Like many people, we have been through some ups and downs in our marriage, mostly caused by the stresses of life and the reality that comes with financial burdens, moving, babies, family dynamics…etc. We’ve learned to adapt with each new phase of our little family as the circumstances have forced us to and obviously, we’ve grown closer and become a better family for it.

our marriage and family must come first

I saw the title of an article

a while ago that I didn’t read, but it’s sentiments were about putting your spouse first {before your kids}. I nodded in agreement, and being too tired to read the full article, I just skimmed through the comments. So many were saying, “no, my kids come first cause I’m actually a good mom.” or “my kids are dependent on me cause they are so little, so of course I take care of them before my husband. He’s a grown man and can take care of himself!!”

{Maybe we can chat about the hatred that is the nasty commenter later, huge pet peeve of mine and entirely unnecessary in my opinion} But I digress…

Not trying to be a wave maker, {no yeah, I kind of am}, but I don’t know that those people even caught the point the writer was trying to make.  And I didn’t need to read that article to know that. I felt defensive and felt my heart begin to race. Perhaps slightly in defense of the writer, and slightly due to my own newly developed feelings about marriage with kids.

In the last few months, my husband and I had grown a little disconnected and we were in need of a little reset button. Why? Well, aside from other life things, it was because our kids were sucking the life from us! I was letting my toddlers rule the roost and we were run so dry that we didn’t have time for each other, we were slowly getting back into the rut of the day-to-day grind that doesn’t involve connecting as a family and being present to each others’ needs. By the time he came home, I was staring at the wall, often in motionless tears, and I felt like I hadn’t done anything but try to have patience while disciplining all day, and it drained me entirely– I just wanted to explode and scream. Yes, we all have things that make it busy, and yes parenting is hard for pretty much everyone for a million different reasons. It looks different in every home, but I was trying to pretend that my marriage was perfect, when to be fair, it needed some more care than I was willing to admit.

Usually, I pride myself on our relationship. It’s awesome. We are really close, especially for being completely different humans, and in a lot of ways, we have an unfair advantage that he was raised with women, and I was raised with men. Generally speaking, we haven’t had too many set-backs as a married couple and understand when the other isn’t satisfied. It’s not all roses and rainbows cause life happens of course, but it is less work at our house than I know it is at some, or than it would have been if I had chosen someone else. However, lately, it’s proved to be more work. I’m grateful for it, cause we have grown closer after having a come to Jesus about it, but I’m learning that

Kids add a dynamic that forces a change in the family, and frankly, I never saw it coming. I quite honestly just thought life would go on as usual…only with kids thrown in the mix.

On one hand, I guess I can see their point of view or worry with the sentiment of the article’s title. I’m sure it is possible for a couple with kids to be so absorbed in their own needs that they ignore their kids and constantly tell them to go away cause mom and dad need to have “mom and dad” time or because there is work to be done and adult things to do. I’m sure we’re all guilty of that sometimes.  But when I say, “Hey sweetheart, I’m feeling like we need a reset. We are just not in sync right now…” we sit and try to plan family outings, and we make time to be together alone…. cause we KNOW that for us in our house, that is what brings it all back in sync.  And what do you know, it puts our FAMILY first AND brings us back to that heart-flutters-when-you-hold-my-hand feeling of being a connected couple in love first, who then brought littles into our nest — second.

It’s one of the reasons I loved reading Babywise before I became a mom. Not only was it a sleep life-saver for our kids, but the first chapter changed a lot about how I thought of our new family beyond just us two. They said that very thing that I have found to be true: kids are happier, more content, and sleep better when they come into a fully functioning and happy home that was so long before they got there. The schedule and life do not stop with kids and change completely to something unrecognizable. In some ways it does of course, but it’s not and shouldn’t be suddenly a time to sit and stare at the kids, waiting for them to need something.  I believe that

Marriage is like a huge party. Adding kids is like adding friends to the party.

YOU started and host it, but having them there it what REALLY makes it rock. {mom of 11 somewhere is snorting through her coffee, I know…}

It takes some communication at our house and a little bit of pure honesty about what our needs are as adult humans in a relationship, but ALSO as parents who spend lots of energy divided between work tasks and raising children. It’s exhausting at times, as I know you know, but a little acknowledgement from both parties and a resolve to amp up the attention usually fixes our slump. We’ve had a few of those in our marriage, but the big ones took place at a trying time that involved a change in kids. {Just after the first was born, and again after the second…}

Maybe you already have that foundation, or just haven’t hit one of those “disconnected” phases that everyone hits at some point with kids… that’s great!  I’d take preventative measures to keep it swiftly gliding as it is.

Here’s our unwritten {well, now it’s written} list of things we’ve been trying to do more to keep things peaceful around here in this college dorm of crazy roommates, and they’ve helped us get back in a groove.

  • Go on dates without kids regularly. Try not to talk about just them. It’s a hard exercise sometimes, but important.
  • Communicate about everything, and the minute you think it, not days or weeks after you first feel that way… Don’t wait for the other to “guess” the problem. It’s not theirs, so they won’t.
  • Make out a lot. I swear that helps.
  • Give the kids options that lead to the end goal to empower them as part of the team. Instead of “will you clean your room?” it’s would you like to sing or dance while we clean?” or “you only have to pick up the toys you want to keep.”
  • Give compliments.  Acknowledge each other for what you do to make life that way! Catch each other {including kids} doing things that are positive, and mention it.
  • Schedule “dates” with just one kid to reconnect and learn more about them as individuals.

Being a parent is one more thing to add to your list of things to be good at, and we need the validation and loving support from a partner to make that feel like less of a burden.

I’ve mentioned before that last summer I dealt with some anxiety {not diagnosed}. I had panic attacks, I was in constant fear, worried about just about everything. I remember telling my husband,

“I’m not myself. I hate feeling this way. I know I can’t be a mom like this. I CAN’T put them first until I am well and stable emotionally and mentally. I need you to help me help them.”

For us, it’s such a team effort to raise these 2 crazies that keep us running in circles that I can’t imagine what it would look like to “put our kids first”. Well I can and I have and it was miserable.

our marriage comes first

When he and I are one, and I know he hears me, appreciates me, and understands where I struggle and can help me, I am a better mom. I am happiest when my love is rich and full, and when I feel that, though imperfect, my effort is a good one. Then it just overflows into my relationships with my kids. He feels the same and needs the same from me. When I give him the time and attention that our relationship deserves, and acknowledge him for what he does, he does even more because he knows how much I appreciate and need it. And I know it makes him a better dad and more aware of his kids’ needs as well.

Marriage IS a family first. Kids should come into a home that is already loving and thriving and peaceful and runs it’s own course. In that way, even though they are little, and dependent on me as the adult who cares for them, we are all a team. One unit, learning to look out for each other as a group and individuals.

Sidebar: The husband and I also just started reading, l
ike actually sit down and read together the 5 Love Languages.
WOW. I know we had talked about them before and all,
but having the conversation was a huge eye-opener for both of us and has already changed our marriage. Get it, read it!
Note: I’d love for you to leave comments and share your thoughts on this one. However, do choose to be kind. This topic is dear to my heart and I share it only as a way to say, “Hey, this is normal” and not at all to say you do it wrong. So don’t take it that way, k?