When the New York Times best-selling author Ayelet Waldman wrote an essay about the value of loving one’s partner more than one’s children, it generated an outpouring of hate mail. But could she have a point? Would the children lose out? Or could putting your marriage first mean that your children reap the rewards of happy parents and learn valuable lessons about forging healthy relationships?
According to the late great US baseball coach, teacher and man of wisdom John Wooden, ‘The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother’. Complete that statement with ‘And the most important thing a mother can do for her children is to love their father’, and you’ll see that Wooden’s statement echoes that of Waldman. Loving your spouse/partner and valuing them highly contribute vastly to your children’s emotional wellbeing.
According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘love’ means ‘an intense emotion of affection, warmth, fondness and regards towards a person or thing’. There are, of course, different types of love, such as Eros, or passionate love; Philia, the love for your family and friends; Thelema, the desire for success and Agape, the love one holds for one’s spouse and children. And it’s Agape that is our chosen subject. Agape is the love that can help your children to grow and develop secure in the knowledge that they are surrounded by a network of support and safety. Agape is the greatest gift parents can give to their children, helping to build self-esteem that will give them the confidence to step into the world bravely. Tell your children often how much you love them and value them. Show affection with hugs and kisses and play. As parents, making time to have some fun with your kids is vital. They flourish in the attention.
But the effects of good parenting are diluted if the parents (if there are two in the picture) can’t keep their heads together in front of the kids. Children are frightened by parents arguing in their company, one should try to keep disagreements private. Melissa Chapman, author of an article in the US’s Huffington Post, agrees with Waldman in the value of placing her husband ahead of her children. ‘Raising kids is hard work,’ she says. ‘It’s lonely, it’s frustrating and if I didn’t have a husband to share it all with I’m not sure I’d have gotten this far. We’re like a tag team – when one needs a break the other takes over. We’ve found this rhythm to our lives that feeds all the others we love and cherish, namely our kids. I also feel like loving my husband is truly like loving my kids, he’s one half of their DNA. Our love as seen through their eyes is so powerful and I know it gives them a sense of peace and calm.’ If you are separated from your children’s other parent, it’s obviously not quite as clear cut. For you, the key is to respect your ex-partner and to behave civilly to and about them for the sake of the children you brought into the world together. Act it, even if you don’t feel it. Don’t criticise your partner/ex-partner in front of your child, and show kindness, above all else. Arguing in front of them is a no-no! Children are not emotionally equipped to dealing with adult problems and it’s unfair to place them in such a scenario. Together, you have an opportunity to pave the way for your children to forge healthy relationships in later life. After all, if having kids together isn’t a common interest, then what is?
So, hugs all round then. After all, February is the month of love. Make every month the same.