A nicely dressed husband and wife walked into our condo one afternoon. They were in their mid-forties, have two teenagers, and good jobs. They looked successful and like they should have everything necessary for a good life.
After some chit-chat, we asked what they would like to talk about; how we could help them. The wife started by saying, “He has been cheating on me.”
The husband sat with his head down, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. He admitted he had been unfaithful. When we asked, “Why?” He said, “I’ve been so lonely in our marriage. The girl at work took time to talk to me and showed me she thought I was special.”
“When did the loneliness start?” we asked. Like so many others he said, “When our first child was born, my wife got so wrapped up in caring for our baby that she had no time for me any more. When I tried to help with the baby, she said, ‘Oh, you don’t know how to do that right, let me do it!’ When the baby couldn’t go to sleep, she would put the baby in our bed, between us. When our little girl cried with a nightmare, my wife would leave our bed and sleep with our daughter and never come back to our room until morning. When I got home at night after we had both worked all day, she told me some chores to do while she cooked and cared for the kids. But there was never any time for me. I got very lonely!”
Does this sound familiar? Do you have friends who are experiencing this scenario?
If you are reading this, you probably have a baby or small child. This is a note of warning for you. You still have time to change your family dynamics. You can build family relationships that are mutually helpful, encouraging, and comforting.
Mom, let’s talk about you. You didn’t make that baby by yourself. You cannot raise that child alone. At least, that is certainly not God’s intention for you. God brought man and woman together and made them one. He made us a team to raise the children He gives us.
Many moms make their first mistake when their baby is born. They may feel somewhat unsure of themselves but want to make sure everything is done just right for their baby. They read every book they could get their hands on, had nurses show them how to feed and bathe the baby, and even grandma or confinement lady help them practice. But daddy doesn’t have those experiences. So instead of letting him bumble around and put on a droopy nappy, she says, “Here, let me do it, you don’t do it right!” He knew he didn’t do it right, but he wanted to learn. She has blasted his confidence and he may never try again.
If this sounds familiar, you need to apologize today and start making a way for your husband to be successful at taking care of the baby. Give your husband time alone with your children when they are all in a good mood and ready for some fun together.
Culture also has a part to play. Either mom or dad may have come from a home where it was expected that mom raised the kids while dad earned a living to support them. In itself, that is not all bad. It becomes wrong when the roles are too rigid and dad never has anything to do with raising the children. If his role is only as the enforcer, his children are missing so much that an involved dad can impart to them.
Then there’s the question of who comes first. A baby wailing for hours on end may seem vastly more important than a husband hunched over a computer with earphones on. Yes, of course, there are times when baby needs comforting and all your attention is focused on him. But most of the time your child does not need to take the spotlight 24/7. You will only have that baby, child, or teenager for a few short years. Then it will just be you and your husband alone again. Will you still have a relationship to enjoy? Will you have a shared history and common interests? If you don’t find ways to give yourselves some time together alone every day, you won’t have a relationship after years of neglect.
Finally, society puts such a premium on children’s success. Even the most caring wife can get caught up in the competition for the best child. Wanting to promote her child’s achievements, she strives to get her child into the best preschool and kindergarten. She buys only the best food for her child. She searches out the educational toys with the most extravagant promises of success. When she works, it is for the additional money necessary to give her child the edge over the competition. When she is at home, nothing deters her from spending all her time and strength on her child. Where is daddy in all this? Probably staying late at the office to pay the bills or find someone else to talk to.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to help our children be their best. But we cannot buy their success. A mom and dad who love each other and love their children will do more than all they can buy. The security a child gains from knowing his mom and dad are there for him is far more valuable than toys and programs. A child catches his parents values by watching them day in and day out. Wisdom is not in the number of books we’ve read or the facts we can scribble on a test paper. As my husband, Mike, says, “Wisdom is the science of successful living. It asks, ‘What is most important in life? How should I use money? How do I maintain good relationships with my family, my friends, and my world? How do I care for my mind, my body – my soul? How do I make good decisions?'” These are the things parents working together can teach their child.
If you have felt pricked by anything you’ve read, please consider implementing some of these ideas:
- Put your children to bed at least an hour or two before you go to bed.
- Do something you both enjoy together every day–take a walk, share a joke, eat your bedtime snack together alone.
- Make sure you do something often to show how much you cherish each other.
- Make love, don’t just have sex.
- Teach your children that some time is mom and dad time and they are not included.
- Do some things together as a family to have common interests and shared memories.
Raising kids should be a team effort with joyful rewards. Most of my readers are just starting out, so set the right course now. You will all be glad you did.