Balance Your Roles: Partners vs Parents
By Kathryn Sansone
It's easy for parents today to get swept up in their children's
lives. From the minute we take them home, put on their first
diapers, and give them their first bottles, we begin trying our best
to fulfill all of our children's needs and demands. While I am a
firm believer in being a thoughtful, committed parent, I also know
that if couples don't put their relationship first (most of the
time), then no amount of devotion to their kids will keep their
That said, I also realize that it's not easy to keep a healthy
balance between thinking of ourselves as both partners and as
parents. How do we achieve the right balance that makes us feel that
we are doing a good job as parents without losing sight of the
reason you became a family in the first place?
Carve Out Time
Despite so many kids, so many demands, and so much enjoyment we get
from our kids, Jim and I always carve out time for just the two of
us. It's not always easy, but we don't waste time trying to figure
out if we deserve it.
One night last summer we did just that. It was a Friday and I had
been with the kids all week. I was exhausted and had spent all my
energy reserves. As usual the kids had a swim meet and Jim and I had
planned to meet there to watch them race. When he arrived from the
office, we took one look at each other and knew we needed to create
time for just the two of us. At the end of the swim meet, we took
the kids to McDonald's (not something we regularly do) and then
home. Once they were showered, in their pajamas, and set for bed, we
headed out the door, leaving the older kids to babysit.
We didn't deliberate over whether the kids were okay -- we knew they
were safe and sound. And we also knew it was just as important for
us to have time alone. We had a lovely -- albeit short -- dinner out
and enjoyed every minute of it.
The best gift you can give your children is a loving relationship
with your spouse. When children know -- and witness -- their parents
putting aside time for each other, kids understand that their
parents are committed to each other. They also know that their
parents love each other. In turn this love between their parents
makes kids feel safe, enabling them to grow unhindered, following
their own unique destinies.
On the other hand when children are always put first or experience
rancor between their parents, constant fighting, verbal violence, or
a lack of trust, then children question the very root of their
foundation. Such a lack of safety breeds internal chaos and
insecurity -- two obstacles to healthy self-esteem and confidence.
Show Your Love
For both your children's sake and your own, it's important to put
energy into your primary relationship. Show your love toward him in
front of your kids. Take time to be alone with your spouse. Your
kids couldn't have a better gift than to know their parents love and
respect each other and like to spend time with each other.
This also means that you have to save some attention for your man at
the end of the day. When Jim gets home at night I will have his
dinner place set with a pretty placemat, plate, and a big glass of
water with lemon and sometimes a drink. I try to greet him at the
door looking eager for him to get out of his car. I get off the
phone so he knows I am focused on him. I will also kiss him. When he
gets home, if I'm not right at the door, he seeks me out.
Taking Time to Reconnect
Even if you feel wiped out at the end of the day, you will feel
reenergized simply by reconnecting with your spouse. Granted you may
not have the energy to greet him with a beautiful smile on your face
each night, but if you do it often enough, he will know that you
care about him in that way.
Consider these ways to reconnect with your spouse:
Plan a date night, which means putting a date on the calendar,
hiring a babysitter, and making a reservation if necessary.
Send the kids to their grandparents', friends', or cousins' house so
that the two of you have a night alone at home.
Talk to your kids about how important it is that parents have alone
time. Explain that this doesn't mean they are less important, but
rather that a family's strength comes from the parents having a
Hire a babysitter to take your kids out to a movie or mall and you
and your husband can stay home alone -- what a wonderful feeling to
be alone. Have dinner uninterrupted! Your partnership is both an
oasis and a source of strength, so give it the attention it
Copyright © Kathryn Sansone. Kathy has captured national attention
for her heartwarming and hands-on approach to managing motherhood
and life. She has been interviewed for Inside Edition and magazines
such as Parents, Fit Pregnancy, and Child, and been honored as Chief
Everything Officer by America Online. Kathryn lives in St. Louis
with her husband, Jim, and their ten children, ranging in age from
eight months to eighteen years. This article is reprinted from, "
Woman First, Family Always: Real-Life Wisdom from a Mother of Ten" by
Kathryn Sansone. For more information, please visit her
Reprinted with permission.