In the balancing act of motherhood, I often feel the role I sacrifice the most is that of wife. I do “wife” things, but I feel that I’m so emotionally overcharged with all the other obligations of life that I neglect to put in the emotional connection my marriage needs.

Marriage after kids is a different relationship than it was before the kids. I look at my husband and myself in our crazy hectic lives with three kids, a dog, homeownership, two careers in education, side income projects and will wonder are we normal? Is this the way our relationship is supposed to look at this point? We’re here together over a decade later; we’re a team working to manage this crazy life we love but drown in sometimes.

I love our kids more than anything but there are times I miss the two people we use to be. I miss those two younger versions of ourselves who probably partied too much but always had a good time. I miss those two lovebirds who were a little too impulsive but built a life out of two broken down cars, a microwave, a box TV, and a newly crippled dog in a new place with no friends or family within hours.

I willingly gave up party nights for three kids I love more than anything, but every once in a while, I’d trade those comfy mom panties in to dig sexy out of the back of the underwear drawer for a fun night out on the town with my husband before crawling back into my old body in bed next to the kids. I’m pretty sure there are days my husband misses that girl, too. I wish for my younger, thinner body more days than I care to admit. Every now and then, when we do get to escape for a night without the kids, I get a glimpse of the two people we used to be—and I know we’re still here, buried somewhere under mortgage debt, career stress, and sleepless nights of parenting.

We all moved forward in this journey called life to the next chapter of parenthood, but I’m tired of pretending I don’t miss the girl I was before motherhood or who we were as a couple before parenthood. It’s OK to miss who we used to be before parenthood. Don’t get me wrong; I love who we are as the mommy and daddy we have become. We are different and better people than we were back then. But as the fairytale we envision as young girls slips further and further away and reality settles in, the everyday life of parenthood and all the balance it entails, I hate the widening gap of who we used to be and who we are. We’re so busy, we’re so tired, and we’re so overwhelmed. We love each other, but don’t know how to make time for just each other anymore.

It feels as if there’s an ocean of distance between us, even though we sit beside each other at the table and sleep beside one another in bed (usually with two or three kids between us). Sometimes I feel like we’re going through the motions of life, and even though we smile and hug each other, we rarely connect like we used to. I always envision us taking the time to “journey back to us” one day in the future when the kids are older and more independent, but I get anxious sometimes that these overwhelming years of raising small children is going to create a gap between us that’s too wide to swim across in the end.

Somewhere in the rush to be mom and dad, to have it all, to be it all, to give them our all, there lurks the fear we’re about to lose it all.

I’m realizing if I don’t want my marriage to get lost at sea, never be recovered again, I have to figure out now how to not sacrifice the wife part of me for the mother and all the other parts of me. That role has taken a backseat for almost a decade now.

At some point, we can’t put ourselves last any longer. This thing called marriage is a work forever in progress. To give and give and give of ourselves to our careers, our kids, our homes, and everyone else but ourselves and each other leads to resentment, anger, depression, and a sense of loss—a loss of ourselves and a loss of who we are in this marriage. We think we need to do more, be more, have more all for this false illusion of better.

Maybe at some point, it’s time to go back to the basics. Love notes in the laundry baskets instead of expensive jewelry. A night outside under the stars with some music rather than an expensive dinner and night out on the town. At some point, there’s a time to stop planning ahead and go back and rediscover the two people who built this life from so little. We owe it to them—those two young people full of hope and dreams and naiveté—to not just cover up the mistakes and the wrongs, leaving them there to rot all we’ve built.

The work we have to put into our marriage is some of the hardest work we’ll put into our lives—even harder than raising our kids, because that love is unconditional—but the love of a marriage is a choice. A choice we have to make over and over again past that initial “I do”.

Maybe there comes a time in marriage, after the careers are built, after the kids are out of diapers and a little older, after we have painstakingly built this life, where we have to tear it down a little in order to rebuild it right, to correct the mistakes and flaws and cracks and make everything right between us again. Together, we’ll put in the work to tear down those walls that putting aside our marriage built—and rebuild something stronger than before. It’s never too late to build something greater. 

Angela Williams Glenn

Angela Williams Glenn writes about the struggles and joys of motherhood on her website Stepping into Motherhood. Her book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas examines the expectations verse the realities of motherhood in our modern day digital era and her book Letters to a Daughter is an interactive journal for mothers to their daughters. She’s also been published with Chicken Soup for the Soul, TAAVI Village, Bored Teachers, and Filter Free Parents. You can find her on her Facebook page at Stepping into Motherhood.