One of my facebook friends recently posted this:
“I love my kids but anyone that says they don’t like the “empty nest” didn’t marry their best friend.”
Her youngest child just went off to school for a year and her oldest three are married (and thus out of the home). I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been married, but I’m guessing it’s at least 25+ years. It’s just always fun to see people happy about great marriages – especially when they’ve been married for more than 2.6 seconds.
I read her status and wondered “How do I get that!?” Not how do I get a great marriage? Not how do I marry my best friend? My question is mostly: “What can I do so that in 25 years from now, when my kid(s) are grown and gone, I’ll still feel like I’ve married my best friend?
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. I was reading a book by John Rosemond (called New Parent Power!) that spoke to this briefly:
In the years since World World II, we have become increasingly and neurotically obsessed with the raising of children. Something that used to be a fairly commonsense responsibility has taken on the trappings of science. … Within the child-centered family, the implicit understanding is that the children are its most important members and the parent-child relationship is the most important relationship. …
Well, if you want raising children to be difficult, you need only to put them first. By putting your children first in your family, you guarantee they will become manipulative, demanding, and unappreciative of anything and everything you do for them. …
Again, its a question of priorities. In a two-parent family, the marriage must come first. After all, the marriage created the family, and the marriage sustains it. The marriage preceded the children and is meant to succeed them. If you don’t put your marriage first and keep it there, it’s likely to become a mirage instead.
It’s a concept that’s foundational to most of his advice: the marriage must come first and children should not be the center of the family. It’s what makes parents happier and it’s what makes children happier.
I want that! I want 25+ years to go by and for Jeff & I to send our last one off to college . When we do, I want to say “Love ya kids, but get out! Daddy and I gotta cuddle!”. I don’t want it to be “No kids! Come back! Don’t leave me alone with this stranger called Hubby!”
I’m beginning to realize how hard it is to keep your marriage front and center while raising children. Children will take all the attention that you are willing to give them. They don’t start out independent in any way, shape or form. And it is easy to want to give them all your time and energy. They’re fun – the questions they ask, the smiles that they give, the new milestones that they reach. They’re unique – each child doesn’t something a little bit different and has their own personality. Eventually, their needs can dominate the family schedule with school, church, sports and other events.
Kids are cute, fun, unique and needy. Particularly, the first several months of your first kid’s life are i-n-t-e-n-s-e. At least, for me, it was. You’re learning so many new things. You’re making decisions you’ve never made before. It can take alot of focus. In fact, it can take ALL of your focus if you let it.
How you prevent a kid-center marriage probably doesn’t have a magic formula. There’s no “do these 5 things together and you’ll be fine”. I’d guess there are some generalities though: keep talking, keep having fun, spend time together. How and when you talk is up to you. How and when you have fun is up to you. How and when you spend time together is up to you.
Kids will take all the energy and focus that you let them. Seems to me it is important to give them lots of energy and focus, but not ALL of your energy and focus. Now that I’m staying at home, I am hopeful that I have more time to focus on my marriage. That doesn’t mean giving the boys sticks and knives to play with and to ignore them, but to make sure I have time for Jeff too. Our marriage will sustain our family!