From time to time there’s a particular meme that comes across my newsfeed. It reads something like, “I would never put no one above my kids.” Usually the one who has posted it is a single parent who is, also, of single status. Coming from single motherhood a few short years ago, I understand the concept, but it’s not conceivable if you ever intend to have a successful marriage.
Back when I was a child, my mother was also a single parent. When she started dating my step-dad, I wasn’t very pleasant. I was a menace to both her and him. The reason being because it had only been me and my mom for so many years. He came in and I felt like I was pushed right out of the picture. I was no longer #1, I became #2. That was hard for me to grasp as to why, being a kid, but now being in a blended family of my own, I get it.
When my husband and I started dating three years ago, there was definitely a struggle for me on “adjusting the order of things.” The younger two were pretty flexible, but it was harder for my oldest daughter. Being the first child (and only for six years) she was very territorial (and still is actually). She wanted to protect what was hers. In a way, she had been like my partner. She helped with taking care of her sisters and things around the house. Besides my mom, she was the only other one there for me. So when someone else stepped in, she felt she wasn’t needed anymore; she felt rejected.
I, of course, didn’t want her to feel that way. I wanted her to see that she no longer had to do those things. She was free to be a kid. Not that she wasn’t before, but her habits made her feel more like a parent (she struggles with this at her dad’s, too). She was being relieved of responsibilities and to her, it felt as if I was pushing her away. But what I was doing was setting boundaries. I had to draw lines on her role in order to make a place for my soon-to-be husband.
At the risk of sounding like an awful parent and person, it had to be done for the sake of my marriage. My husband needed to know that he was the one I was married to, not my daughter. He shouldn’t be competing for my affection, time or on what decisions to make. Marriage is about two people coming together, working together and raising a family together. Not three (unless you’re a polygamist).
Looking back, I should have worked more on boundaries with my children way before I even met my husband. Being a single mother is so many things not easy. You’re winging it day-by-day and one of the few easy things to do is to depend on your kids more than you probably should. Definitely a mistake on my part, but being raised by a single mother myself, I didn’t know any better.
Now that I do, my advice to all the single parents out there, is this. Yes, it’s true, you shouldn’t put just any person above your child. However, that person you want to marry and spend the rest of your life isn’t just anybody. They want to commit to you and they deserve to have you equally committed to them. It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent because you put them first. It means the opposite, because you are shaping what a family is meant to be by giving them a stable and loving environment.
You will always be a parent to your children. But, you may not always be a spouse, if you don’t put your partner first.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree?