You remember that old singsong rhyme, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage?” It got me thinking about the order of those events. Love, then marriage, then baby. Now, while in today’s society it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to see many parents in love without being officially wed, you still find that for the most part, baby comes after two people fall in love. And I find that it’s no coincidence that to keep the love alive, the baby prospering, and the family running smoothly, those steps should be continued in that same order for the rest of our lives. My relationship with my spouse is so important and vital to raising children that we will always put each other first, even before our kids.
Okay, obligatory statement that of course I’m not talking about neglecting my kids for the sake of my own desires. Nothing like that. I’m only saying that if I want to show my children what a healthy relationship is like, so that one day, they can find one for themselves and be equally as happy, then I need to keep that relationship alive with my husband to do so. If I want to keep sane, remembering who I am outside of motherhood, I need to nurture my love for the man who made those children possible in the first place.
How can I expect to make it through a whole lifetime, a whole eternity, with one man if we don’t put constant effort into our relationship? How can I expect to model what love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, and compromising can do for your relationship if I’m not actually taking those steps with the father of my children?
When you put your marriage and love first, your kids don’t suffer; they prosper. They learn they are safe, enveloped by parents who love them and each other. They see mom and dad (mom and step dad, step mom and dad) working as a team. They learn how important date nights are because mom and dad come home happy and rejuvenated, which seems to affect every other aspect of life.
When you put your marriage and love first, you don’t suffer; you prosper. You spend your life constantly getting to know your spouse better, becoming closer friends, and fulfilling each other’s needs. You learn maturity in disagreements, how to communicate effectively, and how important time away from the demands of children really is. You learn how to become better, more patient parents.
Let’s say you aren’t “filling your love bucket” and are getting enveloped in your children’s lives. It’s an easy thing to do: when you have babies, they need literally everything done for them to survive. It’s a stressful time of life. When you have older kids, their schooling and interests take over your time as you strive to help them become better, smarter, and well rounded. You get exhausted between family, work, and life demands so by the end of the day, reconnecting with your spouse means just sitting on the bed together scrolling through your phones. But what happens when the kids grow up and move out? Now it’s just you and this man you know you’ve loved, but have just been running beside this whole time, surviving a crazy ride together. Or what happens when, during the ride, you realize you are beginning to take different paths and can’t seem to reconnect?
Of course being there for your children is important. Of course you love them and tend to put their happiness and needs above your own. Of course there will be moments in life when you need to calm a nightmare or read 35 bedtime stories before you can head off to a date or finish your pillow talk with your man. But there will also be times when your spouse needs your undivided attention more than your toddler needs a fifth cup of milk. There will be times when work schedules have been crazy and you’ll need to reconnect with your spouse on a date more than you need the money for the babysitter. There will be times when working through arguments needs ten more minutes before you can leave for the baseball game on time. It’s all about finding a good balance that works for your family and your relationship. But there’s nothing selfish about tipping that balance towards your spouse regularly.
What if you are separated, divorced, or there never was a partner in crime? The same principal applies. There is nothing wrong with parents who find themselves alone in this race, who make sure to love themselves enough first, in order to become better parents for their kid(s). Single parents become mom AND dad, taking on even more responsibilities by themselves and often losing themselves to the world of their children. Work becomes only about providing for daycare. Weekends become catch-up days with the kids. Girl’s nights can easily become a thing of the past. But when you take the time to love yourself, or a budding romance with a man who is determined to be a great stepfather, your kids benefit. You become a better mother when you selflessly care for yourself.
Love came first. Find a balance to keep it first, for the sake of the entire family.