I have three children and I am the first to acknowledge the joys…the blessings…and the sacrifices that a couple experiences when children come into their lives. I also understand the unique roles that both the mother and the father play in rearing children and just how important both are to a child’s development. Now that I have made my disclaimers, I want to address what I believe has become an epidemic in many marriages with children in the past 10-15 years, and it is what I refer to as “Toxic Parenting”.
I recently did a wedding for a couple that already had a 3-year-old child. I asked them if they were going on a honeymoon after the wedding and the bride responded that they were going to wait a couple of months. I asked if they had someone to watch their child when they go on their honeymoon and they said, “Yes, but we are going to bring our child with us. We think he might enjoy the ‘get away’, too!” I gently suggested to them that since they had someone to watch their child, it wouldn’t hurt to get away for a few days while they enjoyed some special “childless” time alone. At that suggestion, they both looked at me like two deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car. “Well, we don’t want to deprive our child of a wonderful experience of being with his mother and father!”, they defensively retorted.
Unfortunately, this has become a very common attitude in our day and age among married couples that have become parents. Whether it is because of the pressure in our society to be “perfect parents”…or some false narrative deep within that has convinced us that our children can’t live a moment without us, many parents have allowed the child to take over the home and their relationship as husband and wife! When this happens, the couple’s parenting style has become toxic to the very foundation of the home…the marriage relationship!
It becomes toxic, because one or both of the parents makes the child more important than the marriage relationship. The parents schedule all their time around the child. The topics of conversation (when the couple does talk to each other) are centered on the child. There is no time for the couple because they are constantly bowing to the demands of the child. The child ends up robbing all the time and attention from the couple and in the end, there is nothing left for the couple to give to each other. Then when the child grows up and moves out of the house, the couple is left with just each other. The couple discovers that they are strangers living under the same roof, because they didn’t invest time into each other during the child rearing years…it was all put into the child! That is why most divorces take place at the 20-year mark of a marriage when the children leave home.
While children are a tremendous blessing to a marriage, every couple needs to remember that they married each other “until death do them part”…not their children. Couples do not do their marriage or their children any favors by investing all their time into the children and neglect their time together as husband and wife. It is very healthy for children to learn early that the most important person to Dad is Mom and to Mom is Dad. As Mom and Dad demonstrate that by spending devoted and quality time with each other (without child interruption), the home actually becomes more loving and stable for everyone in the family!