I didn’t used to think I was a selfish person. Then I got married. All of a sudden, my life decisions weren’t all about me anymore. I needed to include someone else and learn to put his desires before my own.
After a few years of marriage, I thought I’d learned how to not be selfish. Then I had kids. All of a sudden, my time really wasn’t my own. I needed to sacrifice basic things like sleep and hygiene over the needs of this tiny, helpless person that couldn’t do anything for themselves.
Then I did it again, and again.
I thought by the time I had three kids, I would have learned how to be more selfless. How to put my kids first and focus on them. But, as I keep learning over and over, putting them first isn’t actually what they need.
In fact, I’m a better mom on the days I put God first, then my husband, then my kids.
Being a Good Parent Doesn’t Mean Kids Come First
Our culture seems to get this mixed up. It tells us we need to sacrifice for our kids, which we do–to a point. For a season we need to sacrifice sleeping at night for them. Or we need to put our career goals on hold for a while. Or we need to sacrifice the amount of time we used to have with our spouses. But sacrificing our marriage for the sake of our kids ends up hurting everyone.
Spouse Before Children
I like how Fatherly explained it:
After all, being a good parent means putting the kids’ needs first, no matter what. And because in this day and age parents are expected to be more attentive and accommodating to children than ever before, that’s a pretty all-consuming job.
But many psychologists and relationship experts push back on that idea, arguing that your spouse should come before your children. The theory is that without a strong marriage and loving home, kids won’t thrive, so you’re doing them a disservice by putting your spouse on the back burner, which can lead to marital trouble and even divorce…
Many couples…think they need to focus solely on the kids while they’re small and can tend to the marriage later when the kids are more independent, a shift that can come too late to save the relationship.
Feeding Kids’ Entitlement
As licensed marriage and family therapists Charlie and Linda Bloom explain in the article:
It’s gotten to the point now where parents are judged and ostracized if they don’t accommodate and even anticipate and provide for kids’ needs over the needs of their relationships. The danger of that is that not only will the couple’s relationship be neglected, which in most of these cases where there’s a lot of helicopter parenting going on, that’s the case. But the other thing is that children grow up with the expectation that the world is going to indulge them, which creates a sense of entitlement. We deal with this quite a bit because parents pick up this cultural bias toward favoring the needs of children above everyone else…
Weeks can go by with parents not checking in with each other, but they’ll check in with their kids every day, asking what they need, how they’re doing in school, chauffeuring them to ballet and piano lessons. They think that because adults are adults that they don’t have needs. Certainly, children’s needs shouldn’t be neglected, but devote some time during the week to nourish the romantic relationship, too. I’m a big believer in regular date nights and romantic getaways; you can also trade childcare with another family and take care of friends’ kids so they can go on a romantic getaway [and vice versa]. Those are some real, tangible things couples can do.
This concept of putting your spouse’s needs before your children’s is starting to show up in the greater culture, too. As Success.com shares, the secret to a happy marriage is putting your spouse first. Before yourself, and before your kids.
But there’s one more priority to place before your husband: God.
God’s Role in the Family
As Newspring Church explains:
In Genesis 2, God forms the first family. God created Adam, and Adam’s first relationship was with God alone. When God found no helper suitable for Adam, He put Adam to sleep and created Eve. Eve’s first relationship was also with God alone. After Adam and Eve are united with each other, they go forth and multiply.
I like how Messy Marriage summarizes it: “Loving God first, then your spouse, then your children, allows God’s love to flow more freely to all concerned.”
But my husband is my partner. We’re intimately connected in a mutually submissive loving, respectful, supportive relationship. My kids can’t provide that for me.
My kids are my most challenging source of growth. They frustrate me one moment and melt my heart the next. I want to hang onto every moment while simultaneously counting down the days until they mature out of this challenging season. They teach me more about God than anything else ever has.
But it Always Comes Back to God First
God loves my husband more than I do. He loves my kids more than I do. And He loves me more than I do.
When I focus on Him first, He guides me through the rest of my priorities much better than I could on my own.