Raising a child can bring parents to the height of joy and the depths of despair. How can such an innocent, cuddly baby have the power to change our lives and provoke such emotional extremes? Because you love. You love your children and want the best for them. Their accomplishments bring you pride. Their hurts make your heart ache. Their mistakes bring you frustration and the temptation to rescue them.
Once you’ve met the basic family needs, often your child will benefit from your presence at home even if it means cutting back on work hours or taking a less stressful job.
So what prompts a couple to be willing to undertake the daunting and risky job of becoming a parent? For some it is just what they always expected to do. Isn’t that what life is about? You grow up, get married, and have children. For others, they just love babies (and hopefully young people in general). For many, it’s a gradual awareness that pulls you to expand this wonderful love you have for each other to create new human beings. You are mystified by the miracle of a new human sharing your DNA, your home, and your future. What will this new creation look like? What traits of each of you will he or she possess?
As momentous and all consuming as parenting a child can be, it may sound counterintuitive to suggest that the child does not come first in a married couple’s life- the marriage does.
Yes, a child usually takes more time out of your life for direct care. Yes, a child’s needs are often urgent and immediate and parents must sacrifice comfort, sleep, or plans to respond to the child first. But, the bottom line is that if the marriage is not working, it has a profound impact on any children born to it. If you can stay attentive to your marriage, the children will reap the benefits in time. As Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame University, used to say, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
So what happens when children become a source of difficulty in a marriage? It could be a sick child that requires extra care borrowed from couple time and energy. It could be worries over your child’s path in life. It could be disagreements about ways to discipline your child. It could be many things and usually is. Following are some rules of thumb for the most common issues that parents face in raising children:
Balancing children’s needs vs spouse’s needs
It’s normal and necessary for parents to respond to their children’s urgent physical, emotional, and educational needs. This usually takes more hours of the day than time devoted to relating to your spouse. To keep your spouse a priority, however, family life educators recommend:
- daily affirmations (words, hugs, kisses)
- a weekly date
- an annual get-away (without the children)
Some of these require getting a baby sitter (or having family or generous friends) but think of the cost as marriage insurance.
Dealing with worries about children
Worrying and fretting about your children come with the job and can prompt needed action. Some parents, however, “over worry” and become “helicopter parents,” hovering over their children. Remember, you are responsible for the process you use in raising your children- not the outcome. When all else fails (and hopefully before) turn it over to God.
Even parents who have read all the books about childrearing, attend lectures, and love their children with all their hearts will at times differ on how to discipline their children in a specific instance. Ideally, parents will agree beforehand on standard consequences for misbehavior, but when one parent gives a discipline that the other thinks is inappropriate (too harsh or too lenient) it’s best for the second parent not to contradict the first. Mother and father should then discuss their differences privately. If the first parent agrees to change, that parent then goes back to the child and informs him or her of the change.
All reputable family life professionals agree that corporal punishment (spanking, hitting, etc.) is no longer acceptable as a way to discipline children. Society has learned better, safer, and more effective ways to discipline. Take a parenting class if you need help.
How much money does it take to raise a child?
More than you thought but less than stores would have you believe. Children can thrive without the latest fads, technology, and baby paraphernalia. Go for sturdy, safe, creative child purchases. Children need your presence more than your presents.
Balancing work and family
Although responsible parents obviously need an income, how much is enough? Once you’ve met the basic family needs, often your child will benefit from your presence at home even if it means cutting back on work hours or taking a less stressful job. If you’re missing more family dinners than you make in a week, that can be a warning sign to readjust your schedule and priorities.
For more information:
Family Matters – An online resource for married couples, parents, and leaders to support marriage and family life. Includes articles, resources, and activities on marriage, parenting, and spirituality plus over 200 archived Marriage Moments and Parenting Pointers. Couples and parents can subscribe to these free weekly e-mails or leaders can use them in newsletters, bulletins, and on websites.
Susan Vogt, Director
523 E. Southern Ave.
Covington, KY 41015
Phone: (859) 291-6197
At Home With Our Faith – A monthly newsletter and website for parents that provides ideas and resources to help pass on a living faith. Sponsored by the Claretians, publishers of “U.S. Catholic.”
Annemarie Scobey, Editor
205 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60606-5033
Phone: 1-800-328-6515 Fax: 312-236-8207
Christian Family Movement – A national network of families, working at the grassroots level of daily, ordinary family life to support each other and reach out to others.
CFM USA National Office
P.O. Box 540550, Omaha, NE 68154
Family First – Aims to establish the family as a top priority in people’s lives by promoting principles for building marriages and raising children. Includes articles and resources on marriage, parenting and family life.
609 W. De Leon Street, Tampa, FL 33606
Parenting for Peace and Justice — A network of families and leaders working to make their own families more caring and to make our world a better place. Initiators of FAVAN (Families Against Violence Advocacy Network). Provides workshops, resources, and support.
Kathy McGinnis, Directors
475 East Lockwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63119
Phone: 314-918-2630 Fax: 314-918-2643
Rainbows – Provides a bridge to emotional healing for children, adolescents and adults confronting death, divorce or other painful family transition.
Suzy Yehl Marta
2100 Golf Rd. #370, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008-4231
Phone: 800-266-3206, 847-952-1770 Fax: 847-952-1774