Soccer Monday, swimming Tuesday, dance Wednesday, swimming Thursday, no sports on Fridays only because your calendar is full of birthday parties to attend. Your weekends are filled with a combination of softball tournaments and errands to run as well as finishing a school project or two and trying to catch up on house work. Mom is so busy driving the kids around, helping with homework, making lunches, tending to the house, taking care of the baby and working that everyone in the family is happy, except for dad. In fact, dad is often the last on the long laundry list of to-do items, so far down at the bottom that he sometimes feels like he is competing with his children for his wife’s attention.
This scenario is one that is likely familiar for nearly every family. When a baby is born, a woman becomes a mother first. Suddenly, many of the little things that she used to do for her partner become short sighted in lieu of the needs of the baby. First, her body is taken over with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Then, by a baby or toddler constantly clinging to her needing her every last bit of attention and energy. As the children grow, the often co-dependant relationship between a mother and child leaves little room for anyone else. This relationship between mother and child is one that is very difficult to navigate and that changes the entire embodiment of a woman in one single day. And many women, don’t necessarily see that they are doing anything wrong or that they are forsaking or ignoring the needs of their spouse. They are simply ultra focused on the children.
Even more difficult for women is to find a place of balance where they can be both a loving mother and wife at the same time. Most moms spend so much time wearing the metaphorical mom hat, that at the end of the day – it is difficult or downright impossible to take it off so they can be a wife. This isn’t an intentional jab at the relationship, just one that takes some time to figure out.
The most important thing for a husband to do if he feels he has to compete for his wife’s attention is to point it out to her before things go too far. Many couples sit across from each other swaddled at a table by lawyers discussing divorce proceedings before they ever truly communicate what went wrong in the relationship. And when it comes to marriage, things don’t ‘go wrong,’ in just one week or month. Truth is that the problems start early on and only get ignored because of a lack of communication until years later they are nearly unfixable.
Many men feel childish trying to tell their wife that they feel they are being ignored. So instead, they simply cage up the feelings and let them fester for several years. Plus, many moms become extremely defensive about their interactions with the children and forget that before they had kids – they were a couple first. These same feelings aren’t benign to women either. There are plenty of women in this world who feel jealous of the attention that their husband gives to their children.
The family dynamic is one that is constantly changing. No family ever remains the same form one year to the next. As a couple, it is important to realize that your coupled happiness is a major factor in your children’s happiness. Many studies have proved that a happily married couple provides the perfect environment for happy children. In order for a couple to be happy, they have to engage in a private married life and make it a priority to take time out for one another. When communication, intimacy, and togetherness cease in a marriage, it is very difficult to get it back. If you feel the family dynamic changing, it is important to make adjustments in your routine to account for your partner. This is true for husbands and wives. It is equally important to voice your opinion so that you are heard and to avoid feeling prideful when it comes to telling your partner what you really want and need out of the relationship.
Feelings of jealousy are normal. Feelings of being left out, or of not getting enough attention are not something that a person ‘grows out of’ simply because they are married. All relationships take work. The bonds between parents and child are definitely strong – unmatched by even the deepest love affair. However, remember that it was this love affair that enabled you to become a family.
As a wife, as a mother – if you do not have the same amount of time or energy that you used to have prior to the children to take care of your husband in the ways that are important to him – try to find alternate ways to keep the connection between you alive. And remember, that he is there to help you. He is the father of your children, which means that you don’t have to carry the burden of childrearing on your own shoulders completely. Ask your husband to help you and allow him to be an equal participant as much as possible. This will help lessen your load, draw the two of you together as a couple, and make more time available for the both of you to simply be together.
The bottom line is that within a family, competition for love and attention should not exist. When couples communicate with one another, and make a firm decision to keep one another at the top of the to-do list, the love between man and wife can become even deeper with children.