There is some undocumented, yet (I am convinced) scientific Law of Motherhood, stating that every time my husband travels, my kids will wake up sick in the middle of the night. If I could perform a time-travel/alternative universe experiment, I’d undoubtedly discover that if he stayed home instead of me, our children would remain as healthy and cheerful as Gerber babies.
We are blessed to be moms. But it goes without saying that we also experience a loss of autonomy and personal freedom our spouses typically don’t. And somehow, when we are at our most exhausted and in-demand from children, we are also supposed to find the wherewithal to love our husbands. It’s a challenge.
In Gary Thomas’s book, “A Lifelong Love,” he describes marriage as a “prophetic call and duty before it is a playground of romanticism. It’s a serious business, not a sentimental act of whimsy.”
This is especially true when children enter the picture. In no other season of marriage is such serious energy required at the very same moment we have little-to-none to pour into it. Nurturing the needs of a spouse while also tending to your kiddos is no small task.
I remember a few years ago, sitting on the stairs with my husband, both of us weeping. “I haven’t supported you,” I confessed. “I don’t even have the energy anymore.”
“I haven’t loved you like I should,” he replied.
It was a painful breakthrough, but we finally acknowledged that our marriage had been on the backburner since having children and we were ready to do something about it.
Here are three “views” that reinvigorated our marriage:
A tomorrow-view of marriage.
This may seem obvious but in the intensities of mothering it can be easy to forget. If you can hold onto the old adage—this is only a season— and give your spouse grace during it, you’ll make it to the other side as a stronger, more connected team. Also, having children can bring up a slew of emotions and resentments. There’s no shame in seeking marital or personal therapy during this season. A counselor can help you both work through the sour patches of marriage, so that the long run will be much sweeter.
A today-view of marriage.
As much as we need that long-term view, we can’t neglect the present relationship. After our emotional staircase conversation, I began to ask myself the question, “How can I say ‘I do’ to my husband today?” And when I had some extra energy (or perhaps an extra jolt of caffeine), I would try—and still try—to show him one act of love and support at least once per week. That might mean a small romantic gesture like sending a card to his office, texting a flirtatious bitmoji, or perhaps even initiating sex at an unexpected moment. One week, I hired a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn so my husband didn’t have to. It didn’t require much of my time or energy but he felt loved and seen that day. Loving each other in small ways has helped carry us through this big season, and has set an example to our children of how to love with action.
A front-porch view of marriage.
In the early years, I was so freaking exhausted; the last thing I wanted to do was get dressed in normal human clothes and go out in public. So for a season, every Thursday night after the kids went to bed, we sat on the porch in our pajamas to talk. Sometimes it was forced. Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes we had a glass of wine, or a bowl of ice cream, or decaf coffee. Our front-porch discipline eventually turned into one of our favorite memories as a couple. I once heard someone say that to love well is to do two things: listen and encourage. That’s what the porch became for us: a place to listen to and encourage each other while in the trenches of parenting. Now we’re sixteen years and three kids into marriage. Our first baby is a tween. I can’t believe it! The front porch has served us well.
When the Law of Motherhood requires more from you than anyone else, it’s not easy to take these “views” of your marriage. But if you can invest in the most important relationship you have – the one with your spouse – you’ll never regret it.
Aubrey Sampson the mom of three crazy-hilarious sons, which is also to say that she spends most days in her pajamas drinking entirely too much coffee. On the days she manages to get dressed, Aubrey is an event and retreat speaker, a blogger, and the author of Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan, 2015). She and her husband, Kevin, just planted their first church in the Chicagoland area. You can find and follow Aubrey at aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.