To the married momma,
The number one thing you can do for your children is take care of your marriage. It’s not the amount of time you spend at the table doing flashcards to prepare for a test; it’s not how many organic meals they get prepared by your loving hands; and it’s not how many adventures you’re able to take them on. Are all of those things beneficial to your children? Absolutely. No argument. But there is not a thing more important to your children than a happy, healthy relationship with your spouse. Here’s why . . .
I hear it so much. “Ha! What’s date night?”
“Sex?! LOL not after I’ve spent all day taking care of these kids and this house.”
“Vacation? Oh I could never leave my babies.”
“Kids come first, always. If they didn’t I would be so selfish.”
“It’s fine if we don’t nurture our marriage now, we can do it when the kids are grown and move out. For now it’s about them.”
But I’ve also heard from couples who are divorcing, whether with young children or after their kids are off to college, and they have the opposite to say. Your marriage cannot wait. It cannot be put on the back burner. Your children cannot be so prioritized that you forget the person you created them with.
Of course, there are the benefits to you as a couple when you focus on your marriage, but I know, as a mom of two myself, that we want everything we do to benefit our children as well. Are you surprised to know making your marriage a top priority will ultimately benefit your children more than making THEM #1?
When mom and dad make sure to put one another first, the marriage flourishes. From there, the couple is able to act as a united front and the solid rock on which a family is built. Making sure your marriage is healthy allows you to be a better, more focused parent. You can tackle the stresses and problems of parenthood together rather than acting alone. Children won’t be able to pin mom against dad when they aren’t getting their way, and boundaries will be more firm and non-negotiable. You also have the enormous privilege of teaching your children that while they’re loved and important, they are not the center of the universe. You were “beloved wife” before you were “Mommy” and you will be “beloved wife” long after those kids are gone and don’t depend on you anymore. But your spouse always will.
When you put your partner first, you get to not only show your kids the value of a partnership, but how they can expect to treat and be treated in a marriage. Your example of marriage should show your children why the possibility of a lifelong commitment is beautiful and even desirable. Whether you want to or not, you are teaching by example how your daughters and sons should be treated by their spouses, just by how you treat yours. Your marriage sets up the way they view and act in their own romantic relationships. Can you see the crucial importance in that? We have a responsibility to make sure those relationships are healthy, and to show how to deal with them when they are not.
Prioritizing your marriage can be done in the simplest of ways, or in the grandest.
Go to bed together each night or spend an hour distraction-free in conversation after the kids are in bed. Learn each other’s love language and express love in that way. Apologize, forgive. Hold hands in the store and cuddle on the couch. Tell your spouse how appreciated he is, how loved he is, and how much you respect him. Check in by asking what you can do for him tomorrow, and if you hurt him in any way yesterday. Have sex, regularly. Establish “fight rules” so that when you disagree, nothing is said or done that is so damaging you can’t undo it. Drop the kids off with a family member or hire a trustworthy sitter and go to lunch on a Saturday. Spend time with other couples who prioritize their spouse too. Go to marriage workshops, even counseling if need be. Pray together.
Allowing your marriage to fade into the background can hurt you and your family in many ways. But there is no downside to prioritizing it. You, your spouse, and your children will have nothing to lose and everything to gain when there is a flourishing marriage present in your home. So tonight, put the kids to bed, turn off the TV, pull out a board game and grab the ice cream from the freezer. Invest in your marriage. You won’t be sorry.