Marriage takes work.

I know this, my husband knows this—but we inevitably get caught up in the busyness of everyday life and sometimes our relationship ends up on the back burner. Some days we’re not putting the work in that we need to.

It’s usually not by choice. Parenting can just feel…overwhelming. Lots to do, lots to think about, lots to worry about. Sometimes teething and fevers and potty training and lack of sleep trump romance and one-on-one time.

Because if we’re honest, balancing parenting and dating your spouse can be hard.

Finding a babysitter is hard. Paying them can be hard. Paying for a babysitter and the going-out-and-doing-something part is hard. Asking (begging?) family to watch your kids for free is hard. Fending off the guilt of leaving your kids for a night is hard.

Using the little energy you have left after working, taking care of your children, cleaning up, cooking dinner, etc. to get ready to go out somewhere that doesn’t consist of your couch and Netflix is hard.

Forcing yourselves to follow through on a date night at home is hard. Not getting distracted by your children when they wake up and then having the determination to go back to your date night after you settle them again is hard.

But what did we sign up for, exactly? Something that is not hard?

‘Hard’ doesn’t have to mean ‘not worth the effort.’

I knew marrying my husband would be awesome. I knew I wanted to more than anything in the world. But I also knew it wasn’t always going to be a breeze.

I just didn’t know how things would change after we would become parents together—the way I know now with 3+ years of parenting experience under my belt. I didn’t know that our love would deepen times a million or that everything would be more intense or how much more of an effort we’d have to put in to make time for our relationship when we had other people to care for.

You know what my husband and I should have said in our vows? “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, through infertility, pregnancy, parenting small children…until death do us part.”

Because this part can be hard. We are exhausted. We work a lot, we have a long list of to-do’s, we have bills to pay and extended family members to worry about. We have ‘stuff.’

But…we’re expected to work at our jobs to become better.

We’re expected to work on our bodies to stay healthy.

We’re expected to work on our friendships to keep them.

So why should a great marriage be ‘easy’? Why shouldn’t we have to work as a team, every day—to make it the best it can be?

I don’t want to wake up one day, my kids grown and gone, and look into the eyes of someone I once knew very well…but that I don’t recognize anymore.

I don’t want to let my life happen to me.

I want to be in charge of it as much as I can be. I want to choose a happy marriage.

My husband and I text each other throughout the day to check in. We call when we have free moments to chat. We hug and kiss the second either one of us walks through the door. We try to muster up the energy to put the kids to bed, then eat dinner together and participate in conversation. We try. And we’ll continue to try.

We’ll work on choosing something to cut back on in our budget each month to go on a date. Maybe some months we’ll only be able to afford to pay a babysitter and go out for a coffee. If we can’t find a babysitter, maybe we’ll drive around at nap time and chat while the kids sleep in the car. It might not be the most romantic scenario, but it’s something.

Mostly, I just need to spend time with my husband to feel connected.

Sure, it can feel really hard now. But this is a season in our lives—we won’t be parenting little ones forever. It’s worth it to be intentional about making time for each other now.

We can’t change whether we have family who live nearby or not. We can’t wish for more money in our bank accounts and automatically see $1,000 appear. We can’t magically have Mary Poppins to come over at the drop of a hat. But we can change how we choose to deal with any obstacles in our way.

We can consciously choose to be active participants in our relationships every single day. In any way we can.