Avoiding Splitsville

beach-193786_640First place?  Second place?  Do rankings even exist within families?  Is putting your marriage first over your children the same as saying that you love one child more than another?

Not necessarily.

Children are takers by nature and mine are no exception.  From the minute that I wake up, my day as a stay-at-home mom to three boys under 7 is a whirlwind.  It is a constant juggle of schedules, mediating of feelings, coaching of behaviour and supporting of being.  There are the meals, the homework, the bathing, the messes, the laundry (oh, the never ending laundry).  The responsibility after baby is born hits like the wave of a tsunami, forever altering the landscape in its wake, even years later.

But like the proverbial saying goes, you reap what you sow.

And that is why many of my own activities, interests and at the risk of sounding a tad dramatic, dreams, have taken a backseat while I parent my boys.  It’s a thankless job but one that I whole-heartedly signed-up for and most days enjoy.

In my mind marriages follow the same equation as parenting: work in equals enjoyment out.   Make no mistake, marriage is work and after baby makes her arrival marriage can feel like backbreaking drudgery . . . or maybe that was just my marriage.

In our “reality-based” society we tend to glorify the wedding but pay little attention to the years following the “say yes” moment.  But I guess watching people argue over the minutia that defines a marriage would make for boring television.

Like Guiliana Rancic, I believe that a strong marriage is the foundation for a strong family.  The definition of strong varies from family to family.  I once knew a woman who firmly believed that her place was with her children and for seven years she was only away from her children a handful of times for more than a few hours.  Her children were never far from her physical reach, even over-night as they slept in the family bed.

When I asked her about when she gets alone time with her husband she shook her head and said that they were making a short term investment in their family and that there would be time again for the two of the them.

It worked for their family.

That type of arrangement would have me on the one-way train to Crazy Town with a stop in Splits-ville.

I am selfish like that.  It’s impossible for me to silence my needs.  Like a petulant child, my inner-self sulks and broods when too much time has passed before I can indulge in me time.

Let me be clear.  I am not talking about a 3 weeklong hike in the Himalayas to find myself (although that does sound appealing).  I am talking about the need to read a chapter of a book without interruption, get a haircut without springing up from the chair with sopping wet hair to pick-up a child from school, eat a meal sitting at the table without wiping up spilled milk.

Putting my marriage “first” helps me to keep perspective of who I am as a woman and that directly affects my mothering.

When I am out with my husband, just the two of us, I feel like a woman.  I ditch the yoga pants and the sensible shoes and I feel good.  I laugh more.  I am spontaneous.  I am fun.  I am not just the Chief of the Manner Police.

Why not just reconnect with myself without entwining my husband into this process?  Wouldn’t it be just as easy to do with girlfriends?  Or truly solo?

It wouldn’t be the same.

This man knows me better than I know myself.  He’s supported me on my journey and knows every curve and loop of the road that I have travelled.  He can help me tune into the best part of myself and hold a mirror up for me to see the not-so-pretty parts, and he loves me just the same.

By spending time alone together, I find him again too.  Those subtle irritations give away and it’s like we have stepped into a time machine and reversed ten years.  Without the pressures of the boys and work, we are both our truer selves.  I am not such a bitch and he’s more present.

That’s when the magic happens.  We laugh, we talk, we listen, we dream, we plan.

We return home better people, better parents, better partners.