“I just woke up one day and I knew. What I was never sure of with (you) anyone else.” – 500 Days of Summer
This is my most favorite movie line ever! It perfectly describes how I felt and still feel for my husband and exactly why I married him 6 years ago. I just knew it! Like, I knew it even before I knew it.
My husband and I have been married for six years. That’s correct. We have spent a year as a childless couple and then nine months with me as first-time pregnant, one and a half years as parents to our eldest and the rest as parents to two children.
When you start having children, the marriage taking the backseat is almost always the most natural thing to happen. It is easy to say and preach couples to prioritize the marriage before the kids because it’s just the way it should be. Because marriage is a promise to God. Because a happy marriage leads to happy children, happy families. I believe in all these, but, it is sadly not the reality for parents with toddlers, more so two toddlers. Not every couple is blessed with childcare help. Not every couple is blessed with nannies or families that could look after the kids while the mom and dad tune-up their marriage by spending some quality time. And, time. All parents, working or stay-at-homes do not have enough time for their marriage. Some can’t even have one hour of uninterrupted bath time or nap time. It may seem to be the saddest part of parenthood but positive thinking has taught us to view this phase as a temporary challenge.
2013 was the last time my husband and I traveled, to Boracay, for an overnight stay. We have never slept without the kids since then. We are aware that we’re not spending quality time as a married couple since the children were born and with baby no. 3 popping in April, we’re looking at another two to four years of extension of our current situation. Interrupted sleep. Restless weekends. Fast-paced weekdays. Disney movies. Very unromantic selves. Hurried baths. Milk. Vaccines. Pedia dates. School works. Toy clutter.
It’s hard to stay happily and intimately married while parenting toddlers with a little or very limited help from other people, lalo na if none at all! That’s why I’m eternally grateful for my mom and my sister for looking after our kids when my husband and I are working. But, I can’t and won’t abuse their kindness.
So, how to keep a healthy/surviving marriage in the early stage of being parents?
Some things are beyond our control. We ought to pray to God about everything in our life, more so for the things that are beyond our control. Clearly, the young children God entrusted/blessed us with are our responsibilities. Just like how our marriage is our responsibility to God. Both are responsibilities given by God. Both are blessings. Both are to be taken care of. But, since my husband and I are the adults, we are expected to endure more sacrifices, understand better and demonstrate more patience. We cannot expect the kids to understand right now that mom and dad need to leave them for three days to relax, recharge and have some quality time because all we did the whole month was to work and take care of their needs. That’s why it’s important that we pray for God to always send help our way, for Him to strengthen our partnership as parents and for Him to put love in our hearts every single day. That we won’t forget each other and our love for one another while we are so busy taking care of the kids, so busy that it sometimes feels like we are so near each other yet so far. Only God through praying together can overcome this overwhelming challenge.
Lower your expectations.
Before the kids, my husband and I used to travel or go out of town at least once a month. We always eat in restaurants and watch every movie we like. Today, to travel as a couple is a distant dream. We do not expect it to happen in two to four years time. I cannot expect him to spend time with me rather than his work. He has to work harder now more than ever with the family getting bigger and the kids getting older, old enough for schooling. I cannot expect him to be as thoughtful and shower me with gifts, flowers, and chocolates. We strictly follow a budget now. He, on the other hand, cannot expect me to always look my best. I can’t even remember the last time I went to a salon. He cannot expect me to serve him more than I serve our kids simply because the kids cannot prepare their own breakfast just yet. He cannot expect me to be always sweet and caring. He cannot expect me to slim down since I do not have time to exercise. He cannot expect me to be so generous with my time. We wanted our marriage to last so badly that’s why we eventually ended up lowering our expectations, at least in the meantime. And, it works!
Find joy in the most simple things.
When we lowered our expectations from each other it has become easier to find joy and appreciate the simple things. He gives me stickers and I’m happy. I text him I love you and he’s kilig na. We had breakfast at McDo and our day or even the week is already complete for us. We finished one movie one night and we’re overjoyed. We kissed and we feel loved. I used to demand my husband to take me out for an out of town day trip or hotel staycations to spend some quality couple time but ever since I lowered my expectations, it became a lot easier for me to be grateful for any amount of time we spend together, no matter where we are.
Time your conversation.
Conversations inside the house, with the kids roaming around and interrupting us mid-sentence often lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication. That’s why we avoid talking adult/serious matters when we are with our children. We reserve those kinds of conversations including intimate ones at night, when the kids are asleep or during lunch or dinner dates or even during cab rides (while holding hands pa!). Sometimes it’s very tempting to discuss an issue with my husband immediately when we arrive home but I have to gather strength to stop myself if I really want a meaningful talk with him.
Learn to grow individually but together.
I do not really know how to better explain this but in six years, I’ve learned that it is actually good for our marriage if we keep our own individuality. He has his own set of friends, I have mine. He has his own collections and hobbies and I have mine too. He has his own goals and plans for the family and I share mine as well. He has his own undertakings and I mind my own too. And, it’s okay as long as it’s not conflicting and we’re ready to support each other. I don’t force him to go my way and he does not push me his way. We meet somewhere, take the journey together towards the same ending.
Patience and Understanding.
I cannot imagine the disagreements and fight we would have had if we’re not patient with each other. Without patience, it would be impossible for us to understand what the other is saying or what we want and where we are coming from. You cannot possibly love a person you don’t (want to) understand.
At this stage where we have toddlers on our shoulders, marriage may seem like a second priority but no, it is not. Time and money may be scarce to nourish it but God, the source of love will sustain it if we believe and allow Him to. Of course, we have to do our part as well. Right now, I try not to compete marriage against parenting. They do not have to be pitted against each other. I do not need to compare them too, which one is faring well, which one is doing worse. I view them as my twin missions in life. God-given purpose. Nothing that He gives we cannot handle because He provides us with everything we need to fulfill our purpose in life. I love my husband and I love our marriage. I love my kids and part of loving them is giving them a marriage to aspire for and a family to be grateful for to God.
If you find yourself juggling not only work and parenthood but marriage too, lift your worries up there! You are not alone, so, never give up, never lose hope. The tougher the task, the sweeter the success, the stronger you will become and the closer you will be to the Task Master. Have faith my dears (tiwala lang, dear). As the saying goes, if God brings you to it, He will get you through it.
Have a blissful day!
To my ever dearest hubby, happy happy anniversary! Thank you for this sanctuary, our love and marriage.