How to Prioritize Marriage in the Midst of Motherhood
There was chaos that came along with pregnancy; hormones, cravings, weight gain, stretchmarks, and the get-this-baby-out-of-me madness. There was also chaos that came after having a baby. Despite my mood swings, exhaustion, and postpartum depression, my husband was there through it all. He’s been by my side enduring my random bursts of sass, still calling me beautiful. He’s helped me through it all, being an amazing husband and now an awesome father.
But it hit me the other day.
What Had Happened Was…
We were at his parents house for dinner and my husband was doing homework (he’s a full-time college student). I moseyed over, plopped my butt down in a chair at the kitchen table and made myself a plate. So bean the chow down. When he finally came over to give himself a 5-minute break from homework to eat (mind you, this is after he works a full day, too), I was pretty much done with my food. His uncle said, “Get a plate!” and so… that’s just what he did.
You’re probably thinking, “ohhh-kayyy… and?” BUT, I’ve always enjoyed making my husband’s plate for dinner – since we’ve been married I had pretty much made a habit of it. It’s one of the many ways I like to serve him. But that night (and many nights before that), it didn’t even cross my mind because I was so worried about taking care of our son.
It dawned on me in that moment that since I was pregnant, a lot of what I had once done for my husband, I no longer did (or if I did, it was far less consistent than before). And to tell you the truth, in some ways it’s because… well, I’d just forgotten.
“Well I have to take care of the kids all day. They require all of me and I just don’t have anything left to give by the time he comes home.” I can get that now that I’m a mom. There are days where it’s downright rough, so when my husband gets home I just want to pass baby off and have some alone time. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but the problem comes when we begin to neglect our marriages for the sake of our children. When we allow our children to consume us, and we put our marriages on the back burner… or not on a burner at all. When we do this we turn things entirely upside-down.
The Wrong Way to Approach Marriage + Parenting
In the world today, it is clear that marriage has taken a back seat. A back seat to singleness, a back seat to options and a backseat in marriage once children come along (and other reasons, too). You’ve got people willing to do whatever for their kids, regardless what their children do. But when it comes to their spouses? They’re so quick to neglect them, give up, and leave (now don’t get me wrong, if there is physical abuse or marital infidelity, that’s an entirely different argument). Some even say that they’re only staying with their spouse for their children’s sake – though an unhealthy marriage isn’t doing their children any favors.
But what ever happened to staying with your spouse for your marriage’s sake? To honor and uphold the vow you chose to make before God? It seems to me that so many of us are confusing the order of how things were made to be. Then we come out on the other end confused when things go haywire. We’ve put our duty and privilege as parents above our duty and privilege as spouses. Perhaps that’s why the divorce rate is what it is in America. Men and women both, are failing to see how we’re neglecting our marriages, and we fall into the trap that silently entangles.
Honoring Your Marriage
I love my husband. He’s captured my love in a way no man has before, he’s my very best friend. He’s the one I’ve chosen to do life with, to grow old with (Lord willing), to give my wholehearted affection to forever. So, if I prioritize our marriage first, does it mean I have to neglect our children? No. We can love our spouses well while loving our children well, too. It isn’t an either-or type of thing.
I also love my son. My love for him is a different kind of love, and I want the very best for him. But the greatest gift that I can give him (apart from faithfully being an obedient example of Christ in his life) is a good, happy marriage with his father. You see, my love and service to my husband is motivated by my desire to bring joy to my husband’s heart and simultaneously, without any extra effort, it is a gift to our son, too. Likewise, my husband’s love and service to me is a gift to me and our son.
By loving each other well we keep our marriage strong which in turn gives our son a sense of security, a sense of confidence and stability. Through our marriage he can know that his family is strong, that it is not easily broken, and therefore he need not worry day-to-day whether we all will still be together. A strong marriage gives him an example of how a man should treat a woman, and how a woman should treat a man. It teaches him character, communication, healthy love/affection, forgiveness, respect and trust. The things we can try and teach him verbally until we’re blue in the face, our marriage can teach him by naturally sowing seeds into his little heart forever.
How to Prioritize Your Marriage
Here are a few things you can begin to implement that I highly recommend to help in prioritizing your marriage:
- Talk for 15 to 20 minutes each day – no kids allowed – no distractions
Whether it’s laying in bed right before you close your eyes to sleep, or early in the morning before any of your monsters rise. Make time to talk with your spouse every day. So much can happen in a day, especially when one of you works out of the home full-time, so it’s important to reconnect each day. This simple practice has been proven to increase marriage satisfaction because couples feel connected and informed about their spouse. This will look different for each of us, but however it may look, make sure the kids are not around and able to interrupt, and that your phones are away, TV is off and you minimize distractions.
- Go out on weekly dates – no kids allowed – no distractions
This simply involves you and your spouse getting away together for a one to eight hour period once a week. This means dropping the kids off at grandma’s house and going out to lunch/dinner or just laying on a blanket in the shade at a park (a date that requires zero spending *thumbs up*). Whatever you do, remember to give your spouse your full attention, minimizing distractions and practicing the art of listening. Have fun, laugh, talk it out, cry or whatever. Rent a hotel room and have some quality time! Do whatever is refreshing, fun and needed for your marriage.
- Go out on monthly adventures – no kids allowed – no distractions
This means, once per month you and your spouse are to do an extended version of your weekly date. You’re to spend 12 to 24 hours away, just you two, and this will look different for every couple, The point is to connect with your spouse, to have fun together and/or to hash things out. Make the most of these times and be intentional with the time.
- Go on a yearly retreat – no kids allowed
This is one that might be hard for some parents. This involves going away over-night with your spouse without your kids. It can be dropping the kids off Friday and picking them up Saturday evening. If you’re ambitious or just downright desperate for a break, it can be a Friday to Friday thing. It’s truly up to you and your spouse, your financial situation and what makes the most sense for your family. I do recommend attending a marriage retreat if/when possible. I believe it’s important to keep your relationship in a never-ending state of progress. When your spouse and you both feel like one another is open and willing to work on improving the marriage (working on yourselves individually), it does something positive to a marriage.You can go away on what some people call a “vision retreat.” Go wherever you can – it doesn’t have to be far. The purpose of the getaway is to see where each other is, what each of your goals/dreams are for the next year, what areas of your marriage you’re each wanting to work on, what areas you’re each needing more support from the other person, etc. The goal is to get on the same page, to vocalize things that you’ve yet to, to create a vision for your marriage for that upcoming year. You also want to use that time to just be together, enjoy each other and recoup side-by-side.
In the End…
If you’re like me, you’ve forgotten your husband at some point or another as you’ve journeyed through the chaos of motherhood. And maybe it will be a continual, uphill battle, but nonetheless, I encourage you today, remember him again. Love him as you once did, and with God’s grace strive to love him even better than before. In so doing, God is glorified, your marriage benefits, and you give the gift of a strong marriage to your children.
In All Honesty,