marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gospel Doctrine or Cultural Myth: Children Take Priority Over Everything

“There’s no doubt that motherhood is the best thing in my life. It’s all that really matters.” – Courtney Cox (underlining added)

When a woman becomes a mother, it’s a momentous change in her life. Suddenly there’s a helpless little human that needs her night and day, for feedings, diaper changes, affection – for life itself.

Ideally, children are the representation and final result of the physical love expressed between two people committed to building a family together. Ironically, children place a lot of stress on that same loving relationship, and sometimes end up destroying the love that brought them to life in the first place.

Is this the children's fault? Never.[i]

When children come to a married couple, a somewhat difficult transition takes place. The mother starts to focus in on her new responsibility. Her physical chemistry, if not interrupted by depression or undue stress, changes in a way that helps her bond with her child. This bond is important to the well-being of that child.[ii]

It can be a great temptation to a woman to think that her life now is all about this new baby, and that she must give everything she has, and more, to ensure this new little person that she loves so much will have the best life she can possibly give it. Both she and the father should make these loving sacrifices of time and attention…right?


But how can you say that, some might say. It says so right in Church doctrine:

““Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations….Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”[iii]

See? It says so right there in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Children are the most important thing in a family, right?

Children are very important, but making children the most important priority is counterproductive to their best good. At this critical juncture in a marriage, the best thing new parents can do is to make God and their marriage (and especially their physical relationship) the top priorities, just as it was before the children were born. It needs to continue to be a priority, and one that remains greater than the children.

In our modern culture, specialization is favored over generalization. Specialists in their fields are paid more, and more often recognized for their contributions. But the Lord is not interested in making all of us specialists. If anything, He seems to want parents to remain generalists by developing their whole selves, instead of developing only one aspect of their lives to perfection over all others.[iv]

Mothers are ‘primarily responsible for the nurture of their children’, yes. But what happens if a mother focuses in on this one role and neglects the others? The father may feel forgotten, as his importance in his wife’s eyes diminishes and his only outlet to fill his love bank leaves him out to dry. He may feel jealous of his own children; an ugly circumstance. If the mother is too tired to spend time with him at the end of a long day with the children, he is left lonely and tempted to find attention elsewhere. The children feel the resentment in their home, and the love in the family starts to disappear.

This is not meant to warn the mothers alone, because the fathers have a similar temptation to work on themselves. A new father may look at the Proclamation to the Family and see that ‘…fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”

This is also good and right, but if a father focuses in on just this one task to the neglect of everything else, what happens? His wife is lonely and unfulfilled while the father works longer and longer hours, and she is left with a large workload at home. Her love bank also drains and the passionate intimacy he is doing all the work for can run dry. The children miss out on his attention and stabilizing presence. The love in the relationship starts to die as well, and with the love goes the passion.[v]

It would not be appropriate to tell a wife in such circumstances to ‘suck it up and stop whining’, any more than a husband is appropriately told to ‘suck it up and stop whining’. If one spouse is feeling neglected, something is off in the family dynamic, and it needs to be lovingly addressed.[vi]

“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners….”[vii]

And, to cleave unto each other and none else. [vii2]

It’s hard to go out on a date and leave your precious little infant with a babysitter, even for just a few hours, that first one or two times. It may be challenging to work around the baby, so that you can focus on each other and meet your regular intimacy desires.

However, the results are much more positive. When a couple’s intimacy is strong, the children benefit in every way. The parents get renewed strength and commitment to be better parents. Children feel much more safe and secure in their own home. When children leave home, the spouse is not left there with a stranger they married years ago, but with a lover and a friend, and the children are emotionally free to create their own families, confident that they can recreate the blueprint that was modeled for them.[viii]

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other AND for their children.”[ix] Notice the order in this statement.  It is the order of heaven for our homes here on earth.

Answer: Cultural Myth

[i] D&C 68:25, 27-28
[ii] “Oxytocin is a particularly important hormone for women. "Oxytocin is a peptide produced in the brain that was first recognized for its role in the birth process, and also in nursing," said Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
The hormone causes uterine contractions during labor and helps shrink the uterus after delivery. When an infant suckles at his or her mother's breast, the stimulation causes a release of oxytocin, which, in turn, orders the body to "let down" milk for the baby to drink.
Oxytocin also promotes mother-child bonding. Studies show that "female rats find pups to be aversive if [the females are] virgins," Young told Live Science. "But once they give birth, the brain is transformed, so they find the pups irresistible," he said. And similar findings are seen in humans. 
A 2007 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that the higher a mom's oxytocin levels in the first trimester of pregnancy, the more likely she was to engage in bonding behaviors such as singing to or bathing her baby.
Although maternal bonding may not always be hardwired — after all, human females can adopt babies and take care of them — oxytocin released during pregnancy "does seem to have a role in motivation and feelings of connectedness to a baby" Young said. Studies also show that interacting with a baby causes the infant's own oxytocin levels to increase, he added.” – Pappas, Stephanie. Oxytocin: Facts about the ‘Cuddle Hormone’., 4 Jun 2015;

[iii] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his remarks at the Women’s General Conference in September 23, 1995.
[iv] Read Matthew 5:48, substituting the word ‘perfect’ for the word ‘complete’, as was used in the Greek translation (see note b in the footnotes)
[v] “You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” – President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov 1994
[vi] “Often parents communicate most effectively with their children by the way they listen to and address each other. Their conversations showing gentleness and love are heard by our ever-alert, impressionable children.” – Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1976
[vii] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ibid.
[vii2] "The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse. We sometimes find women who absorb and hover over the children at the expense of the husband, sometimes even estranging them from him. This is in direct violation of teh command: None else. ~Kimball, Spencer W., The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969,250-251)

[viii] “Perhaps the best gift parents can give their children is to love each other, to enjoy each other, and even to hold hands and demonstrate their love by the manner in which they talk to each other.” – Elder LeGrand R. Curtis, Ensign, Nov 1990
[ix] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ibid.