Put Your Children First…Really?
Children are so important. I know it is an overused statement, but children are our future…and our present. Our children are change agents…in fact they changed our lives simply by entering into our world. They shaped our sleep patterns, eating habits, and priorities. We changed our schedule, our speech, our interests, and our activities in response to our children. We made sacrifices for our children. We wore that old ragged coat for another year in order to give our children a new and warmer coat. We choked down vegetables to model healthy eating in hopes our children would follow suit. We make most sacrifices quietly. We do not lecture our children on the sacrifices we made…and it is better that way. Yes, children are important but (and this is a big but)…. if we put our relationship with our children above all other relationships or make our children aware of every sacrifice we make for them, we do our children a great disservice.
Putting our children above all other relationships places an expectation on our children that they are unable to fulfill. Children cannot become the relationship that brings us solace, intimacy, or status. We need other relationships to provide those needs…important relationships like our marriage.
By making our relationship with our children the most important relationship, we are implicitly asking them to fulfill our need for intimacy and friendship. This responsibility, however subtle it is, places a burden on them that they are not emotionally prepared to handle. They do not need us to be their friend; nor should we rely on them for our friendship. Instead, they need us to guide, teach, discipline, and protect them. Seek intimacy in your marriage. Invest in your marriage to satisfy your need for deeper intimacy. Nurture adult friendships to satisfy your need for quality friendships.
If our children take precedent over all other relationships, our children begin to feel as though our reputation and status rests on their shoulders. This places a heavy weight on them, an undue pressure to achieve and perform. When we make our children the focus of our life and our esteem, we place the burden of potentially “ruining our status” on our children. Not surprisingly, this creates anxiety or fear in them. Rather than place such a burden on your children, develop your relationship with yourself. Nurture your own skills and talents in order to satisfy your need for achievement. Become involved in community activities and services to become known within your community as an individual beyond your children’s parent.
Finding our joy and satisfaction in life only within our relationship to our children places a huge burden on our children. Children are a joy, but they cannot complete our joy; they cannot bring us the satisfaction in life we desire. They will eventually develop interests of their own, quite possibly different than our interests. They will even move out of our home and develop a life of their own…sooner than we like to think. We have to develop our own interests and relationships to bring us satisfaction in life. Nurture your marriage, your adult friendships, your interests…your own life in order to find joy and satisfaction.
Children definitely add richness to our lives. They hold an important place in our life and in our own development. However, they cannot be the “end all” for our life. They cannot fulfill our every desire, elevate our status, or bring us satisfaction, joy, and intimacy. We are responsible for meeting those needs. And, when we do those things independently, we teach our children to do the same…and we watch their lives blossom. What greater joy than that?