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Challenge: Taking Care of YOU

Maintaining a Relationship in the Middle of Parenthood

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I barely remember the days when Mom wasn’t my name. They seem far off, like a dream—a magical kingdom I grew up in. Of course, I love my title, and even the huge responsibility that comes with it. Thankfully, I’ve survived midnight feedings, teething, diapers, potty training, colds, stomach flus, temper tantrums (whoever named them “terrible twos” hasn’t met a three-year-old), bumps, scrapes, and bruises of all kinds—times two. I am now a soldier and a master at hostage negotiations. And in the midst of all of it was joy—the rewards of parenthood.

I was with my husband for eleven years before we had children. We stayed up late, went on spontaneous fishing trips, slept in, and spent money on whatever we wanted to spend it on. I thought I knew who I was, but I was about to become something much greater.

Motherhood often means a lot of sacrifice: sacrificing time—perhaps taking a job to support your family—sacrificing sleep, sacrificing luxury items for groceries, watching that Disney movie for the zillionth time, and even sacrificing a marital relationship that helps define who you are.

So who am I really? If I weren’t a mom, who would I be? What are my interests? I can tell you for sure that I am not a Disney fanatic, although I do know the theme song to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse by memory. What about my relationship? Who are we? Before kids, my husband and I were swing-dancing partners. We went antiquing on the weekends.

When we became Mom and Dad, it was essential that we made an effort to preserve our relationship, amidst all the parental stressors. Occasional date nights, overnight vacations, and even staycations were necessary to recharge. Who would we trust to watch our kids though? Being the helicopter parents that we were, trusting someone to guard our two biggest treasures was difficult.

But we were lucky. My parents had just retired, and grandchildren were number one on their list of retirement plans. They were old enough to be wise, kind, and patient, yet young enough to drive my kids to practice or have them for an overnight trip—filled with wild Uno games, movies, popcorn, and dessert with seconds of course. It made me feel better knowing that they enjoyed watching my kids, and I knew that studies had proven that it’s good for the grandparents’ brains. I knew it was good for mine. Win-win.

My husband and I needed time to talk about things other than potty training, who’s going to make dinner, and who’s picking the kids up from school. We needed to be able to grab our keys and head out the door once in awhile without searching for shoes and wiping dirty faces. We needed time to hold hands without holding toys and half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Even small breaks helped refuel me. Even though some overnight trips found me looking at my kids’ pictures a lot, it was so nice to be temporarily relieved of the great responsibility that comes with parenthood. I discovered my relationship with my husband again. There was a renewed sense of who I was as an individual. I was even a better parent because I had more to give.

There is so much identity in motherhood. I love my title. And I’ve found that I don’t always need a babysitter to try new things. Recharging my relationship also means improving and strengthening my sense of self—how could I be present for another if I didn’t know who I was or what was of value to me? I realized that I needed to do something for me sometimes. So, I just joined a book club, and I’m learning piano for the first time with my eight-year-old. We go hiking on weekends, and I’m challenged there, too.

At nights, I put the kids to bed at eight o’clock (after a story of course), and then it’s me time. I have two hours to take a hot bath, read a good book, straighten up the house, and maybe pay some bills. And every night, no matter how tired we are, my husband and I make time to cuddle. Some days we are two ships passing on the sea, but if we make that connection before sleep, our marriage just seems better. We feel closer. One day it will just be the two of us again, and if we don’t keep connecting, we’ll be strangers living together in retirement—a time that should be filled by two happy individuals watching our grandchildren.

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