As we’re quickly approaching the birth of our 3rd baby (in less than 4 years), I have to be a little honest. I’m concerned about the strain it might put on my marriage. In the 3+ years I’ve been a mom, talking to other moms, hearing other moms’ struggles and prayer requests, a common theme that comes up frequently is marriage. The struggle between the SAHM and the working husband. Resentment. Bitterness. Competition (who works harder, who deserves a “break”, etc.) It typically looks something like this (more or less): the overworked, overwhelmed SAHM struggles to keep her sanity as she juggles all the responsibilities/expectations of staying at home. Being a good mom, a good wife, a good housekeeper, the one who everyone needs SOMETHING from at all times, etc. And doing it all by herself the majority of the day, every day. Then there’s the working Husband who has a stressful, demanding and challenging job. A job that’s not necessarily a 9-5 either (because you KNOW being a mom is NOT just 9-5) and could sometimes involve travel, etc (especially Bay Area jobs). He may or may not actually enjoy his job and in most cases he certainly doesn’t enjoy or desire to be away from his family so much, he just feels obligated to do so because of his responsibility. Husband comes home from work at the end of the day and Wife wants a dang break, or help from the Husband- to either completely take over the caring for the kids thing for the brief period of time before bedtime, etc. or just lend a helping hand and “tag-team” while they’re both at home. But the Husband probably just wants a break too…to come home and relax after a long day. Or he’ still busy working hard to provide for his family, even though he’s not physically at the office. Because that is his role and responsibility and he feels pressure to provide financially for his wife and kids. But the Wife wants the Husband’s work-life balance to lean more toward “life”, while many men are wired more toward “work” BECAUSE of life or SO THAT his Wife and kids can have a good life. If that makes sense. Sometimes Husband and Wife may even start to envy each other, believing the grass is greener on the other side. Husband “gets to” leave the house and be away from the kids and have actual adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around poop, or sippy cup colors or Daniel Tiger and then can actually enjoy being with the kids because “separation makes the heart grow fonder”. But the Wife has more freedom and flexibility and can stay in her pajamas or workout clothes all day and “gets to” play with the kids and not have the pressure of deadlines or dealing with really difficult clients, etc. (Unless of course you consider demanding toddlers “difficult clients”..which, I do).
That’s the general picture I get from others. And I understand all of those feelings. Because I’m there too. It’s a tough season to navigate.
So how do you survive? And not just survive, but thrive, in your marriage during this stage of life? I know that might sound cheesy or cliche, mostly because it rhymes (the “not just surviving, but thriving” thing) but it’s something I do feel strongly about. Marriage isn’t meant to just be okay or mediocre or barely getting by. Yes, marriage is hard and there are seasons of mere survival. I understand that. But that’s certainly not the goal. It should also be life-giving- a beautiful, earthly reflection of the relationship between Christ and his Church. It’s a big deal. The ONE person on this earth that you are to have the closest and most intimate relationship with is your spouse. The person who knows you inside and out, better than anyone else- every line, curve, and flaw on your physical body, and every flaw/short-coming in your personality. While I do recognize and accept that there are just difficult seasons of marriage (having small children is one of those) and it’s a season that will pass- that doesn’t mean we should put marriage on the back burner and just get back to it later after the season has passed. I think it can still be a time of growth (as a lot of trials and tribulations can be). A time where, in the midst of total and complete chaos (hello 3 year old, 2 year old and a newborn), where we can find calm and peace and intimacy in each other. To fight AGAINST the attacks that will surely come from Satan- “oh, you have 3 small children that you’re taking care of at home, by yourself, let me fill your head with negative thoughts about your husband as he leaves you to go to work every day”. Satan looooooves these vulnerable times. And let me tell you, the Internet and the world doesn’t always help. I have to avoid certain groups of people who love to complain/vent about their husbands not helping out more with the kids or around the house, because it can easily create a sort of angry wife mob mentality….”Yeah, you’re right….they SHOULD help out more, and it shouldn’t even be called ‘helping’, it’s called parenting because it took TWO people to make these kids”, etc. etc. “Down with the husbands!” You may think I’m exaggerating…..I’m not. And yes there is truth to it….it takes 2 to tango, there are 2 parents who should be parenting, but what that looks like and how it all plays out in roles/responsibility and who does what when, is what I’m talking about- and I just don’t like the mob mentality thing. Anyway.
I am NOT an expert nor do I claim to have it all figured out. What I do know is that I will fight for my marriage with every fiber of my being, even in the difficult seasons of life, as long as it depends on me. And it certainly works better when both spouses are on the same page in that regard. I don’t mean to make it sound simple either. What I share is from my experience and my marriage. If it’s helpful to someone else, GREAT! But if it’s not, that’s cool too. I’m sure there are plenty of other blog posts out there that you can relate to more. But I feel called to share what I’ve learned because I don’t think it happens enough. We were fortunate to have really great mentors at our old church in Philly who shared stuff like this and invested in young adults/couples. If this happened more often in churches, perhaps the need for actual counseling would be less? Just a thought…
I post this “list” every so often and it keeps evolving over time, because circumstances change (more babies come into the picture, etc.) and you have to adjust and do what works best for your marriage at the time. But these are some things we’ve done or tried to do to keep our marriage a priority during a really stressful and chaotic season of life. I’ll start with the newest one to the list:
- Making “me” time a priority. Because “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That might sound counter-intuitive or productive to the goal of making marriage a priority. But I assure you, it is not. ‘Self-care’ is vital to my role as wife AND mom. It doesn’t mean I’m being selfish. It just means that if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of my family well. Period. In a very logical, practical example: I remember one day shortly after our 2nd kid was born- I realized it was lunch time and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I was sleep-deprived and taking care of the needs of my kids all morning. It was hot and I started to feel very faint (I do actually have a history of passing out) and it occurred to me “If I don’t stop everything and eat right now, I’ll pass out and there will be no one here to take care of my kids”. So with both kids screaming, I said to myself “let them scream, they’ll survive…you need to EAT”. So that’s the idea. If I don’t take time to get refreshed and re-energized somehow (both spiritually and physically), my husband and my kids will suffer. Specifically in regard to marriage- NOT doing this started to create resentment toward my husband. As I mentioned earlier, a common thought can be “my husband gets to go have adult conversation and get a break from the kids” and as moms we complain about never being able to do that. So….DO THAT. Actually have the conversation with your husband. Not to ask permission, but to inform and schedule the logistics of it. Whether it’s going to a coffee shop by yourself, getting a pedicure, hanging out with other mom friends (kid-free!), schedule that time. Once a week, every 2 weeks, whatever. Just make it happen. I’ve only recently started making this a priority and I really wish I would’ve started sooner. I come back from that time better equipped to love on my husband and kids and I don’t feel that resentment whenever he leaves the house. Because I get my time too.
- Acknowledging and recognizing that you are not in a competition with your spouse. Communicate to each other, lovingly (that’s the tough part), what it’s like in your shoes, with the purpose of giving each other grace. It amazes me how well actually communicating something verbally helps our marriage. Seems obvious, but as women we tend to want our husbands to be mind-readers. “Why doesn’t he just KNOW what I want or need or how difficult my day was!” 9/10 times, they just don’t. Not because they don’t love you, but because they’re wired differently. They don’t see what we see all the time or how we see it. Just tell him. He’ll be more receptive than you think (depending on the delivery of course). Again- my experience…everyone’s different. But you won’t know until you try!
- Going on date nights. Cannot stress this enough. I know it’s difficult with a newborn, especially if you’re nursing- you may have to get creative. But either invest in a regular babysitter (if you don’t have family around) so that you can get out of the house, alone, with your spouse. Or do a babysitting exchange with a friend if finances are an issue. That’s what we do. Once a month- a friend watches my kids so we can go on a date. And then I do the same for her and her husband. There’s something about going out on an actual date- out of the house, without kids, that reminds you “hey…you’re husband and wife, you once didn’t have any kids together, and romance was a thing”, that is so necessary. It doesn’t always have to be a romantic thing, it can also rekindle the companionship/friendship with your spouse too. But that needs to happen without kids around 🙂
- Waking up early and spending time together before he leaves for work and before the kids get up (again, this was only a thing once the youngest was sleeping through the night). It sets a much better tone for my day to spend that quiet time alone with my husband, before the chaos of the day begins. And then…
- Going to bed at the same time. Note: doesn’t necessarily mean falling asleep at the same time. Recently, it’s been me falling asleep while he reads until he’s actually tired. Because I’m 8-months pregnant and tired by about 8pm….ok, more like 7pm…ok, I’m just tired ALL THE TIME. But being in the same room together, in the same bed, at the end of the day, is crucial. Beginning and ending our day together reminds us that we’re in this together- it was just the two of us at the start, and it will be just the two of us at the end (once this season has passed and the kids are out of the house). Keeping our bedroom a sacred space, that kids are not allowed in, also helps. I know not everyone agrees with that and co-sleeping is a big thing for some people, but just not for us. Our kids have taken over the entire rest of the house. Our bedroom is the only space that’s ours. And we like it that way. Perhaps that’s why we’ve had 3 kids in such a short amount of time 😉
I would LOVE to hear other ideas/thoughts. Please do share. What are some things you’ve done to keep marriage/your spouse a priority? Or what are the biggest challenges you face in making that happen?
And because when I share this post on social media, it always looks better with a picture attached, here’s my gorgeous husband/click-bait (yes, I cropped myself out):