As a parent of preschoolers, it’s so easy to lose track of prioritizing your marriage. As you pour your physical energy out on your little ones, it’s difficult to spare a generous thought for your husband. After all, he can get his own juice!
I have been there. What you really need right now is a 45 minute nap, the chance to have a shower without asking the permission of a 9-month old, and the opportunity to use the washroom BY YOURSELF. I am not adding another “should” to your list. It’s already nagging in the back of your mind, anyway. Here are some practical tips to help you in this challenging season of life.
1. Don’t forget Daddy.
He is actually ahead of the children in terms of priority. It’s so easy to become totally child-centred in our culture. Include the children (we had 4 in 6 years) in preparations for Daddy’s arrival home. We would quickly tidy and anticipate his arrival, showering love on him when he got home. Or, if I had to go to work, having supper in the crock pot helped to make things less chaotic.
All the resources say that a weekly date night is a must for couples. We did not find that very realistic with four little ones, a very limited budget, and lack of babysitters! One thing we did instead was “in-house” dating, which involved Daddy and I having a special dessert together at the kitchen table either when the children were in bed, or after supper. It isn’t wrong to tell the children that this is Mommy and Daddy’s special time and to encourage them to occupy themselves (safely) in the next room. That could even be a good time to allow a wholesome video to entertain them. Children need to learn healthy boundaries and so do we!
2. Understand that Daddy is different.
It’s easy in the first months, especially if you are breastfeeding, to assume sole knowledge and responsibility for your little one. Most men have not had the same amount of babysitting and childcare experience as most women. So what if he chooses the football hold for your baby instead of cradling her in the crook of his arm? As long as the head and neck are supported, does it really matter? Maybe he gets her all wound with playing right before supper. (My husband still does this and our children are aged 11-17. All I ask is that they take it to another room now). Take advantage of the free time to get the meal on the table. Guys need to grow in their confidence and competence too. I recommend leaving the baby with them for short times, even if just for a walk to the mailbox or a quick errand. You need to clear your head and have a break, and he needs a chance to hone his fathering. He might have solutions to problems you can’t solve.
3. Speak his language.
With sleep-deprivation, hormones and the never-ending tasks you face, you have a strong need to be understood. Perhaps you, like me, never really needed help before and now you do. He can’t read your mind and doesn’t necessarily understand what you are going through. Some guys see tears and can’t absorb what you say. It helped us for me to write down my thoughts and present them to him rationally on paper without my emotions blurring the issues. It also helped to speak his language. For a long time he didn’t understand how I could be so tired all the time. He is very mathematical, so one day in a moment of clarity I calculated approximately how many hours of sleep I had lost in the past few years since we had become parents. I explained to him that if I were to make catching up on sleep a full-time day job, it would take me two years to recoup what I had lost. He got it! One of my friends told her husband, who built staircases, that her work at home with the little ones was like building a staircase and then at the end of each day someone came along to dismantle it. A picture paints a thousand words.
4. Spend time with friends!
Putting all of your social and companionship eggs into the basket of your husband is a recipe for disaster. You are both drained right now and you need someone else to give perspective, share your struggles, and build you up. No one person can meet all your relational needs, although only one can meet your marriage needs. Find friends that share your priorities and who value respectfulness to husbands. One of my friends and I had an agreement that, while we occasionally vented about marriage struggles, we would continue to respect our husbands. Our phrase was “it doesn’t go on their permanent record.” She was a great example of prioritizing caring for her husband during the toddler years. Join a Moms and Tots group and you can socialize while the children play (and steal toys from each other).
Loving your husband is the best thing you can do for your family in this season of life. You aren’t sacrificing the care of your children by prioritizing him. On the contrary, you, your marriage and your children will be blessed as you do.