Maintain your roles in marriage

In my next few posts, I will discuss in greater detail the problems I first described in my post on child-centered parenting. Here I will describe the first problem with child-centered parenting: your roles as husband and wife change to mom and dad. In my previous post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.”

Perfect in your child’s eyes
As parents, we are perfect in our child’s eyes. We maintain this perfection for many years. This parental perfection is so important to a child that you can probably remember the exact day you realized your parents weren’t perfect. Believing you are perfect in your child’s eyes makes your roles as mother and father more appealing than your roles as husband and wife. When you are accountable only to your child, you are perfect. When you are accountable to your spouse and yourself, you cannot deny your own imperfections.

Children make us feel needed
Unlike any other role in our lives, our roles as mom and dad allow us to feel needed. Our children give us purpose. Even at the height of our careers, we might not have felt as needed as we feel with our children. Your child depends on you for his health and safety. And when you allow it, as many attachment-parenting types do, your child depends on you for his own comfort. When you don’t teach your child to be independent, you feel more needed than ever. In fact, some moms encourage their children to need them even when they show signs of independence. Many moms thrive on this need to be needed which makes it easier to adopt the role of mom in favor of that of wife.

Cultural perceptions of motherhood and fatherhood
These days, it’s often more acceptable to prioritize our parenting roles over our husband and wife roles. Our culture says that we can do anything as long as it’s what we deem best for the child. Our culture says that our spouses are fully formed adults who can take care of themselves. Our children need us most, so we will take on that motherhood or fatherhood role with gusto, no matter the effects on our other relationships.

Allowing the child to come between you
Put yourself in the shoes of attachment parent types who spend all day literally attached to their children. When dad comes home and wants a hug and a kiss, he is rejected since mom has nothing left to give. She has given all of her attention and energy to the child and wants nothing more than to be left alone once the child is asleep. Also consider the “family bed”. When dad has a busy day of work ahead and cannot sleep with a child’s foot in his ribs, he often finds a new place to sleep. The “family bed” then becomes the “mom and child bed”. These are just two examples of many that separate husband and wife in the name of parenting.

The beginning of the end
If you consider that it’s more pleasing to be mom and dad rather than husband and wife—and that our culture promotes this ideal—then you must consider that this can be the beginning of the end for the marriage. If you devote all of your attention and energy to your children, you have little left for your spouse.

All relationships, especially marriages, must be maintained. Like a garden, they must be tended and cared for or else they will die. By prioritizing mom and dad roles over husband and wife roles, child-centered parenting can be the beginning of the end for the marriage.

The child rules
If you consider that the child replaces the husband as the mother’s primary focus, you realize how the child then becomes the head of the household. As redundant as this sounds, by putting the child at the center of the family, you continue to put the child at the center of the family. Child-centered parenting builds upon itself.

All of the problems of child-centered parenting, which I will continue to discuss in future posts, are interconnected. These problems not only harm the child but they allow child-centered parenting to build upon itself to the detriment of the marriage. It becomes a vicious cycle—with very high stakes.

If you do nothing else in your parenting, make your marriage a priority. Allow your child to be a welcome member of the family rather than putting him at the center of it.



Filed under parenting philosophy

4 responses to “Maintain your roles in marriage

  1. John

    I totally agree with this. We’ve never done a family bed, but I know married couples who ended up moving into separate beds because of it (like you said).

    My wife and I try not to be “defined” as parents. It’s easier to maintain a pre-child lifestyle with only one child. I think that the more children people have, the harder it must be to avoid being just “Mom” and “Dad.”

  2. Well I totally disagree with this, of course we all have our opinions. I am an attachment parenting mother (or natural parenting) as I prefer to call and I have a wonderful marriage and so do all of my friends who parent this way, it takes a mature and selfless person to parent this way and these qualities also make a person a wonderful marriage partner. And the way I see it just because a child is included does not mean that is child-centered parenting.
    Natural parenting is just giving the child the level of care he is biologically made to expect, instead of substituting yourself with some man made “object” why don’t parents give their children what God made: breasts and arms, and a warm comforting body, instead of all man made things: bottles, strollers, dummies, teddies, and all the hundreds of objects there are out their to replace the parents attention!
    As a christian parent I don’t think we should be child-centered or parent-centered, but Christ -centered and this includes portraying Christ selfless nature to our children.

  3. Maureen


    Yes, every parent must do what is right for her own family, so of course you are entitled to your opinion. In your comment, you focus on selflessness, which I agree is a wonderful trait for any parent to have. But my big objection to parenting this way is that by being selfless you are teaching your child to be selfish. You are teaching him that you will cater to his needs in every way. Selflessness is not something children learn by parent modeling, in my experience. When you give, the child takes.

    And at what age does this dynamic change? When do you stop nursing? When do you move the child out of the family bed? When do you start expecting him to take care of himself? You cannot give, give, give and then just wait for the child to just suddenly start giving. You must teach the child how to take care of himself and how to give to others. You must teach him what it means to consider what other people think and how we might change our actions to please other people. THIS is what relationships are built on.

    Children learn when we teach. Age has nothing to do with it. Teaching them gradually throughout the child’s formative years is kinder and gentler than just waiting for a certain age or waiting until you are frustrated enough to do something about it. I have seen some attachment parents who suddenly decide that their child is old enough for XYZ and start expecting it of the child without having taught them how to do XYZ or even prepare them for it. I have also seen parents start allowing certain freedoms without expecting a reciprocal level of responsibility. In my experience, we are doing our children a disservice if we don’t prepare them for our world. Better to do that than to mold the world to suit the child’s interests. At some point, the world is not going to appease to the child’s needs and desires. Then what?

  4. Sorry are you saying that if I give my child my breast and my arms instead of substitutes I am teaching my child to be selfish?
    If you meet the child’s need then they can move on. I honestly can’t understand our westernized societies pre-occupation with independence .
    Since the beginning of time parents have done “natural parenting” which is now called “attachment parenting” it is not NEW.
    When you do not force a child into independence, when they do get there they are more secure in it.
    My favorite saying is this:
    ” It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.”
    I have seen this with my own daughter who is almost 3, she has gone from being totally dependent on me, being parented to sleep and out of her own decided to sleep in her own bed.
    She is a very loving and giving child, she even recieved a certificate at play-centre for being the most giving child. I am not trying to brag but to prove that it certainly has not made my child selfish.
    Our Heavenly father supplies our EVERY need, not wants but need, and I believe that comfort is a need not a want, which is why I choose to parent the way I do, if I do not comfort my child they will turn to someone or something else, and that is not a road I wish to travel down.
    You say we do our child a disservice if we do not prepare them for our world, well “our” world is not what I want to prepare my child for. Our world is not Christian it is a very sick world and I will do my best to shelter her from it, as you say at some point the world will not appease there needs,
    Why on earth would I want the world to give my child her needs and desires? that is my job and if I do it properly she will not need to turn to the world to meet her needs.
    I honestly cannot see how a child can turn out better when parents choose to substitute themselves with “things” …. this in my opinion is why we have a world full of people who love to buy, buy, buy and it never satisfies the craving they have , that craving should have been satisfied by their mother.

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