Who Are You "One" With?

This one is for all you married folks out there: Who does your heart know better than any other? Who does your heart break for? Who do you empathize with more than any other? Who are you most knitted to? Your husband? Or your children?

This is something that's been on my mind lately... I fear that too many Christian women are daily choosing to become ONE with their offspring rather than with the man who they married. Too many women have their emotions and their identity wrapped up in their children. Too many women have their hearts knit to their children in a way that ought to be reserved for their husband. Which is why it is often the most difficult time of their lives when they have an "empty nest". They have spent more time cultivating relationships with their children rather than the relationship they share with their husband.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that we shouldn't invest in our children, nor am I saying that we shouldn't be emotionally tied to our children, or love them deeply and value them as the gifts that they are. As a stay home mom of three (and a fourth on the way), I completely understand the complete love and affection we moms have for our children. I understand the commitment we have to raising them well, investing in them, and delighting in who God is making them to be. I understand the feeling that this is "what I was made to do", or the difficulty of remembering at every moment that they are only ours for our time.

But, biblically speaking, children are not for keeping. They are a blessing. They are likened to olive shoots around a table... they are truly gifts from God. And yet, they are likened to arrows, to be shot out into the dying and unbelieving world. Additionally, they ultimately are to leave us and cleave to a husband or wife.

They are not things that we are to ultimately KEEP. We are not raising little persons who are primarily for ministering to US, in our hurt and broken places. We are not raising little people who are to become a shoulder for us to cry on, or a friend to us. They may become that. Prayerfully and with God's grace, they may become precious friends.

But the primary reason that they have been given to us is so that we might refine and help them to be sanctified so that when they time comes for us to shoot them out, as arrows, they will be ready to live for God's glory. Children are not for US, but for HIM.

Additionally, our marriages are not for US, but for HIM. However, there is one thing that differs about this relationship from ALL others in our lives: this one relationship is to shine and sparkle in such a way that others are more aware of the relationship that Christ longs to have with His Church, because of the way we are one in our marriage. Put another way, the Oneness of each marriage is designed to serve as a picture of the Oneness Christ will one day share with His Church.

Big responsibility on our part, really. As imperfect humans, there is no way we can successfully live out the perfection of the relationship the Church will one day have with Christ in eternity. But that is the picture our marriages are designed to give.

We are united with our husband; we are to cleave to our husband. We are not to be "united" with, nor are we to cleave to our children.

And yet instead what we have, all too often, I'm afraid, are Christian wives who give more of themselves to their children than to their husband. More of their heart and emotional investment to their offspring than to their beloved. More of their thoughts and attention go into their relationship with their children than any other relationship-- more than their husband, and more than God.

So, tell me- what do you think about this? Is this really an issue in the lives of Christian women? Do you see it in your friends? The women you know? Even possibly in your own life? Thoughts or comments are welcome!

(Incidentally, I've gotten several e-mails lately asking me how to comment- just click on the words that say "7 comments" or "0 comments" or "33 comments", and a pop-up box should appear. If it doesn't, you can click on the headline of the article you wish to post on, and scroll down and there should be an option for "Post a comment". Click on it, and you should be able to leave your thoughts!)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder that my children are HIS! I do see the "Oneness" misplaced in children rather than where it should be. So far I feel I've held it in the right place, but as the kids grow older, I could definitely see where this could go awry. I enjoyed reading your blog today.

Tracy said...

I most certainly see this in many, if not most of the women I know. It breaks my heart to see men (husbands) placed on the back burner.

My husband and I spend a great deal of time with our children, BUT we have always held them to an early bedtime so that we can have our time alone together. Even now that several of them are teens they sometimes have to go to bed around 8:30 or 9. My husband leaves the house around 5 am, and I simply tell the kids, "You need to go to bed because we need to be alone." I know that they don't truly understand, even though they don't complain. BUT, someday, Lord willing, they will understand, and they'll be thankful that we modeled this in our marriage.

*MichiganMomma* said...

This has been on my mind a great deal recently as well. I have four little ones, five and under, so A LOT of my day seems to revolve around them. When my dh gets home, he is a great help, but it can still be a lot of "ok, you change that diaper, I'll stir the pasta, then you can clean up the dinner dishes and I'll run a bath for the kids, then....". etc....

I *know* that I have allowed myself to be TOO focused on the children, without keeping my relationship with my dh in FIRST place. Not right now, but it *has* happened. I feel like I am walking a line, with them all being so small, all needing me so much ~ yet knowing I need to keep dh first. It's not easy and needs constant evaluation (at least for me it does).

And I think that is the best thing to do. Talk about this topic, keep it in the forefront of our minds, remind women to keep an eye on their relationship with their dh's. Just to *be aware* is half the battle. Many women aren't even THINKING of this issue. They are too overwhelmed with just the day to day life of many littles, or teenagers or whatever.

So continue to talk about it, blog about it, share your concerns with friends, sisters, Bible study groups, whatever. Anyways...that's what I think ~ great topic!

*Michigan Momma*

Mandi, Sean, Peyton and Dylan said...

This is a great reminder, Jess. I think I'm torn between the two extremes. On one hand, I'm just so worn out by the time I've met my children's basic needs, that I often find it hard to serve my DH the way I want to.

On the other hand, when it comes to oneness, my heart is definitely his...there isn't a single funny, sad, stressful or exciting thing that happens in my life that doesn't make me want to immediately call him to share it with him.

BUT, that is much more abstract, and I think I do need to be more conscious about handling things in the physical realm better so that I have energy to serve him even after a long hard day!

Rebecca said...

I totally agree! (And I love your blog because you always post on the things that are on my mind, but don't fit my blog!)

It is particularly hard for people going in to second marriages, with kids already, to put the marriage relationship first. I mean, it was me + kid first, right? For that reason, I think re-marriage is better delayed until after the children are grown, if it is contemplated at all.

I think somehow our desire to be good parents is stronger than our desire to be a good spouse. Why is that?

*~Tamara~* said...

It most certainly is an issue among Christian women. I had someone tell me one time when this topic arose, "I can't imagine not having my children be the center of my life. My husband is a grown man, he can take care of himself. I love him, but it's just not in my nature to put anyone before my kids."

I think, particularly in American culture, families are very child-centric. I think women invest so much in their children partly because, especially if they are SAHMs, they feel that is what they will be judged on. Consequently they put their best effort into their children and give their husbands what's left, if anything.

And I hate to say this, but I've read books and articles from Christians who endorse this. Perhaps they don't say, "Put your children before your spouse" but what they encourage parents to do could have no other effect. If I'm constantly "talking to, encouraging, communicating with, being available to" my children, then it stands to reason there is not much time for my husband. Many current authors and speakers take the approach that because the world around us is so evil, a godly parent has no other choice than to be ever-present in their children's lives and make their needs our top priority. I really struggle and bite my tongue a lot because, while I do think effective parenting takes time and dedication, we can't set aside God's design for the proper order of the family because of the times we live in.

I hesitate to say this, being a homeschooler myself, but I see it a lot among homeschooling and "quiverfull" circles and I personally think it is way off the mark.


PS: When I opened your blog today, Caedin was standing beside me and he squealed, "Miss Jessica!" :-)

Anonymous said...

totally agree, Jess.
We made the decision right back when we had our first, that our marriage was going to come first. For us, this has meant putting the children to bed early, so that we can evenings together, not allowing them to sleep in our bed, not allowing them to interrupt our conversations, and having a special time of chatting together while they are around, so that they can observe our friendship.
Those years of having lots of littles are very wearing on mum, and it can become so easy to give into pouring everything into them, and not saving any emotional energy for our husbands. I can see that my friends who were so focused on their children when they were little, and now they are bigger and are spending each afternoon, evening and weekend running them around to activities, are moving further away from their husbands. She has her thing (the children), and he has his thing (work). And now at (nearly!) 40, I have sadly witnessed marriages end.
It is while those children are very little, that we must determine to put our marriages first!

Anonymous said...

I've gone around on this issue with Sara at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly. I don't agree with the idea that my husband always needs to come "first." He has the understanding and empathy of an adult, which small children do not have.

I prefer the principle (as articulated at www.attachmentparenting.org) that encourages parents to seek balance in their personal or family life. Neither the spouse nor the children should always come first. It's a balancing act to meet everyone's needs, including your own needs (spiritual as well as physical).

I feel that if we have chosen to bring children into the world, we must be willing to meet their needs, even if sometimes an urgent needs come at a cost to parents. For instance, my husband and I would cancel an evening out we had much looked forward to if one of our children fell ill and didn't want to be left with a sitter.

Additionally, I feel that sometimes one parent or another is more "in tune" with the needs of the children. Usually that parent is the mother, especially when children are very young.

Sometimes what the husband desires truly goes against the interest of the child (e.g. husband doesn't want wife to breastfeed because her breasts "belong" to him, or husband pressures son to play some competitive sport that the child has no interest in, and dreads playing). In that situation, if the mother is not advocating for the child, who will advocate for the child?

By the same token, if I did something as a parent that my husband felt was harmful to our kids, I would expect him to intervene on my children's behalf and not automatically take my side.

Many years ago someone wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly called "Fourteen." The author was one of fourteen kids and described his family and his upbringing. His parents were definitely "put the marriage first" people, but they also didn't believe in birth control.

One thing he mentioned was how lonely it was sometimes in his house. He got hardly any one on one time and attention from his parents. He and many of his siblings either stayed single as adults or had marriages that ended in divorce. They didn't develop that secure base that comes from a strong attachment with one's parents.

I clipped out the article and sent it to one of my favorite high school teachers, who grew up on a farm as one of 14 kids. He told me later that he brought the article with him to a family reunion. Although he did grow up surrounded by a lot of love, parts of the article resonated with him and his siblings--especially the part about not really knowing their own father very well.

Balancing the needs of a marriage with the needs of children is tough. Inevitably children's needs are going to be more intense when they are quite young. I think that both parents should be prepared to put their children first at least some of the time.

Laurie B

Word Warrior said...


What a great reminder, and said so poignantly...I struggle with this, I admit. You're home all day with these little "blossoming" people, so careful with their training, all the while taking for granted hubby's needs..after all, he's a grown-up. But oh does he have needs too!

What a big mistake we often make!

Steph VG said...

I don't have kids myself, but I've seen firsthand a very dramatic example of what happens when we don't obey the Lord in this.

Dh and I had opportunity to counsel a couple who were on the verge of divorce. He was a workaholic who was rarely physically home, and wasn't there mentally even when he was there physically. She left him and came back several times over the course of 4-5 years. They have one son, very needy, very high maintenance. He does have some legitimate problems, but there are some that are totally related to being a spoiled only child.

The last time she left, her son wouldn't speak to her. She tried telling him, "I left my marriage, but I did not leave my child." He said it was the same thing. It's not, but she wasn't speaking the truth, either - while they aren't the same thing, leaving one does mean leaving the other.

Since she's been gone, the son has been elevated - for both father and mother - to the position of "spouse" or equal. He's making household decisions at home, and telling his mother what she can and cannot do. When Dad and Mom came to counsel with us about the possibility of reconciling, they couldn't tell him what they were doing, because he would go into a rage. Indeed, when he found out they were talking to a counselor, he started crying and begged them not to get back together. When they said it was not his to decide, he went into a rage, "disowned" his mother, made all sorts of threats...all because it would mean he didn't get his own way anymore, he wouldn't be in on the secrets and innermost thoughts and feelings of the two of them, he wouldn't be able to play one against the other.

Dad brought home a pamphlet called, "What To Do When Your Marriage Goes Sour." When he woke up the next morning, the pamphlet was buried in the trash. Mom was staying with us, so guess who put it there.

This is an extreme example of oneness with offspring, but it didn't start out extreme. Even a fall down a slippery slope has to start with just one step too close to the edge of safety.

sharyn said...

I have definitely been guilty of this and have seen it in my friends. One of the issues that I see this working in tandem with is how you speak of your husband to others -- of course, it is easy to bond with the girls over stories of how hubby made some silly mistake (or that's what our perception is, anyway) and I think also because particularly those of us who are SAHMs spend so much time with our children, we feel like we know them better than anyone else. And we probably do! But I also feel that for myself, when I make a conscious effort to consider my husband's needs/wants/desires, as well as carve out time for just the two of us, everything seems to go more smoothly. We feel like more of a team/partnership, rather than two parents who are vaguely suspicious of each other's decisions/motives.

It is easy when you are wrapped up in kids to be wrapped up int he kids and feel justified -- this is what it takes to be a good mommy, an invested mommy. And maybe it is -- but to not have a strong relationship with your spouse is foolhardy in the long run. Feeding that is just as important, if not more, than feeding the relationship with the kids. In my humble opinion, anyway!

Thanks for such a thought-provoking topic, Jess!

Jess said...

Laurie B,
Part of why you don't understand what Sara & I believe is because you are not a Christ-follower. You have written before that you claim Judaism as your faith.

Yet, even in that, most of the Scripture passages referenced in this post are from the Old Testament, and yet you contradict them openly and unashamedly, using a website filled with information, most of it probably written in the last half century.

Thus, your worldview and likely, your goals in life are vastly different from the ones that I and, I would venture to say, most of the readers of this blog hold to and desire for our lives.

You see, I'm not going to throw out skads of scripture that outright tells me the purposes of child-rearing and of marriage, all because some modern guru writes some things that "sound right". That is what the Bible has to say about things that seem right to men:

Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 :

There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end, it leads to death.

Colossians 2:8 :

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

And the reason for all this is that, many times, we cannot even trust our own hearts to tell us what is right. The fall in the Garden fouled up even our very consciences.

Jeremiah 17:9 :

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I could go on, as there are many, MANY places throughout scripture that speak of the UTTER FOOLISHNESS of following man's advice and "wisdom" rather than God's. But I fear this will fall on deaf ears. For not only do you not want to follow Christ, but you do not follow even the Scriptures you claim to adhere to. Instead, you follow men's advice on a website.

Instead, lovingly and graciously, I would ask you to be reconciled to God. To tune your heart to His and choose this day Whom you will serve. Our discussions often end at this kind of impasse, and the only thing I can figure is that perhaps God is trying to get your attention and draw you to Him. If you're willing to scour Christian history to attempt to discuss the origins of the KJV, and willing to scour a website for parenting advice, perhaps you could read through the New Testament and tune your heart to seek and find out who Jesus really is, and what kind of claim He has on your life.

You're welcome to stick around and continue joining in discussions as you have done for some time now, but you just need to know that anytime a topic is addressed to Christian women, it is then not meant for you. You likely won't understand it and will probably be put off by it.

I love and trust and treasure the Word of God. More than my own thoughts, and certainly more than someone else's thoughts. My worldview is based on these Scriptures, which have a complete and thorough claim on my life. My life is completely committed to and dependent upon the person of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me.

The fact is, that this is a website designed for the encouragement and exhortation of Christian women, in order to understand how to obey God more. I aim to facilitate discussion among Christian women about how to more closely align their homes with the home that is described with honor in the Bible, not one described on a website, and not one that's pictured in our hearts.

You may choose to continue to comment on these posts, that are aimed at Christian women... but you need to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between us, and that will continue to be evident in my posts and your comments.

I will not be swayed by the "wisdom" of a website to abandon the principles of the Bible. And I will work diligently to make sure others are not led astray either.

In Grace and Truth,

Brenda said...

I think it's partially b/c women don't normally stay home UNTIL they have children. So "staying home" becomes all about the kids. In older times women got married and BECAME wives--taking care of their husbands and homes before they were mothers at all. Does that make sense?

Jess said...

Interesting point, Brenda.

It used to be called being a "housewife" or "stay home wife". Now women identify themselves as a "stay at home mom".

Interesting observation. It certainly makes a difference how we identify and see ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Jess, that was the angriest "gracious" message I've ever received.

Sorry, I was not trying to "lead anyone astray." I find it interesting to hear different points of view, such as yours, and I am used to blogging in forums where spirited disagreement is the norm.

Clearly you are not interested in interfaith dialogue, so I apologize for intruding.

I am genuinely surprised that you are so hostile to the resources on attachment parenting, because that approach resonates deeply with many Christian women I know from the mothers' support groups I attend regularly. Also, Gentle Christian Mothers is a popular online forum.

Again, I am sorry for referencing something that offended you.

Laurie B

Jess said...

You misunderstand me, yet again.

There was no anger or an unwelcoming spirit on my part. If you go back and re-read my comment, you'll see that.

Rather, there is a clear line that needed to be drawn in the sand. You have come here, time and again, and commented in a contrary way to virtually every post I've written regarding biblical womanhood.

If you even look at the blog header, you'll see that this entire blog is about the making of the Christian home. My aim here is not really to get into interfaith discussions, particularly with people who dismiss the scriptures they claim to hold to.

Your bringing up of the website did not offend me, so much as the way you used it to try to wave off the implications and outright claims of the Scripture that guides my life.

I would urge you to not make the mistake of thinking that truthful talk is not gracious. I made it clear you are welcome to continue posting. But I also felt the need to make it clear why our disagreements keep happening: we simply do not see the world in the same way.

I was not angry when I wrote that comment, and I'm not angry now. I simply wanted to respond to what you wrote in a way that addressed the overarching disagreements between us.

Your comment implied very false and absurd things about the post I had written- that somehow I had encouraged women not to meet their children's needs. Clearly, the post did not, outright or in implication, state anything of the sort.

But my point was to address our fundamental differences, rather than addressing every single point on which we disagree, which would have taken much more time than I desire to use.

The point of this blog is to encourage and exhort Christian women. I still aim to do that. If you want to continue in discussions, you are welcome to do so. You just need to understand the purpose of this blog, commenting with that in mind.

Again- in grace AND truth,

Anonymous said...

Well, now we both feel misunderstood.

If you think that I simply "dismiss" the teachings of the Hebrew scriptures, you are unfamiliar with how Reform Jews read and interpret the Bible.

In any event, continuing this conversation doesn't seem like a good use of either of our time, especially since my toddler just woke up.

Laurie B

Anonymous said...

I think - even as a non-christian - I understand what you are pointing out in you post.
I have been there, and my realtionship broke, because my child was first, and my partner came last. It doesn't work.
And it is not about responding to our children's needs or anything like that, but about our heart.

I love attachment parenting and we are following the principals. Nevertheless, my new partner (with whom I have two children) is my other half. My relationship has to be my priority. Because if my realtionship loses balance and strenght it will take its toll on my realtionship with the children.

Something I read in a paper recently: If the parents are happy together, the children will be, too.

I love you blog, Jess. It encourages me a lot - thank you!!

Love from Germany,

Anonymous said...

Dear...that happens when you try to type fast. :-) Sorry for the spelling-mistakes!!


Kyla said...


I love your blog. I am not sure that our lives could be more different but we do share a love for Christ and for our home and family.

I have been married for almost 7 years and I was married right out of college. Because we knew having a baby would not be easy my husband and I made the decision to wait to have children until we were financially able to pursue infertility treatments or adoptions. So the first five years have truly been about us. We have travelled, pursued careers and grown in Christ toghether. Now as we are heading down this whole trying to have a baby road, I am so thankful for the years that we had to become one. I can't imagine dealing with this stress in the first two years of our marriage.

All of this to say that this last post really resonates with me at this point in my life. I could easily put this yet to be concieved/adopted child above my husband. This whole process could so easliy consume me and my thoughts. What a great reminder of who I am, a wife, and what a great time to start practicing with putting him first. Thanks again for your insight.