Momfession Monday: Making Marriage and Children Work

{Husband} and I had a long distance dating relationship and a nine-week engagement, putting us under the same roof with life’s biggest commitment approximately two years after we first said hello. To say that we knew each other is almost laughable now, nearly six years in.

We planned to think about having kids a couple years after we got married so that we could spend a while establishing ourselves first; perhaps draft a thesis on what we wanted our family to be about . . . or at least have enough time together to get our family mission statement tattooed on our arms, only to regret it when we woke up, groggy and hungover, wondering where all the empty pizza boxes came from.

All plans were thwarted when we got pregnant four months into our first year of marriage.

The news came as a lightning bolt straight into our home: beautiful and awe-inspiring with enough distance, but absolutely terrifying when the crack of its impact pierces into your living room. On one hand, we had to face the fact that we weren’t going to have time to check off everything we thought we could accomplish before kids. On the other hand, the news came with the heavy-handed realization that it was not about either one of us individually any more. The unifying impact this had on our relationship was astounding.

We are now six years into our family, and we have two toddlers capering alongside of us. There are precious moments, like when the four of us are tangled up on the couch together eating popcorn, or running through a park chasing one another and laughing.

There are also dreadful moments where one of them has pinched the other, and I’m mad because {husband} is on the phone, and he’s mad because I can’t keep them quiet enough, and on my way to referee, I trip on a cup of water that was left on the ground, and then the pincher slips and starts crying louder than the pinchee, and I’m blaming {husband} for not picking up after himself, and doesn’t he know that these children cannot be left to their own devices for more than two minutes?!

Marriage, with or without children, is work. With the added stress of sleep deprivation, and the responsibility of raising functional human beings, it’s tempting to let it slip out of range of our radar simply because we’re tired (really tired) of being grown ups. The tyranny of the urgent is the greatest threat to a cohesive family.

“No, {husband}, I’m not interested in hearing about the conversation you had with your boss this week. I have a sucker-licking toddler saddled on my hip petting my hair with his sticky fingers, and I haven’t peed in 18 hours.”

On our best days together, {husband} and I are an unstoppable force. We function as a team on mission, laughing during time outs, high-fiving in the hallway, and kicking rear on the field.

But in this demanding phase of parenting two young children, our enemies kids could easily drive a wedge between us for complete upheaval. They’re needy, and young, and have not been properly trained in etiquette and reform, and are honestly a bit manipulative at times. It’s surprisingly easy to focus all of our energy and attention on them.

But when we save the marriage stuff for after the kids go down, we end up falling into bed instead: understandably drained, and likely with wounded feelings and un-brushed teeth.

I’m guilty of giving {husband} whatever is left at the end of the day. You want time? Okay, I’ll meet you on the couch at 9:30 p.m., after I’ve cleaned up dinner and made the preschool snack for tomorrow. You want affection? How about Thursday night after I take a shower? Or, I could pencil in some handholding on Saturday . . . I’m realizing more and more that our marriage can’t be built on leftovers.

couple fightingOur marriage must to come first or else the whole thing will be shot to hell. Sure, our kids might survive if marriage doesn’t, but our family wouldn’t. Family is based on the idea that people love each other enough to take all the bad and good — and love anyway. It’s root work, foundation building, going deep enough to see the ugly under-the-surface stuff, and growing together anyway.

If our kids don’t see us kissing in the hallway, fighting in the kitchen, making up, dating, talking uninterrupted, or laughing until our sides hurt, then they’ve missed the point of all of us being in this thing together. They haven’t witnessed what it looks like to love when you don’t feel like it, or still care when it seems you’re always batting last.

We want our kids to grow up understanding that {husband} and I existed before them. They didn’t create us; they joined us. And we’ll all have each other’s backs no matter what — even if we sometimes spew harsh words, or slam doors, or lock ourselves into the bathroom to cry.

A healthy marriage is redemption with skin, an “I forgive you,” before there’s ever even been an apology, an ever-morphing portrait of unconditional love. It’s having the deep seeded knowledge that I could do life without {husband}, but asking myself a million times a day, why would I want to?



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