we hung out with the other kids not adults. We played soccer in our neighborhood not in organized leagues. I took some dance classes and other clubs but it was not a big part of our lives.
After women fought to be treated more fairly in the workplace and in college (go feminism!) the entire definition of mothering changed. Now you had the option to have a career and a family. If you chose to not work for a while it was for the sake of your children in your mind not because you wanted to be a housewife and keep house and you expected your husband to share the chores and the parenting in unprecedented new ways. Enter the stay at home mom. The whole game has changed. You are sacrificing your paid career so now your career is educating and nurturing your children. Mothering in general has been raised to a whole new level so this also affects moms ego work outside the home. But stay at home moms treat volunteering at school like a task force at work. Their children’s enrichment begins at birth with breastfeeding and reading and mom and me classes. The birthday parties are now thrown in the mix too. Everything must be special and thought out with great care. The career moms don’t want their kids to suffer by comparison so they try to keep up. The bar gets raised higher and higher. Now there is so much information that must be consumed to make sure your kid gets the best advantages. And Pinterest and Facebook just add mom porn with unrealistic pictures of what your life should look like.
The marriage suffers too because everything is now “kid-centric” (as my mom calls it) not adult-centric. When I grew up we the kids ate what the parents cooked, we vacationed where they wanted. It is much more kid-centric now with the parents adjusting to what the kids want. I don’t have this problem but I know so many moms who feel guilty taking care of themselves or prioritizing their marriage over their kids. That is also how you get depleted and how your marriage suffers.
Anyway, that’s my theory, I think the fear increase is part of this. It literally increases my anxiety when I feel that my children’s fate rests in my constant monitoring. My childhood was constant exposure therapy. Lol. Ironically, there is a big increase in children’s anxiety because they are being raised by anxious parents. Another factor is the proliferation of media that increases the perception of danger even when it’s not realistic. And you are shamed and judged if you do allow your children more independence than the norm today.
The one bright spot in all these changes to parenting is the increase in fathers involvement. That is an awesome addition along with dads sharing the grunt work with moms.
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I love your distinction between a housewife and a stay at home mom. I had never really thought about that before, and I think I can see what you are saying.
I do think there was always a focus on children for women, but with the focus shifting even more to the children (and therefore away from the husband) it puts additional stress on the marriage and relationship. I think you are onto something there.
I can tell you from a guys perspective one of the worst things I can hear is how great a dad I am. I mean, I would like to think I’m a good dad and I put a lot of importance and effort into my kids. But that’s for my kids, and because I love them. Lots of couples split up, and remain good parents. The question is, am I a good husband? Am I a good friend, and lover (not meaning that sexually, but in terms of feeling in love)? That’s the kind of stuff I need to be able to hear periodically. And if not hear, then at least feel.
I’ve got a lot of buddies who are dads, and one of the biggest complaints they all have is that life is too focussed on the kids, to the point that the relationship suffers.
Not saying that the focus on kids is bad, or that it should stop. The kids are obviously super important and should take priority. But maintaining/growing the marriage should be a priority too, and for a lot of guys that doesn’t seem to be the case. That may sound selfish or needy to women, especially when they are exhausted from putting all thier energy into kids. And if the guys aren’t doing their fair share to help out then it’s definitely a valid to call them selfish. But the relationship should still matter. Always, and not just when someone isn’t too tired.
Looking back at your distinction between a housewife and a stay at home mom, do you notice a trend with both of these roles? In both cases the woman’s focus seems to be someone other than herself. The house and the husband for the housewife, and the kids for the stay at home mom.
I have a lot of thoughts on gender roles, and how damaging they are to both men and women. Men are often taught that emotions are bad, so we don’t learn how to understand and articulate them. We associate being a man with “being strong”. We are supposed to be the providers, and the ones who can take care of and protect our families.
Women on the other hand are supposed to be the nurturers. And this seems to mean that everyone else comes first before them. They are supposed to be willing to sacrifice and sublimate what they want for the betterment of their families.
I think it’s all a load of crap, and completely broken.
It’s no wonder women are the one filing for divorce more these days – due to being raised to think that they should be the ones to sacrifice, they often don’t do a good job of setting boundaries in relationships. After all, what they want comes second right? So they struggle in silence, and the guys are oblivious to growing anger and resentment. Eventually they hit a breaking point where they are tired of everything being about someone else and they want to be recognized for them, and what they need.
One of the big problems with divorce these days is that guys didn’t see it coming. A lot of women seem to attribute that to guys being ignorant to their needs, and there is definitely an element of that. But I think a bigger (or at least equally big) part of it is tied to gender roles, and the fact that many women will suffer in silence for a long time because that’s what they were taught is the right thing to do.
“It’s no wonder women are the one filing for divorce more these days – due to being raised to think that they should be the ones to sacrifice, they often don’t do a good job of setting boundaries in relationships. After all, what they want comes second right? So they struggle in silence, and the guys are oblivious to growing anger and resentment. Eventually they hit a breaking point where they are tired of everything being about someone else and they want to be recognized for them, and what they need.
One of the big problems with divorce these days is that guys didn’t see it coming. A lot of women seem to attribute that to guys being ignorant to their needs, and there is definitely an element of that. But I think a bigger (or at least equally big) part of it is tied to gender roles, and the fact that many women will suffer in silence for a long time because that’s what they were taught is the right thing to do.”
I totally agree with you about gender roles. It is amazing to me how persistent these binary pink/blue ideas are in 2016. It is one of the reasons I don’t like John Gray Mars/Venus books or evolutionary psychologist books which are just filled with stereotypes and conjecture. Because I don’t recognize myself or most people I know in their descriptions, I used to be puzzled by why so many people find them helpful until I realized that they are descriptive to many people in the bell curve. But just because something is descriptive doesn’t make it good biological science or describing how things COULD be. Think of all the things that have changed culturally in the last 100 years that were unthinkable before. We have an African American President now when 50 years ago we had very few Black elected leaders. There used to be reasons for that ascribed to biology. “Science” used to teach that they were inferior to whites. The lesson I take away is to always be suspect of sweeping generalizations or descriptions of what is to describe underlying biological causes.
Your other point about why women file for divorce more than men is something I don’t really understand or have decent theories for. Women have always filed for roughly 2/3 of the divorces going back over 100 years. The rate is consistent. What’s interesting is that lesbians break up at an much higher rate than heterosexual rates. Women just file for divorce more often not sure why. Do they have higher expectations? Are they less able to tolerate marital stress without getting sick (there is some research that women get sick more often than men in bad marriages). Are they more confident they will get custody of the children? It’s a weirdly consistent statistic.
I do agree wth you that women are not taught to set boundaries or negotiate in the way men are or to effectively stand up themselves. Men are taught that compromising is losing and have not been taught to express their full range of feelings or be skilled in handling their wife’s emotions. So we go into marriage with a recipe for disaster if better healthier relationship skills aren’t learned.
But most of us don’t even know what we don’t know. At least that was my story.
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Hi Lisa, growing up some of the more influential people in my life were women, and I’m interested in sociology as well. So although I will acknowledge that there are biological differences between men and women, to explain gender differences I lean heavily towards the “nurture” side of the nature/nurture debate. I’ve never seen women as somehow “less”, or as the weaker gender.
I like your analogy of the bell curve for looking at the so-called gender characteristics. The characteristics exist, but they definitely aren’t one size fits all. Most of the people I know don’t fit nicely into these gender specific roles and traits, and instead show characteristics of both.
As for women filing for divorce more than men, I read that once and never really looked at historical data; but I thought that was a fairly new phenomenon. Of course depending on sample size and methods you can find data to back up pretty much any theory that you want, so who really knows how accurate the numbers are. But I do buy the notion that women look to divorce more frequently than men, and I think there are a number of reasons that could explain that. One of them is our understandings of what marriage is. Throwing out a gender generalization here (that I recognize won’t apply to all women or men), I think women are sold some really broken things about relationships. I think a lot of women grow up with very idealized notions of what marriage will be. Think of the number of little girls who want to be a bride for halloween (it may not be a lot, but have you EVER seen a little boy dress up as a groom?). Then think of all the fairy tales where the girls is “saved” by her prince charming – who of course she marries. Many women seem to grow up believing that their wedding day is THEIR day, and their special day. I just think that for women marriage is often idealized in a way that it can’t help but disappoint. Guys are less likely to be disappointed, for a number of reasons. Not saying there aren’t legitimate reasons for women to be disappointed by us men, as there definitely are. But there are also reasons related to unrealistic expectations that I think play a role.
Regardless, any two people – male, female OR same gender will have issues with a relationship. We’re just different, and those differences act as sources of conflict. So more than anything, a real measure of success will be how well we learn relationship skills and are willing to adapt and apply them once we are in a relationship.
Lisa said what I’ve always thought about parenting these days. Modern expectations have made it an insufferable chore. I’m almost 50 so can remember life in the 70s without constant parental supervision. Sure they had financial difficulties I don’t have, but it wasn’t quite as all consuming as it is now.
Being attentive parents is a good thing, and I don’t think we should go back to letting kids ride around the back of pick up trucks like I did, but parents lack appropriate boundaries when it comes to their children, which bleed into the marriage. For example, my wife gave everything she had of herself to our kids. When it appeared like I didn’t, because I thought I should give them some space, she took that as me being irresponsible. It got to the point where trying to help wasn’t helping, so I stopped bothering. I’m not blaming her since it was easier to stand aside and do nothing so my reaction was rooted in laziness. And that isn’t completely accurate since I was (and hopefully still am) a devoted father when I was alone with them, but when we were together I found it so much easier to avoid conflict and not get involved.
Maybe kids weren’t the deciding factor in our marriage breakdown, but they certainly didn’t help
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One of the ironies here is that modern expectations, where parents are trying to do “more” is actually causing problems. And resulting in more issues with kids, instead of better balanced kids.
A while back I wrote a post called killing with kindness. I think the focus was partially on relationships, but also on parenting.
I get it – as parents we love our kids and we want the best for them. And we want them to have opportunities that we ourselves didn’t have growing up.
So we try to do more. And we sacrifice more, of our time, and our energy.
Because we love them, we do too much for them. And instead of helping them, we are actually crippling them. We are creating children who are dependent on mommy and daddy for every little thing, when our real goal as parents should be to raise our children to be self sufficient and independent people.
To do that, we have to allow them to fail. And teach them that failure is alright, as it is part of learning how to succeed. In fact I think teaching them how to handle disappointment and failure is perhaps the best things we can do for them.
It’s hard to watch the people we love fail though, so now we step in and try to do things for them. And it’s terrible.
This continues for years. Kids are staying at home a lot longer then they used to, and it’s because parents say things like “hey, the world is hard now, housing/apartment prices are high. Go get a good education first, so you can get a good job.” And kids mess around at school, not really knowing what they want – because there’s no real pressure for them to figure it out.
And all the time, with this focus on the kids marriages are suffering and failing.
Last year I was at a funeral and one of the things that stuck with me was in the eulogy the priest talked about how the most important gift a parent can give a child is to take care of their marriage. If the marriage is happy and healthy, all the other stuff falls into place. When there is a focus on the kids at the expense of the marriage, you have an attractive home that is rotting at the foundations.
For the most part I believe that. Kids learn from that they see, so if we REALLY want to do right by our kids we need to do our best to model to them what a loving relationship looks like.
And we can’t do that if the marriage is such a low priority that the kids always come first.
Thanks for the comment.
You know that’s a sadly common story. I have some sympathy and understanding for the husband’s point of view because I was the one pushing for less kid-centric focus and more couple focus. It was just enough for me to empathize with how much it sucks for a husband to feel completely pushed to the bottom of the priority list for his wife with her giving all of herself to the kids.
This is the opposite of the old “housewife” focus with the husband at the top of the food chain. I am a fan of classic movies and it is funny how weird it looks to modern eyes. Of course the mom loved the kids, but it was considered her job to put her husband first and keep the kids quiet when he got home so he could relax as one example.
We’ve now gone from one extreme to another. Now the husband is often below the kids. And the woman doesn’t prioritize her own needs in a healthy way. I agree that many modern parenting ideas are good, car seats for example. But the family structure is often not designed with the marriage at the center and that sadly usually leads to boredom or divorce.
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I don’t really mind the idea that the husband is below the kids, as long as they are pretty close. I think the issue many men have is that they feel like they are below almost everything (and I’m sure women feel the same). Often someone will say that their partner is a priority to them, but the words and the actions don’t match.
What you get out of something is directly related to what you put in. When people stop investing their time and energies into their relationship with their partner, it shouldn’t really be a surprise when the relationship starts to break down.
My husband and I have put so much emphasis on our kids, believing it’s the right thing to do. There is no right or wrong when it comes to spending time with your children. But be aware of the difference between “spending time” or obsessing. Parenting is the hardest job I have ever done. I believe I am a good mother but I still don’t know if I have done everything right. My husband and I at one point have lost intimacy because we were way too involved with our boys. We set us aside and forgot that at the end of the day, we mattered more because once the boys leave home, we are the only ones left behind.
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Hi Boots, thanks for the comment.
There are a lot of marriages that fail right around the time the kids are leaving home. As the kids become more independent they couple realizes that they were living for the kids, and have completely lost each other in the process.
I agree that there is no right or wrong on spending time with your children. However I will suggest that it does become a “wrong” when the relationship is ignored because there is so much focus on the kids.
Family time is not couple time – they are two very different things. Both of which are equally important.
It’s great that you and your husband caught yourselves before that happened too badly to you.
I’m not sure if we caught it since it’s still ongoing. But we are working on it. Our goal was to become parents but we overlooked on being the best spouse and partner for each other.
With the oldest son leaving for college soon, who knows what can happen! 😜
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The fact that it’s ongoing and you are working on it sounds fairly positive to me.
We always change, and we always grow. So I think the only way to be successful in marriage is to continue to work on things together as we continue to grow.
It’s when we don’t recognize that and refuse to do it together that we get in trouble.
All the best.
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Thanks Drew! I enjoy your posts. Very informative and helpful!
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By the way, I meant that–our goal was to become *best* parents.
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