I was chatting with a mom friend yesterday I hadn’t seen in months. Her marriage is on the brink. She was at the point emotionally where she wanted to cry but shrug at the same time because she didn’t know what tomorrow would look like.
I hugged her tightly and told her I was there for her. But it’s so hard, I know. Marriage with young kids is harder than any other relationship hurdle I’ve experienced. And I know a lot of moms—maybe most moms—experience the same thing. Having kids, something that should tie us to our partner more than anything, pushes us apart daily, even moment to moment.
It’s the sleep deprivation; it’s the schedule shifts; it’s the dissolution of privacy, sense of self, and autonomy. It’s the lack of communication, and not because you both aren’t trying . . . but because you do not have a minute alone with just the two of you.
“Marriage is all about communication.”
PLEASE STOP RIGHT THERE. If you don’t think we don’t know that already and that hasn’t been hurled down our throats enough times to choke us out, you are dead wrong.
But to even have a minute to communicate . . . where is that? Is that the few minutes I’m sitting on the toilet hoping no one is hovering outside the door? Is that changing into my pajamas and washing my face, appreciating a few moments of silence while keenly listening for signs of raised voices from the kids downstairs? Is that at the dinner table, while my kids throw food and my husband and I try to keep our voices calm, eat as fast as we can, and keep our kids’ plates from winding up on the floor?
Or is the few moments we do manage to steal away for ourselves, when we play on our phones or stare out the window? When our bodies mentally shut down and reboot, ready for the next energy burst? Because those moments are important, too. Those moments sometimes feel like the only thing keeping me sane and grounded when it feels like I’m going to shift into mommy rage or perhaps something even worse—contempt.
And yet, it gets easier. Everyone says it gets easier and I am starting to feel it ever so slightly. The kids are starting to play a little more on their own. My husband and I sometimes catch ourselves in the bedroom alone while the kids play together peacefully. On car rides, in bed, and in the calm moments we can engage, make eye contact, and see each other again.
Because when I look in my partner’s eyes, I see him. I see the man I married. He’s not just a dad. He’s my love. He’s my life partner. He is in this circus right there with me. And even though this time in our lives is so, so hard, this is making us stronger. A little stronger every day. Our kids make our marriage stronger.