Whenever I talk to people about my passion for putting marriage first, the most push back I get comes from parents of young kids. I can't tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of, "I can't make my spouse my top priority or even a priority because I have young kids and they need me." To any of you who feel that way when you read my posts or the mission behind my writing I want to say, I completely understand where you are coming from! I have young kids and I know just how easy it can be and how important it can feel to focus all of your time and energy on them each day. I also know that as they get older and we have homework, school and extracurricular activities to worry about, they will take up even more of our time. But I am here to tell you that you can make your marriage a priority and it is VERY important that you do, not only for the sake of your marriage, but for your kids as well.
Before you read any further, I want you to click here to read my post on why you need to make your spouse a priority every day. In the very first paragraph of the post, I explain to you what it means to make your marriage a priority, and I will tell you now that you can still put your spouse first while taking care of your children and their needs. Yes, there will be times when your kids are going to take up the majority of your time, energy and attention. I've been there multiple times with sick kids, newborns, etc. The three weeks that Emmy was in the NICU was one of those times. Our entire schedule was built around making sure that we both got time with each of our kids daily and that we were caring for Emmy and giving Bensen the love and attention that he needed daily as well. But our marriage was important and I knew that I didn't want to let it take a backseat so we did little things to make it a priority. We would sit in our room together for 30 minutes each day while we ate dinner, I would make Joe a homemade lunch every morning while Bensen was napping and drop it off to him on my way to visit Emmy, and we even made time for weekly date nights.
Not only does your marriage need you to make it a priority, your kids need you to make your marriage a priority as well. I know, most of the time our kids seem like they'd want nothing more than to have our full, undivided attention. But I promise that they will appreciate the time and effort that you put into your relationship and one day, they will thank you. I see adults, teenagers and even some young children thanking their parents on social media all the time for the great marriage that they worked so hard to build.
Your kids are watching your example for what a healthy relationship looks like.
Don't hide your affection from your kids. Let them see how much you love each other and make sure they hear how much you love each other as well. They should see you dating one another and pursuing each other daily. Your relationship is the biggest example that they have for what marriage looks like. They will look to your marriage as a blueprint for the type of relationship that they aspire to have in the future. I can't tell you how many times I hear people say that they have adopted certain traditions in their family because it was what they saw their parents doing growing up and they always knew that they wanted the kind of love that their parents had. I've also heard people say that they watched their parents argue over certain things or do certain things that they knew they didn't want to carry over into their marriage and they are doing what they do to avoid that. We hear statistics all the time surrounding the number of people who are in abusive relationships because that's what they saw growing up and that's the only type of relationship that they know. Be the good example for your children, make them want a marriage just like yours!
Your kids need your marriage to be strong so that you can be the best parenting team.
There are a lot of couples who are not on the same page when it comes to parenting their children, don't be one of them! If you are working on your marriage daily and communicating often, you will be more likely to know what your parenting boundaries look like and quicker to support your spouse on a decision that they've made regarding the kids, even if it's something that you haven't discussed yet.
Your kids want a strong and happy family. Your marriage is the foundation of that family, don't let it fall apart.
Before the kids came along, it was just the two of you and after the kids have moved out to start families of their own, it will be just the two of you again. Don't lose yourselves in the years in between, focusing so much on your roles as parents that you forget who you are as a couple. If you work to build your relationship with each other, through small moments every single day, you won't have to get to the empty-nester stage of your lives only to find out that you don't know the person you are married to anymore. Instead you will grow in life together, your relationship will be even stronger in retirement and you'll be even more in love than you were when you were newlyweds.
When you head out the door for date night and your little one starts to cry, don't feel guilty! If you plan a mom and dad only getaway for a night or two or more, don't feel bad that you aren't taking the kids with you. When you look forward to their bedtime every night so that the two of you can have some one on one time and peace and quiet, it's ok!
Date night is one of the nights of the week that our kids look forward to. They love playing with their cousins, who tend them, and they know that they will get to go on a date with mom and dad sometime during the month as well. When he finds out that a babysitter is coming over, our three year old always asks, "Are you going on a date?" When we walk out the door, for date night he tells us to "have fun on your date!" And the next morning when he wakes up, one of the first things he asks is, "Did you have a good date mom and dad?" usually right after he tells us how much fun he had with the babysitter. As he gets older and understands the meaning behind date night, I hope that he continues to have just as much enthusiasm and excitement for us when we have one planned.
We've made weekend getaways a priority in our marriage from the beginning and they've been something that we look forward to even more now that we have kids. Sure, it's hard to leave them sometimes and we miss them when we're gone, but it does wonders for our marriage to have a day or two of uninterrupted quality time when we have nothing to worry about but each other. After our first kid free weekend away, I shared this post with a few tips for enjoying your time away and minimizing the worry that you have for your kids back home. We call our kids once or twice a day when we're gone, for sure right before we know they'll be going to bed, and never once have they asked us to come back; In fact, they usually cut the conversation short and run off to finish whatever fun thing they were doing with grandma and grandpa when we called.
One of the biggest things that I remember talking about in a few of my parenting classes in school was set bedtime for kids. Our kids are always in bed sometime between 7 and 8pm at night, and we don't let them get back up for any reason, unless of course they are really sick. We reserve that time between their bedtime and ours for "mom and dad time". A lot of parenting books will use that term when talking about how to get the kids to go to bed. I remember that being discussed in Love & Logic Parenting specifically as a tool to use when telling your child that they cannot come out of their room after they've been tucked in for the night. Be selfish with your evenings, it's ok!! You deserve to relax, have a mini date, watch some Netflix and enjoy a little dessert together.
I hope that our kids see the moments when we're laughing together, kissing in front of them and doing life as husband and wife and recognize how much we love each other. I hope that they appreciate the time that we put into our relationship and strive to do the same in their future marriages as well. I know that we won't regret any of the efforts that we make to make our marriage a priority and keep that love that we have for each other alive.
What things are you doing on a regular basis to make your marriage a priority?