Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Combatting Babywise Myths #2: You have to abandon your child's needs

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Babywise II brings up the idea of couch time with your spouse, and every book following stresses the importance of it. Some critics of Babywise criticize the idea of putting your spouse first. This is not one of the hotter anti-Babywise topics, but one I wanted to address.

Even before I ever knew Babywise existed, I have felt husband and wife needed to put their relationship first. As a child growing up, I knew my parents put each other first. Their loyalties lied with each other, not my sister or me. They were a unified front. If (um...when) I was mouthy to my Mom, my Dad would talk to me about why that was not okay when he got home from work. Did that make me mad? You bet! I was sure I was justified in mouthing off and didn't appreciate him telling me otherwise. Am I glad he did? Again, you bet.

There is a great deal of comfort a child feels knowing her parents love each other and that nothing is going to break them apart. Yes, they disagreed. Yes, I knew it. But they were friends and committed to each other.

I recently saw a thread in an online group asking the question of who came first, the husband or the children. I was shocked that at least half said the children. I honestly thought everyone thought spouse first. There were comments along the way, and I could see where some people were drawing their "children" conclusion from.

They said the children would be fed first in the case of a famine. They said children's needs before husbands (food, water, etc.). They said if husband ever abused the children, he would be out the door. Yes, yes. Of course! Those are not the issues at stake when you are deciding spouse or children first.

Here is a good reason I think you need to put your spouse first. You have this unconditional love for your children. No matter what they do, you love them. You don't have to work at it. As a newborn, you do nothing but slave over that baby with not as much as a smile in return and your love increases day by day. The love is there without question or effort.

With your spouse...you love your spouse, but you do not have that same unconditional love for him (if you do, congratulations and be so happy). It is a relationship that requires work. You both have to put in effort to let the marriage relationship grow. There is nothing wrong with that, it is the way it is. But that is why it needs to come first. It is so easy to let the child sneak in there and become your number one priority. It is what comes naturally for many moms. That is why you need to put your spouse first.

If you put your spouse first, you aren't going to neglect your children. Your natural love for them is too strong for that to happen. If your put your children first, you are most likely going to neglect your spousal relationship. It will not be nurtured. It will not grow. It will become strained. Your children will move out and you will find that you don't really know each other. Putting your spouse first in no way equates to child neglect. Sometimes I don't like the way my husband chooses to handle a situation, but I never bring that up in front of the children. I give him respect and allow him to remain the father to the children. If he were beating them, of course I would step in and stop him. But him threatening a time out too often is not the end of the world and something that I need to address in front of Brayden.

Couch Time
Couch time is when husband and wife sit on the couch for about 15 minutes when Dad gets home and they talk to each other. Growingkids.org has more information on this topic:
http://www.growingkids.org/2007/11/15/couch-time/

We are not so great about real couch time. My husband gets home from work rather early. Brayden (2.5) is usually asleep, and Kaitlyn (9 months) is in solo playtime.

The other day, Brayden had woken early and was awake when my husband got home. We didn't consciously do it, but we sat on the couch and talked. We always are able to do that because the kids aren't around. So we did what we always do. Brayden started to try and interrupt us. We looked at him and asked him to wait and be patient because Mommy and Daddy needed to talk for a few minutes. No problem. He waited. When we were done, we helped him with what he needed. Naturally, had he been bleeding or otherwise in some dire situation, we would have helped him. He just wanted to go outside and scoop snow. That can wait. Once we were done, he was able to ask to go scoop snow and we were able to tell him things that needed to be done before that happened. He is still a happy, healthy boy today.

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