If you are married with children, then you know the tension that exists between being a spouse and a parent. Both roles are extremely demanding and either one could exhaust all of your time and energy. So, the big question is, "are you a better spouse or parent?" I honestly hope you are great at both, but the reality is, one of these roles becomes your default. It becomes your greater identity. I would venture to guess that most people reading this would have to admit that they are in fact a better parent than a spouse. There's something that happens to us when those kids come along. Maybe it’s because they are so demanding, maybe it's because they are so darn cute, but we tend to give ourselves more freely to the role of parent, leaving the role of spouse in the dust.
If you follow my blog, you know where this is going. We MUST get the order right in our homes. Marriage is of higher importance than parenting. For some of you, this may sound all out wrong! However, your marriage is the foundation on which your parenting is built. For instance, if you are a single parent you MUST build your parenting on the fact that you parent solo or in an awkward arrangement with your child's other parent. If you are married the bedrock of your parenting is your marriage. This is true at the very least because you are NOT alone in the parenting realm. You MUST work in sync with your spouse or you will send mixed signals to your children that will work against both of your efforts as parents.
The goal is to pause wherever you are and decide to make your marriage the first and most important part of your home life. Here's a few ideas…
1. Schedule conversations.
Most of us run our lives at such high RPMs that we simply run out of steam by the end of the day and we have very little, if any energy left for our spouse. I'm a believe in the power of a schedule. If it's important, it makes its way to my calendar. My wife and I literally have one night a week designated for conversation. This is not a planning session for our next vacation or writing a grocery list. This is so she and I can connect. Couples with good communication built in can usually bridge any gaps in their parenting.
2. Save some affection for each other.
Have you ever given your child a big hug and kiss before bed and then barely speak to your spouse? This is such an easy but destructive drift of affection that you must guard against. Yes, your children need your affection, as does your spouse. Too often a parent fills the absence of a spouse's affection with the ever available affection of a child. This is a role your child was never meant to play. Couples with children have to be more intentional than ever before because there will be more distractions than ever before. Besides that, your kids need to see what a good marriage looks like!
3. Limit extracurricular activities for kids.
Marriages are suffering due to the pace we allow our kids to run. I talk to couples all the time who describe life as a taxi service getting to and from sports, music, dance, and a hundred other activities. Along the way there is little or no time together. My advice is for you and your spouse to prioritize the "extracurricular" activities that benefit your marriage first then consider those things that your kids may want to do. When your marriage wins your family wins and when family wins your kids win…I promise.
You may notice all of my advice depends on you and your spouse discussing these things and making decisions. If you are out of practice discussing important things and making good decisions together - now is the time to start. Pass this post along to your spouse and make the changes happen!