I’m sure a lot of people cringe at the notion that it can actually harm your marriage if you put your kids first. However, there is evidence out there that making the kids your top priority can be problematic for kids, for parents’ mental health, and for the marriage.
Unhealthy for Kids
When you put kids at the forefront of your life, they often begin to feel as though the entire world revolves around them. This can lead to a rude awakening later on life when they see that just isn’t the case. As young adults they may be shocked to learn their professors don’t excuse your incomplete homework because it was Grandma’s birthday or your boss won’t let you take off on a long weekend because you friend is getting married. The rest of the world has its own schedule.
Also, when kids are the center of their parents’ universe, they often don’t have to deal with negative feelings. Sometimes parents go to great lengths to make sure their child never feels bored, sad, angry, or disappointed. These are the parents who call the soccer coach to complain when their kid isn’t getting enough playing time. Or they make sure their kids are constantly entertained with video games, movies, or any other electronic devices so they don’t get bored in the car.
Unfortunately, this can also set kids up for failure. There are a lot of unpleasant things in life and it’s important to have the skills to deal with negative feelings. Teaching kids how to tolerate boredom, cope with sadness, and deal with anger often gets lost when parents try to constantly make sure their kids feel happy.
Contributes to Parental Mental Illness
The Journal of Family and Child Studies recently released a report entitled Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental Health Outcomes of Intensive Mothering. The report states that intensive parenting is linked to higher incidence of depression and anxiety, especially among mothers. The study states that intensive parenting is defined as parents who focus their energy on ensuring their children’s needs are being tended to all the time. These parents feel responsible to constantly ensure their children are being developmentally stimulated and they put a lot of pressure on themselves to be always available to their children. The research raises a lot of concern. Obviously, having a parent with a mental health problem can be quite detrimental to children. Many children would be better off with a little less frequent stimulation and a mother without depression. There are lots of research studies that outline a host of problems that parental mental health problems can have on children. Mental health issues also interfere with marriage. Being married to someone with depression or anxiety can take a toll on the relationship. Depression and anxiety can interfere with communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving which are all essential elements in a healthy marriage.
Creates Marital Complications
When you put your kids first it means your marriage, is at best, second. For many people, this may seem appropriate. However, it can be damaging to your marriage.
If you devote all your time and energy into making sure your kids are doing well, you won’t be putting enough time into your marriage. And ultimately, this can take a toll on kids as well. Loving your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your children. So give up the guilt you may experience and know that putting your marriage first can be healthy for the whole family.
When your marriage revolves around kids’ activities only, it’s likely that your relationship won’t grow. And it can even cause you to grow apart. Unfortunately for many couples, this becomes more evident when kids grow into teens. This a time when teamwork is most important when parenting, but many couples aren’t able to effectively do so because they haven’t spent enough energy nourishing their marriage.
This can also lead to couples divorcing when they become empty-nesters. Without the children around, they don’t have anything to focus all of their energy on. And when they begin to examine their marriage, they just aren’t satisfied anymore because they haven’t been growing together for the past 18 years.
When you first have kids, there’s going to be an obvious adjustment period. This period will cause you to have to figure out your new role as a parent and how to balance that role with being a partner. Babies require constant care so it is normal at first to feel as if parenting is going to take precedent.
However, as children grow, if you find your kids are ruling your life, it may be important to examine your priorities. Sometimes simple steps, such as planning a once a week date night, can help you put more energy back into your marriage. If you and your spouse are struggling to align your priorities, seek professional help. A marriage counselor can help ensure you are putting enough time and energy into your relationship to keep it healthy.