“My kids are my life.” “My children are my heartbeat.” “I live for my children.” “I don’t know what I’d do without my kids.” These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard parents utter. Whenever I hear a parent make one or more of these statements, it piques my curiosity. I immediately wonder if the parent is merely using hyperbole, is speaking naively, or, in the case of a married parent, is purposefully relegating the importance of their spouse.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that raising children is one of the most courageous of human endeavors. I believe that we need to pour wisdom, knowledge, joy, and, yes, discipline into their lives. I believe we need to love them. I believe we need to let them know how much we love them – both in word and in deed.
But, as I alluded to in a previous post, too many parents become consumed with their children. Sure, they may develop great relationships with their children, but in many instances at a cost. For married parents, the cost may be their spousal relationship; for married and single parents alike, the cost may be interpersonal relationships.
THE MARITAL EXPENSE
I believe the main problem with the overly consumed married parent is that they have forgotten, never truly understood, or never took seriously the words they spoke on their wedding day. They have forgotten (or misapprehended) that, on that day, they stood up in front of friends, family, and God (whether or not they believe in Him), and a made vow to each other. They vowed that, until death, they would love each other, remain true to each other, and honor each other. They did not make this vow to their children (present or future). Nor should they! That is not what God intends.
Genesis 2:24 (KJV) says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.” Right there, in that single sentence, God not only institutionalized marriage, He commanded that children one day leave their parents and start their own family.
When parents become overly consumed with their relationships with their children, their spousal relationship will inevitably suffer. Then, when the children leave home and are no longer around, the parents may find themselves looking at each other, wondering who the stranger is in the house.
THE INTERPERSONAL EXPENSE
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
It is unfortunate, but parents who are overly consumed with their children may find themselves coming to a harsh understanding of just what Lewis meant. Their over-consumption inhibits them from investing the time that is needed to develop deep, close, long-lasting friendships. They are too busy with their children to bother with other people. They are so wrapped up in their children’s lives that they dismiss or ignore the importance of friendship apart from their children. Yes, they may have acquaintances, people they know, people with whom they occasionally converse, people of whom they may occasionally ask a favor. But they have no true friends, no close friends, no one outside of their familial sphere in whom they can confide.
Unless you’re a complete childrearing failure, your children will one day leave home. When they do, if you were a parent who was so consumed with your children that you failed to develop outside friendships, you may find life quite lonely, quite friendless.
I am a parent of two wonderful children. I love them dearly. I want nothing but the best for them. I want them to faithfully serve God. I want them to faithfully serve their fellow human beings. I want them to succeed at their chosen professions. I want them to become productive members of society. I want them to happily marry and raise healthy families of their own. But here’s the thing – to ultimately achieve their best, they must leave their mother and I behind. I know this, their mother knows this, and most importantly they both know this.
Honestly, I am not looking forward to the day that my children do finally leave our home. I will surely miss them. But, their mother and I have laid the groundwork for this eventuality.
We’ve invested heavily in our marital relationship. While we value and cherish our relationships with our children, our relationship with each other is utmost. We have also developed close friendships with others. Our lives will be just as rich, just as fulfilled, just as happy (maybe even more so) when our children are no longer living with us.
I do hope that one day my children will leave our home. In fact, I hope they do so gleefully and without a shred of guilt or remorse, just as most healthy, responsible adults have done for generations.
If they don’t, then my wife and I have failed them as parents.