Spouse First, Parent Second: Principles for Parenting #1

Yesterday I introduced the idea that I don’t believe there is a perfect formula for parenting. Over the next few months I will be endeavoring to lay out principles for parenting that can hopefully apply regardless of the context. Today I want to talk about one of the hardest, yet most important principles for healthy children.

Spouse First, Parent Second

If you are a single parent, this principle still applies but in a somewhat different way. Instead of your first role being a spouse, your first role is to develop and look after yourself. So the principle could be you first, parent second. As a single parent, this is even more important.

I don’t remember much about the days when our daughters were newborns. It all seems like a fog in my memory. Having watched other couples go through the experience of having their first child and seeing that glazed look on their eyes from a lack of sleep, it is obvious that a child changes the dynamics of marriage in some big ways. Especially when the child is in the first two years of life, it is all hands on deck to make sure that the child develops in a healthy way.

It is during these years that it is easy to develop some unhealthy habits in putting the child in front of the marriage. It is easy to be a parent first and a spouse second. Now don’t get me wrong being a parent is a very important role that takes a lot of time and energy. But I think that too often couples don’t focus enough on their marriage during these early years in the life of their child.

A study from the University of Denver shows that 90% of couples experience an immediate dip in marital satisfaction when a child is born. Those that have kids can attest to this fact. This screaming, eating, pooping creature can wreak havoc on a marriage.

You have probably heard the idea before that the best gift you can give your child is a healthy marriage. This is much easier said than done though. It starts with believing the principle that we are a spouse first and a parent second. We need to talk about this as couples even before we have children. Churches offer pre-marital counseling. I almost think we need to offer pre-parenting counseling as well.

As spouses we need to be dialoguing on a regular basis about our marriage and what is going well and what isn’t. We need to be giving in the moment feedback on whether our marriage or the kids are coming first. Obviously there are definitely moments when the kids come first. When the children come we can’t experience marriage in the same way as when we didn’t have kids. But we need to see our role as a spouse coming before our role as a parent.

As I outline these principles for parenting, I am purposefully not going to give you the magic formula for making this work in your home because there isn’t a magic formula. As a couple you need to dialogue and think through what this means for you and your marriage. Every marriage is different.

What are some ways that you have applied this principle to your marriage? How are you a spouse first and a parent second? What are some practical ways that you strengthen your marriage?


Posted on June 13, 2012, in Family Strategies, Marriage, Principles for Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love the idea of pre-parenting counseling. This is something churches should be talking about.

  1. Pingback: Get Away from the Kids and Be a Better Parent | Mile High Dad

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