Guest writer Peter Pellicaan answers another parenting question, this time on whether parents should come before spouses.
Question: Shouldn’t my children come before everything else?
Answer: It’s not uncommon to hear parents speak of their deep and passionate love for their children.
I have often heard parents make comments like “I’d die for my kids” or “I’d do anything for my kids” or “my kids mean the world to me”.
This kind of selfless and passionate love is beautiful. But how often have you heard someone say – “I’d die for my wife, or my wife means the world to me?”
As Catholics we celebrate the lives of many martyrs, but how often have you heard someone say “I’d die for Christ” or “Christ means the world to me?”
One of the biggest confusions in the 21st century concept of the family is with respect to the ordering of our loves. For many, whether consciously or not, children come first, then spouse, then faith.
For some people work trumps both children and spouse.
But what is the right order? Should children really come first?
Jesus provides us with some direction on this.
In the Sermon on the Mount Christ says, “strive first for the kingdom of God”.
In a later conversation Jesus was asked, what is the most important commandment and he replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
This might sound confronting.
Does Christ really want us to put himself and his kingdom before our families?
Yes, he does, but in doing so – in becoming more like Christ – we become better spouses and better parents.
When Christ is our source of strength, joy and peace, we no longer need to seek our happiness from others and are therefore able to love more selflessly and feely.
When it comes to ordering love between your spouse and your children, again the answer might be surprising – but it makes good sense.
Your spouse should come before your children.
Why? Because a strong marriage will enable you to better love and support your children.
If this sounds controversial or confronting, think of it like this – it’s not a case of loving your children less, it’s a case of loving your spouse more.
In the same way that loving Jesus first will make you a better spouse and parent, loving your spouse above your children will make you a better parent.
Healthy marriages create healthy families.
For those of us who are single parents, reading this might be painful, but there is hope.
Even when the situation is less than perfect and perhaps nothing like we’d ever hoped for or dreamed of, Christ is our strength.
Christ’s love can reach deep, heal wounds and restore lives.
Love him with all your heart, soul and mind and watch as he gives you the strength you need to find life in the challenges.
Thomas Merton once said “you don’t have peace with others because you don’t have peace with yourself; you don’t have peace with yourself because you don’t have peace with God”.
Love Christ first, then your spouse, then your children and watch how everyone is blessed as a result.
If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it.