By Kristen Houghton
Being a Parent vs Being a Spouse
Marriage means sharing a life you create that incorporates the interests, the needs, and the plans of two separate people. Having children brings a whole new ingredient to this mix. Whether they’re your children together, stepchildren or even adult ones, parenting them can become all consuming.
Being a parent doesn’t mean that you put your marriage on hold. If your spouse is always second or third on your life agenda, your marriage will suffer.
A friend told me:
“I want to actually sit down and eat dinner with my wife at least once a week. She’s so involved in our son’s activities, that I never see her. I’m the invisible man. I miss having a relationship with my wife.”
We can become self sacrificing trying to make sure our child “has every advantage.” But the self we sacrifice for this is the self in the marriage.
Divorced parents who try to overcompensate for breaking up their child’s “happy home” often have a spouse who feels neglected and shut out.
A stepmother says of her husband and his daughter:
“He spends at least two hours every evening on the phone with her. I don’t get to talk with him until I’m too tired to do more than mumble good-night. It’s worse when she comes to visit; then I never see him. To be honest, she’s a sweet girl and I would like to spend more time with her, but when she’s here, he becomes super-dad to make her feel wanted.”
Once you become a parent you have the permanent title of “Mom” and “Dad.” But that title doesn’t mean that you are responsible for the financial needs of your adult children forever.
“We paid for our daughter’s college and post-grad expenses. Now she says she wants us to pay for her doctorate! That would mean dipping into our savings, something we refuse to do. Nor will we pay for it from our salaries. We’re making good money, yes, but we would like to enjoy our lives too.”
Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life. Your children must understand that, while they are very important in your lives, you, as a couple are also important. Minor children, your own and stepchildren, need to feel loved and nurtured. They should also know that you and your spouse need a certain amount of time for yourselves.
As for adult children-be blunt.
“We love you and we’re here for you in any emergency. However, bear in mind that not everything is an emergency. You are also an adult. Please act like one.”
Being a parent and a spouse is a juggling act. Setting the right parameters for both relationships keeps you sane!
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