I was struck by the counter-cultural wisdom woven into Matt and Emily's responses/story above. Our culture is always kids first. Most of time and energy goes towards kids and their activities. The desire to love, care for and support our kids is amazing, yet often our marriages and self-care/self-awareness goes by the wayside. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, research has actually found what is “best for our kids” is healthy marriages and healthy individual parents, yet these are typically the first things to be neglected.
I remember a professor (who was also a therapist) in my master’s program for Marriage and Family therapy sharing a story from his life. He and his wife were in the thick of child-raising, his boys where 8 and 11. Somewhere along the way he and his wife had become more like “roommates” than a couple. Their boys were continually acting out at home and school. Instead of addressing the boys “behavior issues” they decided to address their “marriage issues.” They began to date each other again. They began going on dates every Friday night in their own living room. They would send the boys upstairs to bed early. They would cook together, eat dinner by the fire and begin to get to know each other again. As they rekindled their relationship (without ever leaving the house! ) the boys behavior issues completely resolved.
Although counter-intuitive, their situation is not unique; often kiddos behavior issues resolve when couples take time and energy to strengthen their marriage. Often (though not always!) our kids are acting out our stress.
In the same way, often marriage get healthier and more life-giving when individuals take time to attend to themselves. Although this is so important, most of us can't remember the last time we had time alone for refection.
I wonder what would happen if our kiddos behavior issues made us think about investing more time/energy in our marriage. Or when we thought about our marriage, we asked the last time we had taken time for individual reflection and connection to God.
Matt and Emily talked about this counter-cultural overflow. For them it began with Matt and Emily individually pursing God. They explored their personal identities and stayed in regular connection with themselves and God. This in turn has overflowed into their marriage, that has then flowed into their families.
As I am writing and reflecting, I’m feeling challenged and encouraged during this strange season to find time/space to remember to connect with myself and God, and with my husband, and allow the fruit of that to flow into my kids.