Marriage First...Kids Second

Excerpts from “Parenting by The Book”

By John Rosemond


For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)


Genesis 2:24 records the moment that God, immediately after creating woman from the rib of man, establishes marriage - the union of a male and a female - as the foundation of the family, the child rearing unit. The meaning of this is as clear as mountain air: God intends for children to be reared by a man and a woman who are committed to one another for life. Period. His holy parenting plan does not include a variety of options.


Make no mistake about it, however, Genesis 2:24 makes clear that it is not enough that children be reared by a man and a woman who are married. It says the man and the woman in question must be, in their parenting, united as "one flesh" in order for their marriage and, therefore, their parenting to work as it should - as God planned it. They must, in other words, see their children through one set of eyes, adhere to one child rearing plan (God's, not one of their own devising, that "works for them") that incorporates one set of goals, share one set of values, and act as one body when it comes to loving, teaching, and disciplining their children. Parents whose child rearing fits this description can be said to be "parenting from within their marriage." First, foremost, and forever, they are husband and wife. The wife is a mother, but she "mothers" from within her role as wife, with primary consideration of the unity she shares with her husband. Not, mind you, primary consideration of her children. The same is true of her husband. When he "fathers," he does so with primary consideration of the bond between himself and his wife. As they rear their children, they are primarily focused not on the children, but on one another. They realize, intuitively, that the single best thing they can ever do for their children is take extremely good care of their marriage. Thusly, it can be accurately said that they are truly of "one flesh." Unfortunately, as we enter the 21st Century, the above description is the exception, not the rule.


In most two-parent families today, one finds that the roles of husband and wife have been displaced by the roles of father and mother. In their parenting, they are focused not on one another, but on their children, who therefore occupy center stage in the family. Instead of being of "one flesh" with one another, instead of putting their relationship center stage and keeping it there, they are preoccupied with the stuff of child-centeredness: They pay more attention to their children than they do to one another, they do more things for and with their children than they do for and with one another, they give more of their time to their children than they do to one another, they talk more to their children than they do to one another, and so on. It's as if they each took a secret vow on their wedding day that said, "I take you to be my husband/wife until children do us part."


The consequences of this inside-out, upside-down, and turned around backward family situation include all the ills associated with contemporary parenting:

  • <span The children lack a model of what being truly married is all about. Therefore, when they grow up, they are likely to either avoid getting married (which more and more young people are doing), running instead from one "fly by night" relationship to another, or enter into marriages for all the wrong reasons (e.g., sex, status, financial security, to legitimize children), in which case their marriages are likely to fail.
  • Lacking leadership (you cannot lead children, or anyone for that matter, with whom you are trying to have a wonderful relationship), the children "fend for themselves" when it comes to discipline. That's another way of saying that they are not disciplined. Inevitably, behavior problems develop, almost always involving one or more of the "3 Big D's" of disobedience, disruptiveness, and disrespect. Quite often, however, these parents have their heads so buried in the sands of denial that they do not even see that their children are undisciplined.
  • When the normal time for emancipation rolls around, the children do not have permission to leave home. Quite simply, a child cannot emancipate him/herself easily from the center of the family universe. The center is too cozy. Who would want to leave? Besides, the child in this situation knows that for as long as he can remember, he has been the glue holding his parents together (in psychological terms, this is called co-dependency). If he leaves, he knows they are likely to divorce. And indeed...
  • These days, married couples are at greatest risk for divorce shortly after the last child is emancipated. As we all know, many married couples with children never even make it that far. The reasons are many, but surely one BIG REASON is that the people in question stopped being married, really, shortly after they began having children. One flesh became two fleshes. The legal divorce only formalizes what has, in fact, been the case for some time. Isn't this sad? And so unnecessary! In most cases, these are people who could have made a go of it if they had simply put God's plan for families, and therefore child rearing, foremost in their minds.