It’s amazing how one little, helpless infant can disrupt a marriage.
You’ve spent months, in some cases years, preparing for the arrival of your first child. All your hopes and dreams about life with children are encapsulated in this one tiny infant.
There are diapers stacked in the closet. Clothes washed, folded, and carefully placed in drawers. Blankets and afghans draped over the cradle. The walls are painted with just the right color.
The birth day arrives with much excitement and anticipation, along with some fears.
And then you are home. You can’t believe how much love you have for this little one. However, you didn’t anticipate the sleepless nights. You are exhausted and so is your spouse. This adorable little demands everything you have.
You wonder if you’ll ever have time for yourself again. Let alone energy for your husband.
The early days of no sleep morph into days of dealing with your growing child’s constant needs and demands. At least you are sleeping through most nights now.
But one major thing is lacking.
You and your husband have less time together these days. Even when you sit down to catch up on the day, your little inserts a need or question. Completing a sentence or two is a luxury these days. It appears there is no time or energy to just be with each other. Sex is much less frequent and often interrupted.
Is this how life will be from now on?
It doesn’t have to be.
We all enter this world self-centered and selfish. After all, an infant is completely dependent on another person for their every need, for their very existence. If you and I aren’t careful, we allow this internal self-focus to permanently alter our world.
Marriage is the foundation of the home. And unless we teach our children that they come second, we risk our marriage and our children’s sense of security.
Dr. J. Allan Peterson says it this way,
A strong marriage precedes a strong family. Marriage is permanent; parenthood is temporary. Marriage is central; parenthood is secondary. Marriage is the hub; children are the spokes.
In our kid-centered culture, to put the focus on your marriage instead of the kids is counter-cultural. It is inferred that to be a good parent you must:
- give your child every opportunity available
- meet your littles’ every desire
What if the main thing our children need is a stable home where Dad and Mom love, respect, and serve each other?
What if our children need to know that treating others with respect, patience, and love is more important than any performance?
What if providing a home filled with peace and acceptance is more important than being involved in every possible activity?
In her book, Creating a Haven of Peace, Joanne Miller says, “It turns out that the best way to ensure our children are nurtured is to displace them from the center of the family. Counselor after counselor agrees that when the husband and wife put their children ahead of each other it sucks the vibrancy from their marriage, which harms the kids…A peaceful and loving home is not controlled by the children.”
It’s time to displace your littles from the center of your home. And when you do, your children will discover they are more secure and satisfied. (They won’t tell you this though.)
Early on in our marriage we were counseled to continue to date during our child raising years. That way, when our kids left home (the eventual, healthy goal), we wouldn’t be strangers.
Here’s a couple of ways we practiced putting our children second:
- Date nights—no kids allowed. Sometimes we went someplace. Either we hired a babysitter or we traded time with friends. Sometimes we stayed home, put the kids to bed, took the phone off the hook (no cell phones back then), and had a special time together. It is possible even when you have an infant—might only be an hour or two.
- Mommy and Daddy get uninterrupted time to talk. We let our littles know that Daddy and Mommy needed to discuss something without interruption. We made sure they understood that they were not to interrupt unless someone was bleeding profusely, or was so hurt they couldn’t move. When they did interrupt, and they did the first few times, we reminded them of the criteria and sent them to play.
- Interrupting others is rude. Children have to be taught how to get their mommy’s or daddy’s attention without bursting into the conversation. One of the best ways we found was to teach our children, that when we were talking with someone, they could come up to us and put their hand on our arm or leg and wait to be acknowledged. They didn’t just burst into a conversation. Again, this takes practice on mommy’s part and the little’s part. But how else will children learn to be polite if we don’t teach them?
If you’ve allowed your children to become the center of your home, don’t beat yourself up. You and your spouse can change this attitude and behavior. It’s never too late. However, the changes won’t happen overnight or without struggle, but you can do it. Your children NEED you to make the change.
Start with scheduling a weekly date night—no littles allowed. Be creative, but make it happen.
How can you put your marriage at the center of your home?