“To raise happy kids, put your marriage first”.
This concept was one my parents taught me, but it took a LONG time for me to actually practice it and let’s be honest—COMMIT to, because this concept takes WORK.
We had kids pretty early in our marriage and TBH my focus became singular once our 1st was born. My time, my love, my entire focus became all about her. And it stayed on her and then her brother who came 18months later. Throw in going back to work full time after her and then part time after him...and then top it off with hubby working 60+hrs/week, and often not home before 7-8pm…well, I’m sure you can understand how difficult that was on the marriage and how finding time to focus on US fell to the side.
Fast forward to 2008. Married for 8 years and with 3 children ages 7 and under. Life was busy and full. I was back at work part time and Chris was as busy as ever - now on to his 5th career promotion since we had been married. This picture was taken on our first plane ride trip away since the children were born. We have been extremely blessed to have had our parents actively involved in helping us raise our children and when they agreed to look after them for 3 days, we jumped at the chance.
Getting away on a quick trip to San Francisco was a blessing. Knowing our children were well looked after while we were gone was priceless. It was a much-needed trip for us to reconnect and rediscover how much we liked each other. It allowed us to remember what it was that connected us to each other in the first place. So often, the busyness of life and the day-to-day grind of parenting, the scheduling, the remembering of all the things can get in our heads and, quite frankly, fills up all the empty spaces so there is little room for anything else.
But what kind of example for healthy relationships are we setting when we make our sole focus that of our kids? What message are we sending about marriage and love when we act as shadows of ourselves, passing each other in the few hours we spend in the same place? Effective communication and love languages are not topics taught in high school or college. Throw in busy careers and little people whose lives we are responsible for and it’s a wonder any marriage survives those first 5 years...
If we don’t put the health of our marriage at the top of our list, when we focus primarily on our children and their needs, we are exasperating our children’s already strong “me” complex that they come by naturally. Our children need to learn that they come third. That while we love them to death and would do almost anything for them, first and most importantly, mom and dad’s individual needs need to be taken care of. Without happy and healthy individuals, there is no way a happy and healthy couple can exist. Secondly, they must see their parents put each other as the next priority. They must see that the couple at the head of the family are connected, kind to each other, and eager to love and serve each other. And, finally, the needs and wants of the children can be addressed. I truly believe that this is the number one way for a healthy family to exist and it is the advice I give to all new moms and dads as they forge forward into the new territory of parenthood.
Over the past ten years (we have been married for 19 so as I said, it took us some time to figure this all out) we have focussed on US. We now have FOUR children, and he has earned the ability to be more flexible at work and set his hours to be present and home much more now than ever. I quit my teaching job and now own two businesses that allow me to focus on my own personal growth and passions while still being a full-time mom (my kids only recently realized that I actually work).
We spend A LOT of time together and when we do, things are good. REALLY GOOD. I have learnt that the tough times come when we get busy and focussed on things that take us away from each other. So, this weekend, I am excited to spend some one on one time with Chris, doing things we love to do. We are jumping on a plane and heading back to San Francisco for a jam-packed 3 days, just the two of us. While we are so terribly sad to only have one of our parents left here with us, we are forever thankful that she is able to continue to be an important part of our children’s lives. We are also blessed to have my brother, whose support to us and our family is so very precious to us.
I am so very excited and thankful to have opportunities to work on our marriage that involve “us time”. Add in travel and fun experiences and there is nothing better.
Next week I share my TOP MARRIAGE TIPS that I hope can help those of you in the early stages.
And, if you have been married for a long time already, I hope you will find it reflects the things that you do to ensure you stay happy, healthy, connected and in love in an exceptional marriage.