The spouse child balancing act
There is a debate about how a couple should balance the needs of their marriage and the needs of their children. Some feel it should be all about the kids, and that as adults we should be ready to sacrifice each other to give to our kids. The other side said says the best thing you can do for your kids is to have a good marriage.
I have always felt the health of the marriage is of major importance to the mental and emotional health of the children. This means sometimes mom and dad to spend a bit less time with the kids so they can spend more time with each other because that is good for the parents, which makes it good for the kids.
There are two problems with putting too much time into the kids at the expense of the marriage:
Too much focus on the kids is actually bad for them: In ‘Helicopter’ Parents Have Neurotic Kids we learn that “hovering” and heavy involvement can harm kids. In looking at college students, the study found that “Students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness, among other factors, compared with their counterparts with more distant parents.” So while they need us, they also need some space so they can learn to function on our own. Our job a parents it to slowly release them, to help them learn to stand, but also to allow them to fall on occasion – in small, safe ways.
Too much focus on the kids can kill your marriage: I have read that the single highest year for divorce among couples is the year after the last child leaves home. I can’t confirm that with hard data, but I suspect it is true. In part this is because of those who have “hung on for the kids” getting out, but it’s also those who wake up and find the only thing they had in common was the kids. There is help for this (see Empty Nests and Empty Marriages and the links at the end of the article for a starting place), but it would be far better to not get to that place. A couple has to maintain a relationship that has depth and substance apart from their children. Yes, the kids are a major part of your life and your marriage, but they need to be only a part.
I realise that it is more common for mothers than fathers to become too focused on the kids to the exclusion of the marriage. However, many men play into this by turning their interests and efforts to their job, hobbies, or friends rather than working to make time with their bride. Tell her flat-out that you love her and you want to have a marriage that will be just as strong when the kids are grown and gone – then fight to have that.