“Are you leaving us again?” my eleven year old languished in his most convincing “guilt trip” voice.
The complaint came at the end of sitting with him through 2 hours of tedious homework (I hate algebra just as much as I did 25 years ago!!!)
Gigi was having a meltdown after skipping her nap.
And my kitchen was a disaster from dinner preparation. Many hands make light work a mess!!
The meltdowns and mess had me counting down the minutes till bedtime.
I was feeling less than ravishing.”Maybe we should just have a date night at home” I texted my husband.
Our plans to go out for a little while after we got the little ones in bed was sounding daunting. I wasnt sure I was going to survive the “Valley of the Shadow Hour”, much less look presentable to go out.
C knowing we would both just end up collapsing on the couch coaxed me, “no…lets go out”.
By the time we got everyone fed, bathed, medicine dispensed, backs scratched, songs sung, drinks administered and tucked in bed, we were exhausted.
But out we went.
And two hours later, I was glad we had!
How did dating go from fun to…..next-to-impossible-to-make-happen?
Dont we all enter marriage envisioning a steady diet of candlelight, long-stemmed roses and infinite time for physical, emotional and spiritual connectivity?
We anticipate anniversaries wining-and-dining at fancy restaurants and Valentines Days spent at a swanky Bed & Breakfast.
Every Saturday we will wake up slow before going to the gym together and then we’ll meet friends for dinner and watch the football game.
Marriage will be bliss.
And our universe will revolve around eachother.
……..Ok. I wasn’t quite that naive. But my expectations were high.
And then, a baby is born.
Two in our case….followed every 2 years by another.
And very quickly, those fancy anniversary dinners out morphed into wine and cheese at home because babysitters + fine dining = broke parents!
Valentines Day consists of more glitter and paper cut outs than champagne and strawberries.
I dont think we’ve ever stayed in a Bed & Breakfast.
And Saturdays….”sleeping in” means waking up with a toddler crawling in our bed and 3 kids asking for breakfast. The rest of the day is spent at little-league games, not tailgating with friends!
And before we know it, putting our marriage first becomes….well……easier said than done.
So….should our husbands come first. At risk of insighting a riot, Im shouting from the rooftop, yes!
I still consider myself a “newlywed” with much to learn, but this is one I feel like we are finally getting.
I do it somedays better than others. The early years with nursing babies and clingy toddlers are the hardest to set boundaries that give priority to your marriage, but I feel like its certainly a classroom God has had me in. By default, it would be very easy to get 8 or 12 or 20 years down the road and realize that my kids, not my husband, have been the recipient of the firstfruits of my time and attention.
Dont get me wrong. We have the most valuable gift in getting to raise our treasured 6 beautiful children. But that’s what we are doing…we are raising them to launch them into the world as responsible, considerate adults who do not think the world revolves around them. Im not doing society (or my children’s future spouses) any favor by fostering an entitled attitude.
My husband however… I vowed before God to love and to cherish and to “forsake all others” for him. Its obvious that applies to other relationships or moral integrity….but do we really think it applies to our children?
The kids were griping (as they always do) when C and I were walking out the door the other night. “Do you know who mommy and daddy love the most“, he chided.
“First God, then each other. Then you“.
But I honestly don’t think my kids are suffering from insecurity or feeling like 3rd place on daddy’s list. They feel secure in mommy & daddy’s love and commitment toward eachother. They see us fight. They watch us make up. They observe affection. They see us kiss. They know we love each other. And sometimes they have to wait while we work through that process! They dont doubt our committment. I think our society is far more at risk of damaging our kids from stagnate marital relationships than from “neglect” because the marriage has taken too much priority.
Our kids wont always be here. If the only thing we are doing together is attending ballet recitals and going to school athletic events, there will be nothing left of us when the glue of children walks off to college at 18. We scrape and we save all our lives for our children’s future. But what investment are we making for the future of our marriage? We have the opportunity now to begin making deposits into the kind of relationship that we want to have when we are 50 or 60 or 70. Adoring retired couples dont often come from young parents who are so strung out that they dont carve out time to work on their marriage in their 30’s and 40’s!
So how do we practically do this? One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is security and assurance of their parents love.
We are unapologetic about the fact that we have zero tolerance for being interrupted when C and I are having a conversation. (And this is not something that I have always done well!)
That means he gets the best of my time, of my attention, of my affection.
When I am consistently deferring to the needs of my kids, Im communicating that my priority is my children.
In our efforts as moms raising young children, its a common default to give preference to whatever cries the loudest.
Typically, this wont be your husband.
Sure there are exceptions, but our husbands feel loved when we make an attempt to offer undivided attention and take interest in the thing that interest them. The requests for a snack or help with homework are valid. But our kids can learn to wait for a moment!
When we have children, we become experts in whatever it is that they take a fancy too. I hate snakes. I do! But with a son who loves all things creepy, crawly and scaly, its remarkable how much Im learning and love finding for him to foster his interests. I desire to give the same priority to my marriage. I dont ever want to stop being a “student” of who my husband is and what makes him “tick”.
Next on our bucket list is to learn a new skill together. Im willing to pick up a tennis racquet…and with a little more convincing, you think he might take a salsa class with me? 🙂