This past weekend my husband and I had the opportunity to enjoy a weekend retreat sans kids. During this babymoon of sorts, I read two books, slept more consecutive hours in two nights than I usually sleep in about three, and most importantly, had time to hop off the mommy track and enjoy my role as wife. (Based on Madeline’s briefing, the weekend went very well for her and her sister, too. “I laughed until my sides ached. Really. My sides were aching,” she informed me.)
Despite my recent emotional, apocalyptic, woe-is-me, preggo rant (thank you for your prayers!), I stand by my belief that every couple needs an occasional getaway. A break from the routine and yes, the kids, is good for your marriage. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. We stayed at my in-laws’ unassuming cottage in the middle of nowhere and ate out at inexpensive, casual restaurants. But we were alone – no kids, no beeper for Dave, no Internet, no rushed mornings, and nowhere to be. Just a weekend for the two of us where we could read beside each other, knees grazing, arms pressed together, and simply take pleasure in being husband and wife without kids or work demanding anything from us.
I’m not sure when another weekend getaway will be possible with a baby on the way, but even when my mothering role makes leaving our children impossible, regular at-home date nights with my husband are non-negotiable. Every week we carve out an evening that allows us to make the shift from a parental unit to a dating unit that’s silly, flirty, and sometimes intellectual.
Now that we have cable television, we’ve been watching 24 together, sitting side-by-side rooting for Jack Bauer. When I’m not pregnant, we have regular wine nights where we talk while sipping vino (Trader Joe’s famous Two-Buck-Chuck makes me a cheap date). What we do isn’t the important thing; it’s the fact that we’re together. And this “together time” is sacred, not only for our marriage but for our kids as well.
Back in Dave’s med school days, I met an amazing couple through my parish who had eight kids (they now have nine). I ended up interviewing them for a feature article on big families and asked them to share tips for other couples who felt called to parent a big brood.
Here I expected them to go on and on about the kids, managing a busy household, or at least address some of the practical concerns of feeding, transporting, and taking care of a large family. They mentioned these things, of course, but they stressed that the most important advice they would give other couples was this: “A healthy marriage is the foundation of any healthy family, no matter the size. Kids feel more secure and loved when their mom and dad are committed to one another.”
I was a newlywed at the time who’d been given very similar advice from my own parents, but I didn’t fully realize the truth of this wisdom until I joined the Parent Club.
Kids require a lot of time, energy, and love. Sometimes after a tough day in the trenches I may feel like I have nothing left to give, but I’m careful not to put my husband or our marriage on the backburner. Likewise, I think moms in particular have to be careful to not fall into the trap of only seeking intimacy in the sweet embrace of our children. I’ve promised myself that I’ll always make time to “date” my husband even when my life circumstances and good, old-fashioned exhaustion might make it easier not to. Not doing so wouldn’t be fair to my husband, our marriage, or our kids.
The other day Dave kissed both of the girls good-bye before leaving for work. Our toddler started pointing at me, saying, “Mommy, kiss! Mommy, kiss.”
Dave said, “Oh, you want me to kiss Mommy,” and took me in his arms and feigned swooning over me. Then he planted a loud, overly-dramatic kiss on my lips. I laughed, and when we broke our lovey-dovey gaze, we caught both of our girls looking at us, smiling.
Right now, they’re too young to get grossed out by our affection. Yet, even when they’re older and I suspect I’ll almost be able to hear the eye-rolling, I’m going to bet on the fact that they’ll secretly want to see those hugs and kisses, to know Mom and Dad are secure in their love for each other and in their love for them.