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Who Comes First – Your Children or Your Spouse?

Remember when Ayelet Waldman stirred controversy five years ago when she suggested in a New York Times essay that she loved her husband more than her children?

The public outcry was so great that for a long while, Waldman held the dubious title of Most Reviled Mom in America.

Now Motherlode’s Lisa Belkin revisits the issue, asking “Who is more important to you — your spouse or your children?”

The question is obviously a rhetorical one. Belkin isn’t asking readers to choose.

But the question itself provokes other important questions. For instance, in our efforts to be good parents, have we become overly involved in our kids lives at the expense of our marriage? In all this talk about what is best for the kids, have we lst sight of what is best for the parents?

So many times I’ve heard fellow moms bemoan the fact that they spend so little time with their husbands — and when they do get together, they talk about the kids. Our kid-centric society places so much value on child-rearing that parents feel guilty for putting their relationship first.

Lylah M. Alphonse , writer and editor at The Boston Globe, argues that this intense focus on the children’s needs does serious damage to a marriage. On her blog Write. Edit. Repeat., Alphonse recently interviewed David Code, a family coach, an Episcopal minister and the author of the book “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First,” which was published last fall.

The biggest myth of parenting, according to Code, is that the more time we devote to the kids, the better off they will be. But are kids today any better off than previous generations?

“To raise healthy kids, simply put your marriage first and your children second,” writes Code.

His advice for parents? Make weekly appointments for sex. Share the highlight and “lowlight” of your day with each other. Most problematically, Code suggests leaving your kids at night while you take a romantic walk (along with a baby monitor).

I’m on board for the first two, but I’m not leaving the sleeping children alone while I stroll the neighborhood. I think a babysitting swap is a better idea — get friends to watch your kids after they’re asleep and you do the same in return. I don’t think I could enjoy myself on an evening stroll knowing that my kids will freak out if they call for me and I don’t come running. There’s putting your spouse first and there’s neglecting your kids.

Suggestions aside, Code has a point. We can’t neglect our marriage at the expense of our kids. At some point, the kids will leave home and we’ll be left with each other.

Who comes first in your life? And if you answer your kids, do you worry that your marriage is suffering because of it?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hitchica/

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