Two moms who have learned to keep romance alive through 20 years of raising kids share some of their ideas. Pam Lobley has been married 24 years and is the author of Why Can't We Just Play? What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy, a memoir of how she let her over-scheduled kids spend an entire summer forgoing ALL planned activities and instead just “play.” Annette Ross has been married 22 years and is the author of Where Fairy Tales Go:A Love Story, the story of her accidental paralysis during the birth of her second child, and her journey forward with her family.
Pam: I feel like whenever people say keep the “romance” alive, what they really mean is sex.
Annette: But the word “sex” seems kind of cold and ungraceful.
Pam: We could call it lovemaking …
Annette: Ew! Now I feel like Ron Burgundy in Anchorman. Can we just say intimacy?
Pam: OK, intimacy. People might think that being parents and being intimate just don’t go together, but that is not true.
Annette: It's just that when you have kids, it becomes difficult to simply find the time to be together.
Pam: When our kids were little, they had really firm bedtimes. Then we got to have time for each other. Now, our boys are teens and they are busy with their own plans. At first I felt sad that they were always out with friends. Then I realized – this means we’re free to make our own plans! It makes me laugh to think that we spend the first part of our romantic lives dodging our parents, and the second half dodging our kids!
Annette: Ha! Of course, the most obvious way to keep love alive is intimacy, so you just have to make the time. That is how you thrive. It has been a mutual decision to make our time alone a priority even if it means we get less sleep. Never once have I thought, “oh it's not worth the sleep deprivation.”
Pam: Lol! Yes, you have to schedule it. That might sound stultifying, but it’s not.
Annette: And you have to be creative. My injury was the catalyst for us to become creative with our intimate life and surprisingly it was my husband that guided me thru it. Well, we have 5 kids, so …
Pam: So things are fine! Making time for intimacy ties right in with what I was going to say next which is, when it comes to family life, put your marriage first. It is so tempting to let your whole relationship become about parenting. Micromanaging your kids is an epidemic, and it’s easy to catch that fever. As I learned from my experience, all that scheduling and hovering over your kids is not good for them, or for you! Having a strong marriage is one of the best things you can do for your kids.
Annette: Talk to each other – but not only about the kids and the bills! Every night before we go to bed I ask my husband about his day, and he immediately starts to relay the tasks he accomplished. Once he's done I ask again - how are YOU?
Pam: It’s a hard thing to do – to talk about deeper things when life is so fraught with surface details. The older the kids get, the teen issues of driving, college, technology, etc., threaten to take over every conversation. We have to work to carve out time to listen to each other.
Annette: We get so caught up in all the things that demand our attention each day. I think it’s important to remember your spouse is also a person who once had dreams, and still does.
Pam: Remember when you were first dating? All we talked about were our dreams and plans! It’s so rewarding to talk about those things again together. And when it’s a special occasion, make things special, send flowers or buy their favorite wine, etc. I know so many couples that say, “Oh, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore.” I think that is sad. It’s easy, when you’ve been together a long time, to think, “We’re past that stuff, we know we love each other.”
Annette: Of course you’re not past romance! Why would you want to be? All the things you’ve been through together is what builds the bond you have.
Pam: As our kids have grown, and I’ve seen my husband go through so many roles with the kids: comforter, playmate, teacher, coach, mentor, etc., it just increases the attraction that we share. Even if, or maybe especially if, those time were challenging.
Annette: There will be difficult times in every marriage. When times are tough, it can be gratifying to reflect on your vows … “for richer or poorer, in sickness and health”.
Pam: We’ve been through so much that I can’t even remember it all. It’s fun to reminisce about all the different phases of our lives together. You can feel the sense of your accomplishment.
Annette: Here’s what I say. Love is a verb: it’s what you do for the other.
Pam: Happy Valentine’s Day!