My mother taught me a lot of things. She taught me to use my manners when answering the land line. She taught me that if I wanted something, I needed to work for it. She showed me how to volunteer. She taught me how to make Purple Ribbon sugar cookies. But my very favorite thing that my mom taught me was that she and my dad put each other before us.
That might sound odd. It might sound weird when you read it because words don’t have tone when they’re on the page. But of all the lessons my mother could have taught me, helping me understand that a strong marriage took work and dedication – that has become the thing I thank her for the most.
As I grew up, my parents would take trips. Not a lot. But they would scoot off to a hotel for a night away. They took a few vacations to tropical islands without us. They connected and prioritized one another as they were also balancing all of our schedules and logistics. They stood up for each other if one of us talked back to one of them. If one asked us to do something, the other agreed. They would actually ask each other how the other’s day was and listen for the answer. They would hug and kiss and show us that they thought the other was pretty rad. They would go out on date nights. They would leave each other random cards or gifts. They were a united front in the trenches of parenthood. They celebrated milestones with one another. They danced in the kitchen. Of all the things and opinions a child might have as they grow up, I never questioned my parents’ love for one another. And I knew that they put each other first.
And I’m good with that.
Because watching my parents put each other first taught a lesson that I will carry with me forever: I am deserving of being loved.
And now, as an adult – as a parent – as a spouse – I put my husband before my children.
I know. This is a controversial statement. And I get that it might sound harsh to say that I will water the marriage plant as much as I can even before the parent plant. But he’s my husband. And I put him first.
I met my husband before we had kids. We met in college. Dated for a couple of years. We slowly got to know each other. Met each other’s families. We chose one another. And then, after a couple of years of marriage, we decided to have children. And of course, once you become a parent you realize there is no love like a parent has for their child. None. But that didn’t make me love my husband less.
Sure. Parenting is one big balancing act. And if you are fortunate enough to do it with a partner, there is give and take. There are times where you have to do more than the other person. There are times where you have to do things that you don’t wanna do. There are even times where you might not like your partner or spouse all that much. But you love them, still, because they are living the parenting life by your side. And they are the only other one who knows exactly what your going through. So I prioritize my relationship with my husband as much as I can.
I don’t tell the kids, “Don’t tell daddy…” or “I don’t know why your daddy said that but I disagree…”
I don’t just say I love you to my kids. I say it often to my husband. As often as I want and in front of the children as many times as I feel the words.
If the children talk back to my husband or to me, we have one another’s backs. When I tell my kids to clean their room and they complain, my husband backs me up. When my husband tells them they need to finish their milk, I am on his team. And when my husband takes me on a date, he explains to the boys that mommy and daddy need their time.
When we stood at the altar, we said, “For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health.” We didn’t say, “Until we have kids…” We said, “Always. Forever. As long as we both shall live.” And while adding more wonderful people into a family can add more dynamics, it still started with us. And I want it to continue.
When the children were tiny, it was much more difficult to always put these words into action because we were totally exhausted and tag teaming every single move. But we continued to talk and touch base and share our feelings and dreams and visions for our life and for our family. But man, if we hadn’t been on the same page, the long days and short nights would have felt so much harder. And the milestones and successes may not have felt so fulfilling without another human to share in the joy with. Now that we have a little more flexibility, we do everything we can to let our marriage be first. Sometimes, that means that we take a family date night because we all need a change of scenery. Others, it might mean that we get a sitter to be able to have some one on one time. And other times, it just means that we put our phones and computers away and snuggle up together and watch a show. It’s not all romance and flowers. It’s definitely not always easy. But it’s about respecting each other enough to try. It’s about letting each other know that we are here for the other.
In what will someday seem like no time at all, my children assumingly will leave the nest. They will move out, maybe away. And hopefully, my husband and I will be sitting across the table from one another still liking and loving the person staring back at them. And I will once again say thank you to my mother for all her lessons but most of all for loving my father so completely and transparently. And teaching me how making my spouse a priority can make parenting so much more fulfilling and worthwhile.