Marriage Love and Parent Love

"I had such a long day. I feel so tired. My commute home took over an hour." My husband stumbled into the kitchen after a 12 hour day at work.  I see the exhaustion in his eyes, I hear the frustration in his voice, I love and appreciate how incredibly hard he works for our family, yet what are my inner thoughts? "YOU had a long day? YOU are beat? I would give anything to have an hour commute with my choice of songs on the radio, not fights breaking out from the back seat and no little voices complaining "Are we there yet? How much longer? This is taking forever!" Oh marriage...while I love you so it is no secret that our adorable little babes can take the sparkle out of the connection that started it all....our sincere, humble love.  So how do you keep the spark alive when you are forever out of arms reach due to the little bugs who stand firmly between you?  How do you keep a connection when utter exhaustion and fragmented attention are the steady constant in your life? Sean and I entered this marriage with two kids a piece, making us instant parents of four and less than one year later the proud parents of five. This could easily be a set up for disaster. How could a relationship with so many sweet, magical interferences last? Well, here is my truth. I am not a marriage expert. To be completely honest, my first marriage ended when my husband proved to be unfaithful. However, I do know what love is. I do know the genuine love I have for my husband and the boundless love I have for my five children.

My mother love for my five cherubs is immeasureable.  There is nothing else like in the world.  It is powerful, it is strong, it is intense, it is deep.  They are the one stable, no matter what curved road in life I am traveling, that I always have time for.  My momma instincts want me to put them first, every day, every moment, every time, always.  The hardest marriage lesson for me to learn was that my kids needed to come second and my husband needed to come first.  After years of being a single parent this was an extremely difficult exercise to embrace.  I wasnt making parenting decisions on my own anymore, now I was sharing the parent load.  As a mother I protect first, I nurture first and I provide bend my natural ways took me out of my comfort zone completely.  It even left me feeling guilty as if I were less of a mom.  How mistaken I was.  Our tiny tribe would not survive if Sean and I were centered around our kids and not each other.  When we are strong, united, one...we can overcome all things.  Our connection is fuel for my momma heart.  It is the safety net our kids need to see, to respect and to love in order to be their best self.  Kids are demanding and selfish by nature.  Our strength and devotion redirects such behaviors.  They learn that they do not have priority over the core of our family.  They learn that they do not have priority over our time, our attention or our energy.  We, our marriage, has priority...period.  In return, our marriage has the most wonderfully extraordinary, concrete ripple effect on our kids.  Marriage love and parent love are separate.  Each unique, each significant, each distinguished and I truly appreciate them both for what they are.  I am a better mom, my best self, because I put my husband first.

Time has taught me that marriage is fragile and there is no one way to keep it strong, steady and solid.  However, there are many tiny ways to keep the communication, the affection and the admiration going securely.  As mom and dad, we do not always approach parenting with the same set of eyes.  I am the nurturer, the healthy food pusher. Sean is the fun energy, the have a brownie for breakfast.  I am the mental stimulus, I prefer structure and routine. He is the physical stimulus, he prefers happy chaos and going with the flow. I have learned that although I do not always take this approach I have the utmost trust in Sean as a parent and make an active choice not to hover.  I give him space when he is in the parenting zone and to be honest I have learned to love the brilliant crazy he brings out in our kids.  Our differences are bountiful, however, united we are one source.  The origin that glues our family together.  Our conflicting parenting methods mixed with our in sync parenting beliefs creates the perfect blend of balance within our tribe.  Our respective parenting styles bring out the best in ourselves and at times encourages us to step out of our comfort zones into new territory.  We choose to always back each other up and never undermine one another.

As parents of five we recognize the importance of date night, however, realistically we know that date night can not happen weekly. Our solution? In home date nights. We have the kids on a strict bedtime routine and because of that we are able to have an hour each night of just us. Most nights we spend them on the couch, my legs stretched over his lap, his hands resting on my knees, watching House Hunters.  It is not a fancy night out at a downtown restaurant, but hey, we are physically close, we are alone and we can still go to bed at 9:30. (Yes, we go to bed that early) On Saturdays we switch HGTV for a movie and add some wine and it is, to be honest, perfect. Once a month we do our best to make it out for a legit date night and every year we go away for four days for our anniversary. It is never easy leaving the kids, but we make it happen. Every year it proves to be just what we need, relaxing and incredibly refreshing.

With Sean out of the house working full time and myself home with five kids, fights are bound to happen. One thing we have learned with time is that when we fight, we only fight about the one thing upsetting us.  We never drag other issues into our arguments for that has proven to be the recipe for disaster. The recipe for success? Well that lies in two magically, powerful words..."I'm sorry." Say it.  Mean it.  Live it.  Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

One thing is for certain, our marriage will last a lifetime, but this season of parenting will not.  I picture us one day, God willing, sitting on our front porch, talking about the days our kids were young. The days where they needed 100% of our time and attention. The days where they needed constant encouragement and guidance.  The days where we felt true, genuine exhaustion both physically and emotionally.  The days that felt so long in the moment, now feeling so far in the past.  Those days...those front porch sitting days, are the ones where I want to cherish, love and embrace my husband with my whole self saying "We never lost each other....we never broke our foundation." It is then that I want to be reminded that I am sitting next to my forever best friend, not a stranger I lost years ago during the season of the thickest parenting.

Joelle Fortin, The Village Journalist