When I was visiting my family a few weeks ago, my sister asked me a simple question that prompted me to take a long hard look at my marriage-specifically my role as wife. She was sitting in the back seat, I was doing my mascara in the front seat and my mom was driving. My sister is a newlywed and often picks our brains about marriage, so I wasn’t surprised to see our conversation steering that way again, but what she said caught me off guard. “Mom, Jill, what would you both say are your best tips for keeping your husband in that first-place spot in your life.”
One of the most exciting times in a young married couple’s life is when the pregnancy test shows ‘positive.’ Whether the expected baby was prayed for and desired for years, or a completely unexpected surprise, life as they know it will never be the same. For the mother-to-be, thoughts of nursery decor, a pregnancy wardrobe, and baby gender will consume her. But for the father-to-be, the initial excitement quickly fades into a tinge of fear, especially if he has a strained relationship with his own father. Most men have two major concerns: what kind of father will I be? And how will I adequately provide for this baby? And then invariably, over the course of the pregnancy when thoughts of the growing baby inside of her consume his wife, his primary fear becomes ‘will I lose the girl I fell in love with?’ For some reason, God gave me a keen awareness of this, and very early on I made an intentional decision to always be his wife first.
To be the mother of my children came quite naturally, but sometimes being a wife took intentionality.
We had implemented a date night early in our marriage, before pregnancy and parenting. Mike was playing for the Chicago Bears and was known for his intensity both on and off the field. He was very in tune with his body, and knew he needed an emotional and physical escape from thoughts of the week’s upcoming opponent so he chose to see a movie nearly every Friday night. (I’ve seen maaaaaaany BAD movies.) Admittedly, the initial motivation to go out every Friday wasn’t as romantic as I would have liked, but we both grew to crave our date night each week.
As expected, once children came along planning for an evening out became a little more precarious, but we did it, and here is how: (In fact, these are the two bits of advice I give every new mom)
First, I chose to nurse our babies, but when each child was two weeks old, I introduced a bottle so Mike could participate in feeding. I had an eye on the future and knew if the baby would take a bottle it would be no time before we would be able to enjoy an evening out again.
Second, when our first child was 8 months old, we went away alone together. When I share this with new moms, the overwhelming response is, ‘8 months? I couldn’t possibly leave my baby!’ And I would caution you that if that’s your thought, you ABSOLUTELY need to do it. There are logistics involved, considerations for the baby, but I would challenge mothers of infants to do an honest gut check and see if your husband hasn’t slipped down to second (or third, fourth, or fifth) place in your heart, catching you unaware. Because a baby’s needs are all-consuming, our focus can slowly, ever so subtly turn away from our husbands, adding further fuel to his concerns about losing his first love.
For Mike and me, the key to our date night tradition was premeditation. A great example of this is women who are committed to an exercise routine right up until the time to deliver the baby. They know exactly how much time postpartum before they can do light lifting then graduate to a more strenuous routine, before ultimately returning to their pre-pregnancy workouts. And I propose we need to date our husbands with the same intentionality. You’ll want to be actively working towards the restoration of your time alone with him by taking the necessary steps to get away. If a bottle is impossible, then take time for a coffee date or grocery store run in between feedings. The point is to make a concerted effort to allow your focus to be solely on your man. When you’re motivated to be his forever girl, the sidekick he had dreams of doing life with, you’ll always find a way to make it work.
Oh! Important side note ~ when you are finally alone together, dates aren’t for whining about what your spouse lacks emotionally or physically, nor are they a time to sit and talk only about the children! Dates are a time to remind each other of the reason you fell in love in the first place, no matter how long ago it was.
Thanks for sharing just a small portion of your unending wisdom here on this space, Mom. It was about time I quit hoarding you to myself! If you’d like to read more of her incredible words, you can find her blog here