Years ago, a girlfriend said to me that her husband was her first priority, over her children. At the time, I was the bleary-eyed, leaky-breasted, hormone-laden mother of a two-year-old and eight-week old, so I found her comments outrageous.
That anything could be more important than the all-consuming love affair I was having with my babies was just nonsense. Of course I loved my husband. Of course he was important. But he was also a grown man who could look after himself as compared to the children who were pretty much helpless and needed my full attention and devotion. Not to mention, the idea raised my feminist hackles just a bit.
We’re a few years further along the track now – the milk has dried up, the hormones eased off and the effort of motherhood morphed into a different paradigm – and my relationship with my husband has become a much higher priority. That’s not to say that he gets more of my attention (he still gets bugger all of it actually), but in my mind I’ve recognised that I must, and want to, place more emphasis on my marriage.
Sometime last year, it occurred to me that I missed my husband, and the couple that we used to be, before we became parents. I missed those holidays and trips we used to take, the time we used to have for each other, and the general togetherness that used to define our relationship. It’s all still there – somewhere under the layers of family life – and it dawned on me that I’d like to experience it again, well before the kids fly the coop. I didn’t want to have to wait another 10-12 years, once the kids are finished school, to re-connect and do stuff together again.
I love my kids. It’s such an understatement – ridiculously small words to describe something so immense and other-worldly. But their life is still to come – they will move on, as they should, to follow their own pathways, take their own journeys and form their own partnerships. And I will be stuck with their father. At least that’s what it will be like if we make no effort to be a couple in the meantime. On the other hand, the empty nest could rather be a case of finally being free to dance naked in the lounge room with the love of my life (and won’t that be an attractive sight by then!!).
The children still take up the bulk of my time, but the family equation is a little more balanced. I love the kids, unconditionally and absolutely forever, but my marriage must not be left to languish as a result. It’s all too easy for motherhood to totally take over and for the key partnership in your life be taken for granted. But that connection with your significant other is a vital component of your happiness, both now and in the future.
Putting time and effort into your relationship is also great for your kids. Seeing their parents having a close and happy relationship sets the standard for what they should have with a partner when it’s their turn, and it promotes a sense of security and togetherness for them.
It also defines some boundaries for them – that even though they’re important, they are not the only ones in the family who are, and that mum and dad are a team.
It’s our 17th wedding anniversary on Saturday, so we’ll head out for dinner (something we do about oh, once a year!), and try not to spend the whole time talking about the kids!
Do you have the balance right at your place?