Marriage and Motherhood

 

So I was approached a few days ago by my friend Taylor over at Not Just Another Teen Mom about writing another feature piece for her blog. The series is called “Balancing Marriage & Motherhood.” I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical about writing for it at first.

For those of you who don’t know, this ain’t my first rodeo with marriage. I was married to my son’s father and made plenty of mistakes. I am now married to the wonderful man in the picture above and I couldn’t possibly be any happier (as if that isn’t obvious from the stupid grin on my face). It hasn’t always been easy and God only knows how many obstacles we’ve had to overcome, but it has most certainly been worth it.

I have made plenty of mistakes in the area of marriage and motherhood and still do. What kind of advice could I possibly have to offer?!

Then I thought, “Oh, but I have plenty I could talk about! There are a lot of things I’ve done to ensure my hubby doesn’t feel left out…” 

I was totally going to write some of the things a lot of the other women have told you about: date nights, spending quality time together, doing things as a family, etc. Those are all wonderful things to do, but then I thought, “Nahhh…” 

So I’m here to shake things up a bit. I’m going to be flat out blunt.

1. Stop being selfish. 

It’s not all about you. Yeah, maybe you do stay up with the kids at night more frequently than he does and I’m sure you’d love a foot or back rub every now and then. Maybe you spent your day cleaning up puke and washing crayons off the walls. Maybe you are stressed because of something that happened at your job and then that stress was compounded by the fact that your son’s principal called you because Little Johnny skipped third period.

But tell me, do you ever take into consideration how hard your husband busts his ass or the stresses he may have encountered that day? Does he work long hours or night shift? Does he have a job that requires a lot of physical exertion? Does he work in an office setting where he maybe deals with an incompetent boss? Is he on his feet all day?

Stop thinking about yourself. Every person has their own struggles and you can’t possibly know what the other person’s struggles are if you are too busy being caught up in your own. Your needs are no more important than his and that is something that should be recognized and demonstrated on a daily basis – especially because he is your spouse.

I do my best to do this every day, but I’m human and sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’ve had a day where it feels like absolutely nothing has gone right and I’m tired and stressed and I don’t want to cook and the kids are being evil… and my husband sees all of that and he then puts my needs ahead of his own. He will suggest ordering a pizza or going to pick up dinner. He helps with getting the kids into bed. He pours me a glass of wine, pulls up Neflix, and puts his arm around me while I rest my head on his shoulder.

So I always keep that in mind when it comes to him. I will cook his favorite meal. I pick up a new beer for him from a local microbrewery when I’m at the grocery store. I leave him alone (for the most part) when he retreats to his “mancave” for a few hours. I rub his back and stroke his hair at night before he falls asleep and wake up early with him in the morning so we can sit in bed and drink coffee together.

2. Ditch the social media. 

Yes, I know that Facebook is an absolutely wonderful way to stay in touch with your family and friends who are both near and far, but posting a photo of the kids doesn’t require you checking your apps 9,856,783,467 times a day. Especially if it’s a day when you and your spouse are home at the same time!!!

We have a “no phones at the table” policy in our house. It really only applies to my husband and I, considering our kids are only 3 and 1 and a half.  But it helps us connect as a family. We also apply that rule to our date nights. Obviously we bring our phones in case of emergency, but we don’t take them out unless we need to.

Social media is so convenient. You can catch up with the latest on friends and family, chat with people, update family on new life changes, upload photos of the kids, worry yourself sick reading parenting articles, spend too much time analyzing a comment or “Like” from someone, or post passive aggressive status updates regarding “someone” not taking out the trash, “again.”

If you know more about the life of someone who went to kindergarten with your sister’s boyfriend’s mom than you do about what’s new with your spouse, you have a problem.

3. Remember that you and your spouse came before the kids. 

While I know this may not always be the case, you should still act as if it is true (in my opinion). Your children will always be your children. They didn’t have a choice in who their parents are. They will always love you. However, your spouse DID choose you and they can also make the decision to leave. Make spending time with them a priority.

I’m going to add in an excerpt from a post I wrote a few months ago (you can read it here):

“Want to know the secret to having a happy marriage?

The trick is making a conscious effort. Marriage takes a lot of work – it doesn’t maintain itself. You have to get up every day and think “I’m going to do everything I can to put a smile on their face,” and then DO IT. Treat your spouse the EXACT way you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that. Being kind, courteous, considerate, and respectful can go a long way. This is true of any relationship.”

“As his wife, I want nothing more than to see my husband happy. If I have to do a little bit of work to make that happen, then you’re damn right I’m going to do it – even if he doesn’t ask me to.

After all, marriage is about one thing: love.

‘LOVE: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.'” 

 

And I’m out.

*Drops mic*

Marriage is not a game (Part 2)

“I looked for every loveliness, it all came true. I wished on the moon for you” -Billie Holiday

Since there was such a great response to my first post on marriage (you can read it here), I have decided to do a second part. However, I want to touch on the topic of how children can affect a marriage.

Many of my readers are parents as well. I’m an admin for a Facebook page called Mommies With Boys and I post links to my blog on there sometimes. I hope that many of you will be able to relate to this topic and hopefully it will shed some light or offer some insight to situations you may or may not be going through in your marriage. I know there are some of you who probably won’t agree with me, and that’s okay. Hopefully, many of you will.

Some of the things I want to discuss will go back to things I said in my last post. Others will be based off my personal experiences during childhood and now as a parent.

One of these topics is respect.

Respect should be a two way street, like most things in marriage. Not everyone feels this way though. I know a lot of people who feel that before they can give respect, it has to be earned. While this is true, people sometimes fail to remember that their spouse has already earned their respect. You obviously respected them enough to promise to love them “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” so why would that ever change? (If you are in an abusive situation, I personally feel this does not apply to you and I STRONGLY suggest seeking help!)

I actually have a pretty good example of this type of general respect. A couple of months ago, the kids and I went to watch my husband do a jump (military jump, usually from an airplane or helicopter) and, naturally, we were there with a lot of the men he works with. While we were out there, an ice cream truck came out to the drop zone. I wanted to get some for the kids and myself and asked my husband if he was okay with me using his card to make the purchase. He said it was fine and I offered to get him something as well.

Had my card been with me and not in my truck, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the purchase. But I was holding his wallet for him and because I was using HIS card, I respected his property and asked him first. One of his buddies overheard the exchange and, according to my husband, proceeded to say, “You mean your wife actually asks you before she buys stuff?! Can you give me lessons?” My husband responded by telling him that it isn’t because he has some kind of “rule” dictating that I ask him, but rather because we have a mutual respect for one another.

It’s really as simple as following the “golden rule.” You know, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV) That’s all it is.

I touched on that some in my first post; I discussed how I always do my best to take my husband into consideration. In my most recent post (which you can read here) I talked about how once we become parents, we really learn how to be selfless and that we should take that selflessness and direct it towards those around us as well as our children. But learning how to be selfless shouldn’t start with our children – it should start with our spouse. I think that we know what unconditional love is when we get married, but I believe that we don’t fully understand it until we have children.

Now, I’m not saying you should be selfless to the point that your own health or mental well being is suffering. It’s extremely difficult to take care of others and make them happy if you aren’t taken care of and happy yourself. Everyone needs time for themselves too. What I am saying is that if you’re craving Italian and your spouse wants a burger and you got to pick the last time you went out to eat, set your own desires aside and let them pick. Chances are, they will be more likely to do the same for you another time.

You have to pick your battles.

While we’re on the topic of “picking battles,” I have a bone to pick with some of you moms (and dads) out there. Mostly new moms. Now let me go ahead and get this disclaimer out there: I know that what I’m about to say does not apply to y’all as a collective group. But if you find yourself thinking, “Oh crap. I do that sometimes,” then it probably applies to you.

To the new/first time moms (and some of you who have been moms for awhile now)

I know firsthand how exhausting it is to care for an infant. I’ve been through it with two of my own and am now caring for my friend’s son during the day while she’s at work. Earlier this week, I realized that it had been two (maybe three?) days since I had showered because I had been THAT busy and too tired to give a shit. Yes. I know the struggle is real.

I know how tiring it is to wake in the middle of the night (sometimes multiple times) to have to feed your tiny human (those of you who bottle feed, I give y’all MAD props! I have NO clue how you do it). I know how much it sucks to change a diaper and get peed on or better yet, have them dirty the fresh diaper before you can even get it secured. I know how repetitive it can all get and how you’d love nothing more than 10 minutes alone to shower or shave your legs or whatever (see paragraph above).

However, cut the new dad some slack! If you’re a stay at home mom, chances are he spends even less time with baby than you do because he is out working to provide for y’all so that you are able to stay at home. Respect and appreciate that. Don’t attack him when he walks through the door. It’s like hitting him with a brick that says, “I’m pissed because I’m the only one who cares for this kid and you have no clue how hard it is for me!” Real nice, right?

Aside from that, because he spends less time with baby he is NOT going to know how you usually handle things. Don’t expect him to know exactly how to handle something or know how frequently you feed baby, how to tell if they have a dirty diaper, or when nap time is. I don’t know anyone who can read minds, especially out of the guys I know. They don’t have that motherly instinct that is ingrained in us. You have to tell them and teach them. 

On top of that, they may not be comfortable with how you handle some situations or maybe they just don’t agree with you on something. Listen to their opinions and take them into consideration. After all, they are the other parent. I have found that it’s usually just best to take a step back and let dad and baby figure out what methods work best for them. It also encourages their bond.

I’m sure I pissed off some of y’all by saying those things, but it’s the truth.
And guess what?
I don’t care.

Want to know why?

Because I have been guilty of those things and I have witnessed firsthand how much of a negative impact they can have on your marriage.

What you can do instead of those things:

TALK with your spouse and explain to them how tired you are and how motherhood carries a much higher workload than you imagined and it requires a lot of you emotionally. Let them know that there will possibly be days where you need to vent to them about stuff that seems meaningless to them, but that it will make you feel better if they offer a listening ear (and maybe a box of tissues). Maybe set up an agreement with them where they get 30 minutes to unwind from their day when they come home and then you get to take 30 minutes to yourself while they watch baby. Or vice versa. Whatever works for both of you.

ENCOURAGE them to spend time with baby alone. Don’t jump down their throats when they do something the wrong way or differently from you. It took you some time to learn the ins and outs and it’s going to take them some time too. Be patient and helpful without being patronizing.

COMMUNICATE your feelings to your spouse. Don’t get mad at them for something and then storm off and say something like, “Well I guess I’ll just do (insert whatever)… like I always do.” Tell them how their actions make you feel. “You know, when you say/do/act like (insert action/words/whatever), it makes me feel (insert feelings).”

LISTEN when your spouse brings something up. Hear them out on whatever it is they have to say. If they are offering their opinion on something, take it to heart, and try your best to find a solution that works for both of you. When they come to you to express their feelings, don’t turn it into a competition by saying things like “Oh yeah? Well you (insert whatever it is that pisses you off)!” Again, hear them out.

BE APPRECIATIVE of all they do to provide for your family. They work to provide (or to help provide, if you both work) for your family. It’s not exactly fun to work hard for pay you know isn’t going to be spent on the things you’d like to go and do or buy (working moms, I know you know the feeling).

To the new/first time dads (and some who have been dads for awhile now)

On behalf of all moms, I would just like to say, “Sorry!” We’re all kind of crazy and hormonal from time to time. It’s nothing against you guys.

I have no clue what it’s like to be a dad (I don’t have the right parts for that!) but I do know that the responsibilities y’all have are different from those of us moms and equally important. I am a stay at home mom and I know that if it weren’t for my husband working his butt off, I wouldn’t be able to stay home with our kids.

I know that it took longer for my husband to get the hang of the whole parenting thing. He still doesn’t like diaper duty and toddler tantrums or crying in the truck are probably two of his least favorite sounds. He sometimes takes a “suck it up” attitude in times where I’m more likely to comfort. But he can throw them in the air higher than I can and wrestles with them and takes them on adventures and so much more.

But I also know that after working all day, he really wants to come home and have a little quiet time before he has to put on his Super Dad cape and rescue his wife in distress. Sometimes, he takes what I think is a little too long for quiet time and I’m left feeling like I’m alone on handling kids. Sometimes he’s had a rough day at work and it’s still so fresh in his mind that he doesn’t realize I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and struggling to focus on cooking while the baby is playing with tupperware and the toddler is throwing cars across the house. It’s in those moments that us wives are most likely to rip you a new one. Not because you actually deserve it, but because we’re so tired and we just want SOMEONE to pay attention to us and help.

With that being said, help her out! She is only one person and can only do so much before she reaches her limit. And when she reaches that limit, well… bless your heart! Be attentive to her needs. Don’t bring work issues home with you – your family needs you. Take time for yourself, but don’t forget that she needs alone time and the kids need time with you.

If you need help figuring out how to do something for baby (diaper changes, feedings, dressing, etc.), don’t let your pride stand in your way. There is no shame in asking for help or asking to be shown how to do something. You and your wife are a team. Teammates work together towards the same goal. Don’t forget that.

Don’t assume because she’s with the kids more frequently that it means it’s okay for you to make plans to do things that would involve her having to stay home alone with the kids. She is NOT your personal baby sitter! Yes, she is their mother, but YOU are their father and that means you share an equal amount of responsibility.

So, dads, here’s what you can do:

CONSIDER her feelings. When you come home from work, ask her how her day has been. Tell her you’d like to change out of your work clothes first and then you will spend some time with the kids while she grabs a shower or gets dinner ready or whatever it is she needs from you. Offering to do that for her will help her more than you can imagine. It reassures her that you have her back and support her.

TELL her how much you appreciate everything she does for your family. Taking care of tiny people all day (or even after she gets home from work) isn’t always the most fun job in the world. It’s taxing – emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not to mention cooking and cleaning. Show your appreciation for the things she does for you too. Folding your laundry, fixing your lunch, helping you get ready for work, etc.

OFFER to take the kids out for a few hours so she can get housework done or relax for a bit. Or offer to stay home with them while she goes out with the girls. If she’s a stay at home mom, chances are she is DYING for some adult conversation and a good glass of wine!

TAKE the initiative to help her. If you see that the trash can is full, take it out. If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, empty it. Don’t wait to be asked. You are an adult and just as much a part of the household as your wife is – don’t let ALL of the chores fall to her, especially if it’s obvious she is having a rough day or could use a helping hand. Your wife is not your mother. It is not her job to constantly pick up after you and put your things away.

 

Now that I’ve laid it all out there, I have something I want to add on that is directed at both parties:

Always try to one up yourself.

I have read a lot of posts that say you should never stop courting your spouse, and I completely agree with that. However, I feel I’m taking it a step further here by saying that you should always act as if you are your biggest competition.

If you are usually the type to do a random act of kindness for your spouse once in a blue moon, then start doing them more frequently. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate something they have done for you and compliment them. Do it every day. Tell them how much they mean to you and how thankful you are to have them in your life.

Those are all examples of things my husband and I do for each other. We don’t do them once a week, every 4 days, or every other day. Those examples happen every single day, multiple times a day, in our household. I am constantly telling him that I love and appreciate him and that I am blessed beyond measure to have him in my life. I do the same for my children.

Doing those things creates a spiral. Not a downward one towards destruction, but rather an upward one – constantly rising higher and higher.

Marriage is not a game. It’s not a battle of “he said, she said.” It’s not a power struggle. It’s two people accepting the person they married exactly as they are and helping them learn how to grow in their strengths, conquer their weaknesses, and succeed in their dreams. It’s lifting each other up, with love.

Marriage is not a game

My ring finger. Yes, I have a wedding ring too. (This picture was taken while my finger was healing, so I didn’t have it on).

Okay… so this is a topic that is very close to my heart. Some of you reading my blog don’t know me at all and some of you know me very well. For those of you who don’t know me at all, I have a tiny back story to go with this (it’s really NOT tiny… I’m just going to give the very short, VERY edited version).

I have been married before. Actually, I have been married two times before. This is not something I really like to talk about and I’m not exactly proud of it. I always thought of marriage as being something that you should only do once and when you ABSOLUTELY KNOW it’s the right person. I STILL feel that way. However, I learned that sometimes people get married for the WRONG reasons or to the wrong person.

BUT, I also learned a lot about how a marriage SHOULD work and what I wanted when it came to marriage.

My first marriage was most definitely for the wrong reasons. He was a nice person and had some great qualities that I admired and loved, but it was rushed and for the all the wrong reasons.

My second marriage was a combination of being for the wrong reason and to the wrong person. I was pregnant at the time and I believe that played a big roll in it. I think we both thought it was the right thing to do. Long story short, we started off with a lot of resentment and anger between us and that led to a lot of isolation and detachment… which led to more resentment and anger on both sides. A vicious cycle. Arguing became the norm in our house. I reached a point where I decided enough was enough and didn’t see a way for it to be fixed – not without both of us trying equally, and I didn’t think that would happen. I felt that divorce was the best solution. I didn’t want to be in a relationship like that and I didn’t want my son growing up in an environment that was emotionally unhealthy.

I don’t regret making that choice. Going through something like that forced me to take a very critical look at myself and what I could have done differently from the start. I decided that if I were to ever find myself in another serious relationship, I was going to do things very differently. I took a lot of time to learn about myself and what my ideal relationship is. I thought about the things I value in a person and what would be a definite deal breaker for me. I also rediscovered my faith and began growing in it and discovering what an impact it really has on my life.

Then I met the man I now call my husband.

When we started dating, I didn’t immediately think “This is the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” In fact, neither one of us wanted anything serious. Then again, love isn’t one of those things you can schedule or plan out.

“So, you want to realize you’re in love with me on the 5th? Let me check… Yeah, sooo that’s not gonna work with my schedule. Can it wait until March?”

As if.

I honestly can’t pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with him. It was like a candle being lit. The spark happens and it catches the wick, you see a glow, feel a little warmth and before you know it, there is a flame there. And that flame starts off small at first, but then it gradually begins to glow brighter and grow in size.

I can tell you this: his smile is what caused that initial spark.

Before I knew it, I realized I was in love with him. The thing is, just when I think I can’t possibly love him any more than I already do, he goes and adds to the fire. The love I felt for him in the beginning is NOTHING compared to the love I have for him now. That love grows daily. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up dying at 30 because my heart is going to explode from all the love it will be holding. That or my heart is just going to grow and grow and grow. All I know is I’m looking forward to it. I’ll die a happy woman, either way.

Loving my husband is not hard. I don’t consider it a chore. I don’t feel like it’s a competition where we are trying to one up each other and I do my best to not ask too much of him. I make an effort to treat him with respect, at all times. I take him into consideration with every decision I make. I’m open with him. I tell him I love him every chance I get. I make spending time with him, alone, a priority.

Best part of it all is that I do these things and it’s all reciprocated. There are times where he returns my love and then some. He does this with no expectations of reward. He’s not the type of person to think “Well if I help with the dishes, maybe she’ll let me go to the range.” (He knows I won’t tell him “No,” unless we have something planned) Instead, he does things because he thinks it’s something I will like or because he recognizes it’s something I would appreciate. He is considerate and I appreciate that by itself.

It’s absolutely amazing how wonderful marriage can be.

To be honest, I was surprised the first time I ever had that thought. My other marriages were total flops, I grew up with divorced parents, and divorce is now a pretty common thing in our society. People crack jokes about life being over once you get married, how your sex life is going to take a dive into the dumps after a few months and never recover, how there’s always going to be that “one thing” about your spouse that drives you nuts… We have a habit of making marriage sound like this awful commitment.

Aside from those things, I see a lot of people getting really defensive when it comes to marriage. Far too often I have seen my friends complaining online about how their husband didn’t bother to help them with the dishes after dinner or how their wife is always complaining that they don’t pay enough attention to them. Unfortunately, social media only adds to this problem.

People vent to everyone BUT their spouse. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I realized how destructive it can be and learned from it. I don’t do this with my husband. Ever. If I ever have a problem with something he has done or if I’m having an issue of my own, he is the first person I go to. We talk about whatever the issue is and then that’s it. I feel a million times better and in the long run, so does he because I’m not posting crap about it all over Facebook and sharing our problems with the world.

Our marriage is between US. I made vows to my HUSBAND – not my husband, Aunt Martha, Uncle Ryan, Grandma, Grandpa, my girl friends, old friends from high school, my best friend’s brother, or anyone else. So if I only made vows to ONE person, why share every single problem with all those other people? It’s just not right. It’s disrespectful to your marriage and places your spouse in an awkward position because now they have all these people looking at them and thinking, “Why did you do that?!”

Are those people going to work with you on fixing the issue? No. They aren’t. They are going to pat you on the back and say things like “Oh, honey! I’m so sorry!” or trash talk your spouse – worst part is, you’re probably not giving them the full story and now your spouse looks like the bad guy. That’s not fair to them.

Want to know the secret to having a happy marriage?

The trick is making a conscious effort. Marriage takes a lot of work – it doesn’t maintain itself. You have to get up every day and think “I’m going to do everything I can to put a smile on their face,” and then DO IT. Treat your spouse the EXACT way you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that. Being kind, courteous, considerate, and respectful can go a long way. This is true of any relationship.

I don’t do anything because my husband “tells” me to do it. This isn’t because I’m stubborn (I am) or because I’m being defiant. It’s because my husband never “tells” me to do anything. Not once has my husband ever said something like, “You need to go do  the dishes,” or “You have to go vacuum the house.” But he has said things like, “It’s really nice to come home to a clean house,” or “Could you make sure this gets taken care of?” I hear things like that and my first thought is “I like coming home to a clean house too,” or “I really should have taken care of that when I said I would earlier,” and then I make sure I do what it takes to make those things happen. Not because he “told” me to do it, but because I know it will make him happy and he will appreciate it.

As his wife, I want nothing more than to see my husband happy. If I have to do a little bit of work to make that happen, then you’re damn right I’m going to do it – even if he doesn’t ask me to.

After all, marriage is about one thing: love.

“LOVE: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”