My husband and I were young when we got married and got pregnant. I remember our announcement to the world and one comment made by an acquaintance. It resonated with me more than any other, even years later. Her comment was, “How blessed is Harper that her mommy loves her daddy.”
When I started this adventure as a new mom, I, like many others, had so many preconceived notions of what kind of parent I was going to be. In particular, I was going to always give my husband 51% and my child 49%, we were never going to bed-share because our bed was for us only, and I would always put my husband first. My mom told me how very hard it was, but I thought she was exaggerating. I thought that her having children wouldn’t have had anything to do with the struggles in her marriage. I imagined that my husband and I would be able to achieve this balance because we would both give 100% to our family and because our love for each other was so deep and all consuming. At the time, the loving was easy. I was still starry-eyed and swooning. The choices were fewer and there wasn’t a bind on my time or my person. I always knew though that I wanted to give my daughter two parents who loved each other as much as and more than they loved her.
But the reality is that sometimes I am barely giving my husband 25%, and I let the toddler sleep in the bed every night for months on end. Sometimes I put everything and everyone but him first. It became so simple to think that he’s an adult and he can fend for himself. There are days when all of my being screams to spend all of my energy on our child, to ask her how her day was, but not ask him about his day; to prepare her plate of food because she can’t do it herself, but not his; to choose to fall asleep in her bed holding her tightly, instead of our own bed because it’s easier and I’m really tired.
But I have a choice; I get to choose.
And I choose to love her by loving him. Growing up, I had two parents who loved my brother and me more than anything; we were their whole entire world. I have never questioned how much they love us, but there have been days in which I questioned how much they loved each other. It was easy then to judge them for that, but it’s a slap in the face now to see how much strength and perseverance it takes to withstand parenthood and marriage, and come out holding hands like they did.
So today, I choose.
I give my marriage the best I can, which isn’t always that 51%, but I try. Sometimes I am really tired, but I choose to do bedtime in her bed, then get up and collapse in my own bed because that’s where he is. Even though I talked to people all day long at work and I don’t actually want to talk to anyone tonight, I ask him how his day was. I choose to have the hard talk about how I treated our family with my bad mood. I choose to not go to bed angry even when it would be so much easier than sharing my vulnerabilities. I choose to reserve every single Friday night as date night even when I think I’m too tired or my spirit is too crushed to go out.
Making our daughter the center of my world may make me feel like I am being the best mother; the reality however, is that I’m not doing anything but hurting her and her dad. It’s easy to say that I have only 18 years with her (and fewer still before she doesn’t “need me” anymore). But who is going to be there when she walks out the door to live on her own? What am I going to do then? I’m going to turn around and look into the eyes of the man who has been there the last twenty years, and that man can either be the husband that I love as deeply on the day I married him, or he can be a total stranger because I stopped pouring into our relationship. My daughter can go into the world thinking distance and co-parenting is the norm. She can think that the two people who raised her did a great job at working out how to raise a child together or she can think about how much her parents love each other and how much she wants to show a love like that to her children one day.
I’m not here to give tips because what works for us isn’t in the cards for everyone. Not everyone can have a weekly date night or talk, but everyone has the opportunity to make a choice. To choose to love your partner and give your partner just as much, if not more than we give our kids. That one comment meant a lot to me years ago; it made me feel like I was doing something right in an otherwise trying time, but the comment means more to me now.