I love, love, love, LOVE this article by Mike Berry posted on Babble last year. He writes that at around 8.30pm every night, he starts warning his two teenager daughters that it’s nearly time for them to head upstairs, with 9pm being the absolute cut-off deadline. They don’t actually have to go to sleep, but they have to vacate the living room because that is the only time he and his wife have to spend alone together.
They’ve had this rule in place for nearly 15 years and there has never been a time where their children were allowed to dominate ALL of their time during the course of the day. He goes on to say how much they love their children and that their role in their lives is a huge investment.
“But, there’s still us. There’s still our relationship. There’s still the health of our marriage to consider and pay attention to.”
I actually think it’s a testament to their parenting that their teenage kids would even want to still be hanging around them in the evenings as mine were usually locked away in their rooms glued to their phones, iPads and computers. And that was actually OK with us because we were a family that caught up with each other every day after school and made a point of sitting around the table together every night for dinner. After that, I was happy for them to go and relax because we used to cherish that alone time together, whether we just stared blurry-eyed at the TV holding hands or went off to bed together, that time was important to reconnect and rejuvenate without interruptions and distractions.
I’m scared for some of my friend’s relationships when I see that their lives revolve around their children’s lives entirely. They don’t take time out for each other and even seem to feel uncomfortable showing physical affection towards each other. Where will that leave them when the kids are gone but two strangers with nothing in common trying to get to know one another again.
Thank YOU Mike for writing this because I feel exactly the same as you do (as does my husband) and we have always put our relationship first above all other things for much the same reasons as Mike writes:
A Healthy Marriage is the Cornerstone of the Home
The cornerstone of your family is not your children. They are a part of the foundation and make up a major part of the structure, but they’re not the main thing that holds this whole beautiful mess together. That’s you – you and your wife, you and your husband, you and your partner. It’s your responsibility to lead your family, and your home. Your children are looking to the two of you for direction and example.
Before Them, It Was Us
Before they existed it was the two of us. We fell in love, skipped class to be together, stayed up too late talking on the phone (that was tied to the wall by a cord), and eventually committed to forever with one another. We were the beginning. We kicked this whole party off. Then these beautiful children came along. And we’re sure thankful they did because they fill our life with so much joy. But, our union is sacred. Our union is holy. With all of our power we must protect that sacredness.
After Them, It Will Be Us
Nothing lasts forever. Our darlings are going to grow up and move out of our nest at some point. I don’t know about you, but there’s no room for a 30-year-old kid in my basement. After they’re out in the world, living on their own, raising their own family, being the human beings they were meant to be, it will be just the two of us once again. And we want us to be healthy, strong, and still as committed, as we were when we first began this journey. In order to make sure the future us is protected, we must put us first today. This is not easy.
We Need to Set a Future Example
As I mentioned earlier, your children and mine are looking to us for life-cues, direction, and example. As children, they’re watching our every move to determine how they should live their lives. We often say, “We are raising adults, not children.” I don’t know about you, but I want my children to grow up with a healthy view of relationships – dating, engaged, or married. I want the health of my marriage to give them a healthy view of what marriage is, and what it should be. That’s why I put my wife first, and them second. Close second, but still second.
At the end of the day, this is a tension you must manage. Your children do need you, and they are important. After your spouse, they come next. Not friendships, not careers, not hobbies. Them. And you must take care of them. But take care of your marriage first and foremost. If that crumbles, the confidence that your children have now will begin to erode. When they see you loving their mother, or their father, they will love them too. But most importantly, they will have a confidence in themselves, and a confidence in the world around them.
Our schedule is busy all the time. I mean all..the…time! It seems to never stop. We are on with our children all the time. That’s why we guard 9PM on each night. That’s why we intentionally schedule date night a couple times a month. It must be a value. It must be consistent.
We must come first.
Three cheers to you Mike for expressing this so beautifully, it is fantastic advice that all parents should consider.