TODAY I WANT TO SPEAK to those who are married and have children, or those who are married and planning to have children.
Four years ago (before I had a son), I wrote an article entitled My Son Horn Me. Many people found the title funny and unusual but after reading the content, they understood why I wrote it.
Unfortunately, many fathers (in most cases) are replaced by their children. I do not believe this is intentional on the mother’s part but nonetheless, the problem exists.
Many married parents love their children and as a result, spend time caring and providing for them. Sadly, some spend so much time with their children that they forget about each other and the marriage over time breaks down because the needs of the children are met and not those of the spouse. When the children become adults and leave home, the children have two parents, but the parents don’t have each other; they are like strangers.
It is important to note that the scriptures tell us that we leave and cleave to our spouse, and we become one flesh with them. It didn’t say we leave and cleave or become one flesh with our children.
There is a reason why God’s method is marriage first, then children. You first learn how to care for and treat your spouse and then mimic that with your children. The sacrifices that you as a parent make for your children should be made for your spouse first. Sadly, we go the mile for our children and not for our spouse.
As tired and exhausted as we may be, we wake up in the night to care to the needs of our children, rise early in the morning to make breakfast for them, and wash and press their clothes. Despite how angry we become when they misbehave, we are very forgiving to them. How many husbands and wives do the same for their spouse?
Despite being dog-tired, are we willing to wake up to satisfy the needs of our spouses? How many husbands are willing to be woken up to talk about a pressing concern? Although we were hurt or disappointed, how forgiving are we and would we still press, wash, cook and so on? If as husbands and wives, we treat and care for our children better than our spouses, we are in error and should seek forgiveness.
As a father and a husband, I will never ever understand that special bond and love a mother has for her children. After all, I didn’t carry them for nine months. I have learnt to let my wife be a mother and she gives me the space and opportunity to just be a dad. That being said, if in our marriage she is 90 per cent a mother and only ten per cent a wife, we have a problem.
You may ask if it should be 50:50 or 40:60. I can’t tell you the ratio, but as a married couple, you know in your heart if you aren’t showing the adequate amount of love, attention and affection to your spouse. Just sit and think about it or ask your spouse if they think you spend more time and give more affection and love to the children than them.
After our firstborn, we recognised how much attention and focus we had placed on our daughter and established a policy of “spouse comes first” in our home. Over the years, we have taught our daughters this and our son will also learn it. Did they immediately catch on? No, but we continue to reinforce it. We also remind ourselves of the policy when we find ourselves drifting from it.
I have found in my marriage that once mummy and daddy’s relationship is booming and we are meeting each other’s needs and giving each other the attention, affection and love we each desire and deserve, the energy and atmosphere in the house are really balanced and we see that balance in our children’s behaviour.
When the focus becomes too much on the children and our relationship is neglected, it offsets our personal energies, which then affects the atmosphere and energy in the house and also our children’s behaviour.
Our love for our spouse should inform our love for our children. Remember, our children are watching the standards we set.
• Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth youth ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.