This morning started like every morning does. I woke early to get in my daily run so I would have time to get my two kids, ages 6 and 11, ready and off to school. I prepared breakfast, made sure everyone had their homework, and thought about my husband only twice: once when I woke up, and once when I kissed him goodbye. We've been together for 14 years and, officially, our relationship takes a backseat to parenting. You know what, though? That's OK. I'm fine saying I put my marriage second, because I know that's why I'm a great mom.
Before I had kids — back when I was doe-eyed, naive, and still trying to figure out my place in this complicated, often confusing world — I met my husband. I had just ended my four-year marriage with my high school sweetheart, so I was in no way "ready" to dive head-first into a new relationship. But there he was, and before I knew we were living together. Not too long after I was pregnant with our first child, and a little less than a year after our daughter was born, we were married.
Just like that, my life was drastically different. My husband and I traded late-night outings for late-night feedings, time holding hands for time holding a newborn, and the love and devotion we once had only for each other was not being focused almost entirely on our daughter. Our priorities shifted and, with them, our relationship.
Once we decided to have another baby, things became even more complicated. I suffered a miscarriage that left me depressed, and the ongoing fertility issues and ovarian cyst complications seemed to only make my mental health worse. This dark time did make me feel closer to my husband, though. He was the one who helped me grieve, and the person who reminded me of all the positives in my life. We renewed our vows, and within a couple of months I was pregnant again.
A chapter had closed and a new one had opened, and while we were busy adjusting to life with two children, my husband and I forgot to talk about just how much of our time, energy, and focus would go entirely to our children.
I miscarried for a second time, sadly, but we nourished our marriage the best we could. I could feel myself shutting down within the relationship, though, focusing entirely on my daughter as if it was some kind of defense mechanism. Maybe it was my way of coping with two pregnancy losses and my ongoing fertility frustrations. Then again, maybe it was a sign of what was to come.
A few weeks after I endured that second pregnancy loss, I found out I was pregnant with my now 6-year-old son. The moment he was born, I felt that final shift in not only my life, but my marriage. A chapter had closed and a new one had opened, and while we were busy adjusting to life with two children, my husband and I forgot to talk about just how much of our time, energy, and focus would go entirely to our children. Instead, we naturally reprioritized, again, and our relationship was no longer the most important aspect of our lives. Our children were.
Now it's normal to focus on our children first, foremost, and almost always. My husband knows me better than anyone else on this planet, especially after 14 years together, so he knows that my willingness to prioritize my children isn't an affront to him or our relationship. He also knows that I fear change, and need the undeniable comfort of a regular, reliable schedule. He also knows that when it comes to my kids, there is no competition. I put my marriage second, not because I don't love and respect my husband, but because my love for my children is separate from my love for my husband.
I married a man who trusts the strength and longevity of our relationship, just as much as I do.
For now, my babies come first because I brought them into this world after what felt like an endless, relentless stream of heartache. They're first because I pleaded for them. I prayed for them. I dreamed of them. They're first because I have the incredible responsibility of molding their moral character, building their self-esteem, and teaching them empathy and compassion. They're first because they need me more than my husband does, and I refuse to fail my children or let them down in their moments of need.
There are times I look at my husband and miss the days when we could escape to the mountains for a long weekend, or have a full conversation without someone interrupting us. Sometimes I miss the freedom that comes with putting your relationship front and center. Yes, sometimes I miss "just us."
But then I see my kids playing together, or I hear their laughter echo through our loving, warm, safe home, and I remember how fast time is flying by. Before I know it, my babies will be grown adults with their own lives to live, and I will be able to shift my focus back to the relationship that started it all. After all we've been through, I have no doubt that my husband and I will find a way to put our marriage first again.
But for now, I will focus on being the best mom I can be. And thankfully, that means I can put my marriage second. After all, I married a man who grew into a great dad that wants me to put our kids first. I married a man who trusts the strength and longevity of our relationship, just as much as I do.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.