“That was true, Iris would sometimes think, about marriage: it was only a boat, too. A wooden boat, difficult to build, even more difficult to maintain, whose beauty derived at least in part from its unlikelihood. Long ago the pragmatic justifications for both marriage and wooden-boat building had been lost or superseded. Why invest countless hours, years, and dollars in planing and carving, gluing and fastening, caulking and fairing, when a fiberglass boat can be had at a fraction of the cost? Why struggle to maintain love and commitment over decades when there were far easier ways to live, ones that required no effort or attention to prevent corrosion and rot? Why continue to pour your heart into these obsolete arts? Because their beauty, the way they connect you to your history and to the living world justifies your efforts. A long marriage, like a classic wooden boat, could be a thing of grace, but only if great effort was devoted to its maintenance. At first your notions of your life with another were not more substantial than a pattern laid down in plywood. Then year by year you constructed the frame around the form and began layering memories, griefs, and small triumphs like strips of veneer planking bent around the hull of everyday routine. You sanded down the rough edges, patched the misunderstandings, fared the petty betrayals. Sometimes you sprung a leak. You fell apart in rough weather or were smashed on devouring rocks. But then, as now, in the teeth of a storm, when ti seemed like all was lost, the timber swelled, the leak sealed up, and you found that your craft was, after all, sea-kindly.” – Ayelet Waldman, Red Hook Road
The quote above is from Red Hook Road
, which I recently finished reading. As I read this paragraph, it spoke to me. I would never think to compare marriage to a wooden boat but the analogy Waldman uses rings true.
I’ve been trying harder to make my marriage a priority, because having three children under the age of three is difficult. And focusing on our marriage — well, it can sometimes take a backseat to all of the craziness and chaos that is our every day life. There is no doubt that it’s been a mind blowing year and the oodles of time we had together when we were dating, and even when we were first married and both working full-time, isn’t a realistic possibility at this stage of our lives.
As most of you who have kids know, keeping a marriage strong in the midst of a gaggle of small children is no small feat. Marriage and ones relationship with their spouse has to be a priority. Even when the kids are gone — I want to still have some idea who the person is sitting across the dinner table. Before I had children, I never gave this a second thought.
I love Mike. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t our love make our entire life magical? Shouldn’t we still gaze into each others eyes and feel swept away by romance? The truth is, with any marriage, just loving the other person isn’t enough. It’s so much more than that. Sure, there are moments when Mike enters the room and I still have butterflies in my stomach, but more often than not when he walks into the kitchen after a long day at work the last thing on my mind is butterflies. My thoughts are to delegate what needs to be done next to expedite our evening routine and instead of greeting him with a hug, kiss, and a warm hello, he’s typically met with a request to help. “Can you feed the girls while I fill Bo’s milk?” or another demand phrased as a question. It should also be mentioned that this request is made with my hair in a ponytail, sweat pant clad, and with three small children wanting Daddy to pick them up immediately. Magical? Not my definition. Romantic? Far from it.
Often, many Mom’s fall into the mindset that we can only focus on our children. However, I’m developing the opinion that nurturing marriage and having a strong relationship with ones spouse is one of the best things a couple can do for their children. One night a month with a babysitter on a Saturday night isn’t going to harm the children. A couples-only vacation once a year where the kiddos are staying with grandparents or others who love them isn’t bad for them. If anything, it’s good for everyone.
On many Saturday nights, after the kids go to bed, Mike and I order take-out and have our own “date” at home. We’ve also recently been more able and willing to go out in the evenings after the kids are in bed as well. Sometimes, on weekdays when I am working my 9 to 1 “shift” I’ll drive to town and meet the Mike for lunch while the kids are at Mary’s. I am trying hard to find bits of time when we can be together and enjoy just being a couple. Sure, it isn’t for very long, and we almost always talk about the kids, but I’m trying to make couple-time more of a priority.
I am very excited that we’ve booked a trip for our 7th anniversary. We’ll be heading to Las Vegas for four nights, the longest I’ve been away from the girls and only one night shy of the 5 nights I was away from Bo when I was on hospitalized bedrest. I know we’ll miss the kids, but I also know that in order to keep our marriage strong, we need to continue to do things together. I am really looking forward to our trip – even though it’s still months away!
Yes, marriage changes when you have children. Mike and I can’t quit our jobs and travel the world. Heck, we can’t even sleep in on Saturday. We have responsibilities. We have small people who depend on us. And even when we make time for ourselves, those responsibilities don’t go away. But while the structure of our life has changed, it doesn’t have to mean that we shouldn’t see each other or spend time together without our children.
Is your marriage a priority in your life? What do you do to keep it strong while in the midst of parenting?