Having a Good Marriage Is Part of Being a Good Parent

Like everyone else, I have seen some painfully bad marriages in my day and of those, many of the couples were actually amazing, doting parents as well. Still, their kids were anxious and nervous about various things. They seemed generally unhappy and often acted out.

So why would such good parents produce such strange children? The fact is, we have a myth in our culture that being put first is the best thing for children. In fact, being put "first" is often the very reason children act out and misbehave. It is a lot of pressure for a child to feel like they are some one's main reason for living.

This is especially true when it comes to marriage and yet, so very many parents do put their kids above their marriage. Episcopal Minister and author David Code says this is a huge mistake. He told The Boston Globe:


Here's the biggest myth of parenting: The more attention we give our kids, the better they'll turn out. Where are the results? Studies show today’s parents spend more time with their kids, and yet today's kids don't seem happier, more independent or successful. They seem more troubled, entitled and needy. Our marriages [Unlike our kids] are important, but not urgent. So we neglect to feed and water our marriages, which die so slowly and quietly that we don't even realize our mistake until it's too late. But not only do we lose our marriages, we set a poor example for our children's future marriages, and we also create highly-anxious households where our kids soak up that anxiety and then act out.

It is the truth and it is the mistake so very many parents make. In order to have a happy child and to set a good example for future marriages, it is crucial to model a good marriage for them. And doing that requires watering, like plants.

This is not about making your marriage last and your relationship with your kids suffer. As Card says, "I see it as setting priorities that benefit everyone in the long run, even if they don't recognize it at present."

Sometimes, skip the child enriching activity and let the kids watch a child appropriate movie while you canoodle with the spouse. Or, instead of hand lettering children's birthday invitations, cuddle and watch a movie with your spouse and order the invites online. This is not about neglect or abuse, but it is about stopping the attempt to be super mom in an attempt to make your marriage spontaneous, sexy and close.

Some of my best memories of childhood are seeing my parents be affectionate with one another and choosing to spend time together alone over spending time with me. I liked my babysitters and I had fun, even on the nights where I asked them not to go out. The fact is, I was better for their happy marriage and now I have a happier marriage because of it.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my mother-in-law told me to "remember what came first." At the time, I kind of dismissed it, but now I know what she meant. Part of being a good mommy is loving my child with all of my heart and also loving her daddy. If I chose to bad mouth her dad, I would not be a good parent. By loving him, I open the door for their relationship, model a good marriage for her and also give her the stable base from which she can spread her wings.

This is what I strive to achieve for our family and I think being a good parent means being a good spouse first.

Do you think this is true?



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