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January 18, 2005

Kids vs. Marriage

"A deeper problem I have with the advocacy of date nights is the underlying message behind them. Invariably the message that is clearly stated . . . or subtly alluded to is that children are a hindrance to the marriage, and parents must be regularly separated from the children to maintain a healthy marriage. . . . I think setting them up as adversaries to the marriage is unhealthy. The Bible states that children are a blessing. But far too often I think that in Christian society we donít really see them that way. We see them as "in the way" far to often. . . "


While I personally enjoy date nights with Hubby, I think Jenn is right on in her essay Children vs. the Marriage?

I have heard teachers and writers too often encourage antagonistic relationships within families--parents vs. children, husband vs. wife. (Gary Ezzo springs to mind.) While I don't believe these teachers or parents are desirous of that outcome, their ideas set people up for interacting in controlling, conflict-ridden ways within families.

Wouldn't it be great if the Church encouraged adults to embrace attitudes ones of "We're all on the same team! We're in the same Body of Christ!" within their families?

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Comments

That's probably something I need to think about- I know I've been very resentful of the way Paul spends his time since Junior arrived on the scene. Although baby Jay is a blessing and a joy, he's also added a lot of stress to our lives- even figuring in 2 fewer commutes a week for me!

Posted by: Lenise at January 18, 2005 09:25 PM

I REALLY like that article, and i agree with you guys wholeheartedly. The culture here I believe is closer to the times of the Bible, with families helping to raise the kids and a "we're in this together" attitude. We have only been on two dates since we have been in Central America, and we long for some "alone time" sometimes, but the fact is that no one goes out here. No one leaves their kids here. The kids go to church meetings, they go to bible study, they go shopping with you, etc. Kids aren't seen as a hindrance, they are really looked at as a blessing. It's nice and refreshing.

Posted by: Jan at January 18, 2005 10:31 PM

Great post, and thanks for the link to Jenn's site. As I said on her blog, I'd never even THOUGHT of this! I mean, I never liked it when MY parents went on date nights, but I just figured our kids would like it, or at least not mind it.

Maybe a compromise might exist in a situation where our kid(s) really enjoying spending time at a particular place, or with a particular friend, and in that case it would be less like "we're dumping you off" and more like "okay, have fun, we'll be back later!"

Posted by: Joe at January 19, 2005 12:06 AM

We rarely go on dates without the girls. People tell us all the time that we should or that they feel sorry for us that we don't. We just kind of shrug our shoulders at that thinking. We like being with our kids.

The other negative associated with "date night" is in the couples we've seen who do this regularly, the husband in those couples doesn't seem that excited about it, but rather, it's just another event to check off on his calendar. I don't want to be on my husband's "to do" list. I don't want him to roll his eyes at this one night of expected quality time. This is what I see in these other couples...

Posted by: Megan at January 19, 2005 04:36 AM

Thank you for the link Tulipgirl! ;-)

Yes Joe, I think you have it! Find something the kids want to do while the parents go on dates. My kids like it when my DH and I go on dates. They love their babysitter (and when my in-law's health was such that they could keep the kids they loved going to visit Nana & Poppop). But I think in our family part of it is that dates are so infrequent, having a babysitter is a special treat. ;-)

Posted by: Jenn at January 19, 2005 05:19 AM

i liked jenn's article too. i certainly don't see a date nite as a requirement but feel very uncomfortable with the recent emphasis of many in the opposite direction--that the children need to be on hand most of the time. it concerns me when pressure is put on people to be with their kids ALL the time including homeschooling them, doing all the housework, teaching catechism, etc. these are great but i have often seen 90% or more of the burden fall on the wife and that can't be done! i know what the ideal is--that both parents are totally involved. i haven't often seen it in action.
when i hear that a christian family has to look like a certain interpretation, i cringe. my rigid legalistic background left far too many scars for this attitude not to provoke that response. pardon my scar tissue. until a year ago, i lived in TX where 2 probably christian women killed multiple children. they were affected by at least depression, but my concern is, how does a husband clue into the fact that his wife is getting to that point if they aren't having some quality conversational time together. when a person is getting depressed, they shut down! we have to know to whom we are married TODAY and be aware. many families are able to work together & balance the demands of all their children including homeschooled ones and preschoolers as well as babies. other families can't do it all. some years there are health demands or new babies or whatever and i fear that wisdom and common sense do not prevail but guilt does. everyone suffers when that is the case.
i hope this isn't a downer, i don't want it to be. i'm almost 60 and am a more realistic idealist than i once was. i've learned a lot more about grace too:)...fortunately!

Posted by: martha at January 20, 2005 05:13 AM

when i hear that a christian family has to look like a certain interpretation, i cringe. my rigid legalistic background left far too many scars for this attitude not to provoke that response. . . . i fear that wisdom and common sense do not prevail but guilt does. everyone suffers when that is the case. i hope this isn't a downer, i don't want it to be. i'm almost 60 and am a more realistic idealist than i once was. i've learned a lot more about grace too:)...fortunately!

Amen!

And thanks, Martha, for bringing that up. It's so easy when we're talking about problems in one area, to idealize the opposite and not address things in a realistic manner.

I personally have fallen prey to the very thing you are warning about--pursuing an ideal that becomes such a burden of legalism. It's still something I struggle with a lot.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 20, 2005 01:31 PM

Yes, yes, and yes again! If I hear one more caring christian friend tell me that in order for my marriage to be healthy that I need to dump the kids and go on more dates with my wife, I'm going to scream! My wife and I spent 5 years getting to know each ohter and praying for the family that God would one day bless us with. We've now had 8 wonderful years living in that family and I feel more blessed each day that goes by. I also know that I only have about 13 years until both kids are likely to be moved out. The last thing I want to do after working all day (or all week) is dump the kids and spend time alone with the wife. That's not a slam on the wife at all. We've just changed how we spend our time together. When we go out, we take our kids. When we plan trips, we take our kids. When we shop, we take our kids. I love their presence. I love that they get to see their mom or dad screw up and have to explain why people do stupid things. I love that I'm an influence into how they view the world, church, God, and relationships. I'm glad that my kids are comfortable coming and telling me that they don't think something was appropriate (in print, on tv, or in conversation) - because then we get to talk about the why's, what's and how's that inappropriate action effects us and those around us.

I would like to suggest an alternative to "date nights" - how about "night in's". My kids go to bed and leave my wife and I with about 3 good hours of time together, if we choose to use it. If we put that 3 hours to work for us each night, monday - friday, we spend 15 hours of quality time together each week. But wait, that's not realistic, so how about we spend 2 nights doing what we want separately and 2 nights together. That's 9 hours of quality time. It didn't cost a dime, and we got more quality time than any of our "hire a sitter-date nights". Now that you've saved money, gather the kids up on Saturday night and go out to eat together as a family.

Sorry 'bout the soapbox, but this one kinda hit home.......

Posted by: mark at January 20, 2005 07:46 PM

I read the comment above and thought WOW! That sounds just like my marriage and I totally agree with that brilliant man. Then I realized my husband wrote the post. LOL!

Yes yes to all he said. As an aside, I feel so sorry for the kids who feel "kicked to the curb" when they are shoved aside for Mommy and Daddy to do whatever. What a horribly sad thing, to feel excluded within your own family.

Posted by: spiritual ingenue at January 20, 2005 09:39 PM

Good post. My wife and I can't afford to go on dates and if we do get to go out it is usually with both of the boys. We love having them with us. Certainly we enjoy some time to ourselves every once in a while, but our children are not a hindrance to our marriage. In fact I think that having children very early on in our marriage has brought us even closer. We've had a little quandry lately because in order for us to continue in the ministries were involved with we have to find a babysitter for the kids. I've always found it odd that I get a babysitter for my children so I can go hang out with someone else's. I'm not trying to sound so focused on my own family that I don't care about anyone else's...just noting something I find ironic.

Posted by: Ryan at January 21, 2005 03:48 PM

It seems like maybe a good way to judge whether more parent dates (with babysitters) are healthy or unhealthy would have to do with whether the children seem to be getting their "time with parents" needs met. I don't always think that "more is more" when it comes to family time and children. I think that time apart from the family, spent with with a good babysitter, can invoke a healthy, happy, positive integration of one's own family values with an outsider.

When I was a child, I loved my family, but I also wanted to be exposed to different kinds of people. Good babysitters can help fulfill this need. I think that's a quality to be encouraged in children (and is to my parent's credit that they did encourage it in us.) Our family spent lots and lots of time with each other, but it just wasn't assumed that less babysitter time automatically = better parenting.

I think that for parents to let their children know that there is a world outside of their own pod is one of the healthiest things to teach a child.

You know, it takes a village...

Posted by: Lizzie at April 25, 2005 08:26 AM

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