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Mom's Time Out

Love your kids without losing your marriage

Mary Angel

(2/2015) It sounds like a self-help book, and maybe it should be. Too often parents spend years of their lives so focused on raising their children that they lose sight of themselves and each other. It doesnít have to work that way, nor should it.

When you are first married you are each otherís "everything". You do everything together, you think of one another often, and you find it easy to put your spouse before yourself. This is not to say that the first year isnít a year of getting use to co-existing with another person, but there is only that one other person.

Then suddenly (or not so suddenly) you have a baby. Now there is another person vying for your attention. On top of that, this other person is completely helpless and needy. This little miracle can do nothing without you (except maybe poop, pee and spit up). There is nothing more enduring, especially to a mom, than to see your little bundle of joy and know you are their everything. It can become quite consuming. Let alone the time you spend caring for the baby, by the time the evening rolls around you are less than good company and conversation is limited to you snoring on the sofa. You can easily be drawn away from your spouse without even realizing it. After all, your spouse can take care of themselves. Their existence does not depend on you. Maybe, though, you have forgotten that the existence of your marriage depends on both of you. This relationship that is becoming more of a casual friendship needs time and it needs work.

At some point, maybe, you both agree that when the baby gets bigger things will get back to normal. When your child is older there will be more time for the two of youÖ it will be easier. So you stop trying so hard to make time for the other person. One baby leads to another but thatís OK because you will have more time when they start school. Then the day finally comes when all of the kids are in school. Only now you are both working and your days are spent apart. In the evenings, when you were going to find time for one another, the kids need help with homework, you are going in different directions to get them to soccer practice, ballet, etc. and donít forget the PTA meetings. This is alright though because when they reach middle school and high school they will be independent. Then you will reconnect with this stranger in your house.

The day has come, the kids are teenagers and completely independentÖor are they? Now you are teaching them to drive, picking them up after school from track practice, play practice, and all of the clubs they are in. Having the late night talks about some girl/boy they like who doesnít know they exist and taking them to the mall to hang out with their friends. You and your spouse are now two ships that pass in the driveway. You arenít even strangers in the same house because you never see one another. You still arenít too worried because one day they will be off to college and you will have plenty of time then.

Another mile stone has been met, all of the kids are out of the house. You made it! Now you and your spouse can finally spend time together and put one another first. But, suddenly you realize you donít know this person you are married to (let alone knowing yourself). You have spent so much time doing things apart that you have nothing in common. Not only that but you have spent so much time on your kidís lives that you have nothing that is yours either. You donít even know what you like to do, let alone what your spouse likes to do.

This whole thing could have been avoided. Simply by putting your spouse before yourself (before your children) and by continuing to date your spouse through your entire marriage. I have talked before about dating your spouse. I have even laid down the rules for dating, but sometimes that isnít realistic. That doesnít mean you just forgo it altogether. Quite the opposite actually, you find time whenever you can. Maybe you meet for lunch one day, maybe you both go to swim practice and sit in the car and chit chat instead of watching. I am not suggesting that you never again watch your children at their events; I am simply saying that if you skip a practice here and there to keep a healthy marriage then you are doing your children a better service than making every basketball practice they have. Maybe you put the kids to bed a half hour earlier once a week so you can reconnect, or maybe you feed the kids an early dinner and you eat dinner together later. Not only would you avoid living with a stranger after 20 or 30 years of marriage but what an example you would set for your children.

The bottom line is we love our children, even more than we love ourselves. Sometimes, though, it can be to the detriment of your marriage. We often give our kids the "everything in moderation" speech when it comes to eating, playing video games, and candy. We sometimes forget that "everything in moderation can apply to so much more. In other words, a little more moderation on other things in life and there may be a few extra minutes each week for your spouse! My husband and I know, but donít always remember, that it takes work to find time to work on our marriage. Someday we hope to travel and do all kinds of things together, just the two of us. We hope to find the time now to stay connected for our future. Next monthís article will be Loving Your Family without Losing Yourself.

Read other articles by Mary Angel