By Marsha Gomes-Mckie
A couple of months ago, the priest, at the beginning of his sermon asked all couples to sit next to each other. There was little movement in the church as those involved in ministries found their spouses. Then he said, “Take the children from between you and sit next to each other.”
There was a pause and then more movement. My husband and I hadn’t considered that we weren’t sitting next to each other, even though our child sat between us. That was how the family sat, which is also indicative of our relationship: we protect and enclose. It’s a tag team: she’s under the umbrella and we each support a side.
There is so much of parenting in marriage that at times everything just blurs together. For many couples, marriage and parenting go side by side. It’s unthinkable to take the children out of the circle and see marriage as a unit and parenting as another unit.
This simple sermon shook me. It also brought to mind an unforgettable debate I heard via talk radio as I travelled to work years ago. The question was, “If you had to choose between your husband/wife and your child, which one would you choose?”
The responses overwhelmingly favoured the child. It was a hot topic, the maxi was buzzing and at the time I wasn’t married and I too felt it abnormal not to choose your child. Those who called and tried to put marriage first were shot down quickly.
Not the same thing
Fast forward to 2020 and I am convinced that the best gift I can give to my child is to focus and cherish the relationship with her father, and vice versa the best gift he can give to her, is to love her mother. Nevertheless, knowing that as an ideal and putting it into practice every day is no small task.
I am in the process of teaching myself that I don’t just support the umbrella; my husband and I are the umbrella. When we take the time to focus on us, we provide the foundation our children need to grow and make decisions of their own.
The unspoken truth with marriage and parenting is that both takes work and time, and sometimes couples decide that there is only enough room to focus on one.
Parenting is listed as number four in the most common reasons for divorce in an article by Shellie Warren on Marriage.com. Couples list constant arguing, from bickering about chores to arguing about kids. Your household can become toxic quickly.
As children grow, their needs keep growing and you keep working towards those needs for them. Marriage goals are quickly pushed aside, that dinner for two, that retreat. Understandably so, your focus is now on supporting and guiding another human being, which is the work of God.
Yet, as you focus on parenting you must remember that parenting and marriage are not the same thing. You can be winning in one area and failing miserably in the other.
My hope in 2020 is for balance, discernment and grace in marriages. Take time to develop your relationship, and this doesn’t even mean plenty alone time. It means making decisions together and planning together so that the tag-team does not disappear, it just realigns to focus on keeping the marriage foundation strong.
For Catholics, the Sacrament of Marriage, or Holy Matrimony is considered a public statement about God: the loving union of husband and wife speaks of family values and also God’s values.
The Fourth Commandment
However, there is no corresponding sacrament when you become a parent. Even though we hold the birth of our children dearly, they do not come with the type of expectation that marriage in the Lord does. Parenting is apart of the Sacrament of Marriage but you don’t have to be a parent to honour the Sacrament.
So, I beseech couples to think about your marriage as highly as you think about being a parent and yes, think highly about being a parent. The same way you move Heaven and Earth at times for your children, you should also for a spouse.
Your relationship with your spouse matters to God and your children. There are instances of abuse and life and death neglect, no-one is expecting you to stay and endure to your detriment. There are avenues for you to get help. Please use them. For those who have hope, give your marriage your best.
As we balance marriage and parenting, we also need to remember that we are also children and we must never make it our duty to get between our parents. So many adults are guilty of this.
When the priest was finished talking to the parents, he reminded the children of the commandment that speaks to children – “Honour thy mother and father and thy days will be long.” He admonished them not to get between their parents.
Some people are missing out on blessings because of the way they treat their parents. In addition, some people will honour their mother alone and never make peace with their father or the other way around.
So does that mean you get half of your blessings? As grown children we also need to make peace with our parents and move on. They did what they could, you are alive and you take it from there.
I wish for you to parent differently in marriages, remembering that Marriage is the Sacrament while parenting is a product of it. May your families be blessed and your journey in the Lord be filled with mercy and grace for you, your spouse and children.
Marsha Gomes-Mckie is a wife, mother, artist, author, artisan and founder of Caribbean Books Foundation