on being a great parent AND a fantastic partner

“[My] kids come first in everything…We live and breathe for our children. When they are grown and have families of their own then we will have our time together again….No exceptions. I love my children far more than I love my husband!”

“We raise our children to become independent, to leave us and make their own lives. If we wish to have a life with our spouse after the children leave? We have to put the marriage first, nurture it. So there will continue to be a marriage when they move on.”

“No babysitters. Our children are TOP priority and we haven’t been on a real date since before our oldest was born. It’s rough but it’s our reality. And neither one of us trust just anybody with our children.”

I read this article, “Put your spouse first, kids second!” The article claimed this to be the way to ensure a happy family and marriage.

Of course not everyone agreed. Some vehmently objected and said their kids always came first! Others said, yes, if you don’t take care of your spouse- the one who will be there for you when the kids are gone- you will end up with nothing. Most took one side or the other.

I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that not everyone lives this way, because, well,

What about the crazy idea that you put both (kids and spouse/partner/insert any other appropriate relationship title) first?

Is it truly that hard? I understand for some it can be…they don’t want to put one above the other, but they don’t always know how to make it happen.

Some parents do understand this, of course.

I’m currently trying to balance this in my own marriage. After we had kids i feel like we kinda forgot there was an us first. My first child was always there (she was 2 when we started seeing each other) but after we had our son our marriage kinda got put on hold. We had to take a step back and remember WE were important too!”

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I’m tired of the idea that it needs to be a competition between spouse and kids.

I don’t want that life. I didn’t agree with the person who said that they never went on a date, because they had to be with their kids every second. Or the person who said you had to put marriage first. Their argument being that kids would grow up and leave, but the marriage would always be there. Because parents need date nights and an identity that isn’t being a parent. And kids need attention, too.

I’d like to propose a modest solution: find a way to put the FAMILY first.

Which includes YOU as part of the family. I have no intention of my kids growing up and leaving me, anymore than I left my parents when I left my family home. Of course I’d want our kids to be independent and living on their own– but I don’t want them gone! I am still there for my parents on a near weekly basis. So, no, I won’t find myself in the position of having my kids gone and only my spouse left.

I don’t think you should choose kids now, spouse later OR spouse first, because kids will leave, spouse will stay. I think you should have date nights and be there for your kids. Take care of everyone’s needs and wants, as well as your own (theoretically your spouse and even, to an extent, your children, are doing the same for you; it’s not just you giving and everyone else taking).

There must be a way to live that doesn’t make either feel “second place.”

Because that’s what I have with my partner and family. And I wouldn’t ask anyone else to accept less.

I’ve always felt lucky in that my primary partner has always made me feel valued and prioritized in our relationship, not despite, but because of the fact we have kids that we are raising together.

And to be quite frank, while it is hard work, I don’t think it’s any harder than trying to make your spouse happy at expense of children (or vice versa.) Having a family and raising kids? It’s hard. But that doesn’t mean it has to be painful and miserable. (And if you want an easier life, which is PERFECTLY fine, don’t have kids! It’s avoidable these days, and if you are unable to access these options, CONTACT ME and I WILL help you! You do not have to be a mother unless you want it! I cannot entirely say this about fathers, so please be smart about this!)

What if life was more like this?

“I love my kids with all my heart. I do everything for them. But if I have the opportunity to leave them with family and take my husband on a romantic vacation? That’s happening. If my husband and I are having an argument that’s difficult to come to terms, you bet my kids are being sent outside. Or to their rooms, until we have both resolved our issues. Prioritizing my marriage isn’t about putting my kids last, it’s about keeping their parents happy, and their lives stable.”

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And this,

“I always feel these articles should be worded more along the lines of “Don’t let being a parent completely overrun your relationship.” As in, I am always a mother first, however I still am a human seperate that with hopes and dreams. You are allowed time to be just yourself. In the same way, we should remember that it’s okay to leave the kids with someone and go out with your SO. It’s okay to occasionally “put them second” in this sense, to make sure you get to remember who you are as a couple as well ♥️ but, no, I couldn’t imagine saying they come first all the time.

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Because that’s how my life works, and it actually does work, and everyone is pretty happy. No, I’m not saying that everyone is happy all the time and always gets what they want. But the compromises work well for all involved and aren’t usually much of a compromise. And it isn’t just me. Just from the support of comments I made on the article, I know that many find ways to balance the needs of everyone in the family.

So how do we move away from this competition between making the marriage succesful and making the relationship with children successful?

Because, while some have found their own solutions and balance, this remains a problem. Many couples with children do choose to neglect one or the other and make one come “first.”

I noted this statisic from the article,

“[M]ultiple researchers have shown a precipitous drop in the level of marital satisfaction in the first three years of a new baby,” says Liz Colizza, a licensed professional counselor and head of research at Lasting, a relationship counseling app. In fact, 67 percent of all couples experience a drop, while only 33 percent maintain their level of satisfaction, according to research published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

“Why My Children Will Always Come Second to My Marriage”

I don’t know what to do about solving this widespread problem. But I do think we can encourage some- in my opinion- healthier behaviors. Perhaps ask your non monogamous friends in healthy, happy relationships.

Some of my non monogamous/poly friends in the healthiest relationships I know also have some of the best relationships I know with their children; because they’re already used to balancing multiple priorities. They already learned those “relationship skills.”

Similarly, I wonder if that makes -good- parents great candidates for polyamorous relationships, “I can treat both my spouse and children well, of course I can treat a new partner well.”

Or…here’s a few suggestions. Such as:

It’s okay to go on a date night and leave the kids with Grandma.

Or with any other family member. Or with a babysitter. Or at a sleepover with friends. Your kids, in fact, need to develop good relations with people that aren’t you. I think it’s much more selfish to make your children dependent on you and only know how to interact with you– than it is to allow them some time away from you. You get time for date night with your spouse (or whomever)! And Grandma has the chance to get to know her grandchildren. Win-win-win.

Develop friendships, close relationships, with other adults who can help you as you help them. I am my kids’ “friendmom.” My family wouldn’t know what to do without me. Can you find a friendmom for your family? Someone like an aunt, but closer to you emotionally (or perhaps you do have an aunt that is an integral member of the famiy, rather than a distant, or even loving, relative)?

Because I promise you that you don’t want to end up having it so bad between the two (your children and spouse) that you are forced to choose the happiness of one or the other. Because their wants and happiness are so divergent that you cannot possibly make both happen.

Or let’s say you absolutely cannot find a way to make both parties happy and prioritized.

You never have a date night, because your kids need you with them every second of every evening. Or your husband tells you that you need to move to a home that is more convenient to his work, even though that means uprooting your children for their friends, life, and the school that they love to a school with which they are incredibly unhappy (yes, sometimes moving is necessary but the children should benefit from the move, too).

Well, that is a sucky situation. I, personally, would choose my children in that case and find a new partner to help raise them. And I think, often, most others do, too. Or maybe they just make the best of it for everyone, with nobody really getting what they want. But I don’t think anyone would say that’s a great situation.

Please try and make sure that you and the mother/father of your children are on the same page as to A) how to raise them and B) how to balance your family life! Failure to do that (and, yes, life happens) can have miserable consequences.

The rest of it?

A good relationship counselor or marriage counselor can probably help you figure out the day to day issues, if you have trouble with time management, etc.

It’s not at all impossible to reach that place of happiness and contentment among your family; it’s just a life skill that some haven’t learned (like any skill, it’s hard until it’s not hard).

How do you balance YOUR family life?


P.S. Are you trying to find a way to balance your spouse and children AND considering entering a polyamorous relationship, too? Not sure how you’ll manage it all? Stayed tuned for my next piece on “scheduling poly dating life and childcare: how do you make them both work?”!

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