It sounds harsh ... but just hear us out.
Marriage and parenting are very rewarding, but equally challenging.
Juggling these two roles, along with all the other demands of adulthood feels impossible at times.
I constantly see parents make the mistake of putting their kids first ... all the time.
It seems like kids have become the center of the universe, and parents spend every minute of their time orbiting around the little darlings, making sure their children's every need, want, and desire is fully supplied. In a recent "Happy, Healthy Sex In Marriage" survey, 41 percent of YourTango experts said "making the children a priority over your spouse" is one the most detrimental ways parenting kills sexual happiness in marriage.
David Code, an Episcopal minister and family coach, said in his book, To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First, "To raise healthy kids, simply put your marriage first and your children second. For many of today's couples, the children are priority No. 1 and marriage is priority No. 10 — and few of us make it past the top three priorities on our daily to-do list."
Kids' needs are important. And being a good parent definitely requires sacrifice and hard work.
However, healthy kids are the product of a strong, healthy marriage. Kids need their parent's relationship to stay strong and healthy by making the marriage the top priority.
Here are ways to keep the kiddos from throwing your marriage out of whack:
1. Stop letting the kids sleep in your bed. Many parents get in the routine of letting their baby or toddler sleep in their bed. As the child ages and tries to transition, most kids put up a pretty good fight, crying and expressing fear. To many parents, it's just not worth the fight and the effort. So, they sacrifice their place of intimacy and alone time for the children. Big mistake. Reclaim your intimate space as your own. Kids can visit, but that's mom and dad's space.
2. Go out together ... without the kids in tow. It is easy to neglect this part of the relationship because there are usually valid barriers — finding babysitters, time, energy, financial resources to name a few. But, date night is not impossible if your prioritize it. Where there's a will, there's a way, as they say.
3. Don't put your child's needs ahead of yours every time. Many parents feel the social pressure to put their kids in every available sport, extra-curricular activity, or lesson offered. This causes a hardship on family resources including time, transportation, money and energy. For many families, this is a huge contributor to daily stress. Make it a family rule that everyone gets a turn, not one person's wants trumping everyone else's.
4. Carve chunks of time for you as a couple (and guard it with your life). Time together, even at home, helps maintain your identity as "husband and wife," instead of just being mom and dad. Easy ways to connect include: sharing a cup of coffee in the morning, talking a few minutes before bedtime, or connecting by phone throughout the day. Doing chores together such as, cooking dinner or yardwork are other great ways to connect on your home turf. It's also helpful to plan extended time together, once in a while, such as day trips or weekend getaways to connect as a couple away from the house. Your absence, for a day or two, will not hurt your child.
5. Stop neglecting sex. I know it doesn't sound very romantic, but with all the demands of parenting and adult life, it is necessary to intentionally plan for sex. Given that it is such an important part of marriage, it is worth putting it on the calendar.
Making your kids sleep in their own bed, is very healthy for your marriage and for the children in the long run. This is one thing you just have to bite the bullet and decide to do. Once you get past the initial struggle, everyone feels happier and you'll sleep better, too!
6. Make decisions about your kids together. Children thrive when they see their parents working together as a team. It provides a secure environment for them to grow and develop, both, emotionally and mentally. Your kids need to hear that couple time, family time, and general downtime are just as important as organized activities. They also need to understand that other things come into play, such as finances and time for schoolwork. In lieu of organized activities all the time, spend time doing low-key activities as a family.
With all of the demands of modern life, it's easy for your marriage and priorities to fall out of balance. Kids are precious and a gift from God. They deserve the very best. A big part of giving them your very best is making sure your marriage is strong and healthy. This gives kids a strong foundation on which to grow and thrive.
Kristen Owen is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor. She loves helping people find wholeness by coming to a place of peace with themselves, with others, and with God.