Treat the energy you put into your marriage as a parenting skill. "I often share with moms struggling to balance marriage and child-rearing that working on your adult relationships is a parenting skill, and one of the most crucial," says Hanks. If you feel badly about diverting energy or attention from your children into your marriage, consider that you're doing it for your children.
That doesn't sound far-fetched at all if you think about it. "A warm, loving marriage relationship helps children feel emotionally safe and provides a template of what a marriage is," says Hanks. "It gives the child the hope that a wonderful adult life awaits them and that they will be able to give and receive love."
Hanks refers to a study of 2,000 parents about what makes a good parent, conducted by psychologist and researcher by Robert Epstein, Ph.D. He concluded that while showing love and affection to your child is the most important parenting skill, how you treat yourself and how you interact with your spouse (or co-parent) rank second and third in the list of parenting outcomes. So, if you can't do it for yourself, do it for your kids!
Remember that what your kids see in your relationship can impact their future relationships. Nobody is suggesting perfection! However, putting enough effort into your relationship so that you are emotionally connected sets a positive example for your children.
"Children growing up in homes where they experience their parents' healthy marriage relationship develop a positive 'default mode' for relationships, making it easier for the child to duplicate when they grow up," explains Hanks. "A connected marriage is one of the best gifts parents can give their child because it provides the safety and security for the child to continue their own healthy development."
Life is so very busy and at different points, different things fall by the wayside. Nobody is perfect and to expect your marriage to be perfect all the time is unfair to yourself and your spouse. However, if you notice that you're drifting emotionally, take some time and put the effort into reconnecting. Your kids matter and may be your number one priority, but your marriage matters, too!