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I need a break with date night lectures. We get it, it's easy to lose yourself in your marriage and parenthood.

Would I love a standing date night, alone, once a month with my husband? For sure. Is it possible? Yes. Will it cause me more mental strain than pleasure at this time in our lives? Also yes.

Of course, we all need reminders to check in on our marriage. For my husband and me, it usually comes in the form of a disagreement that almost feels like it has no resolution because that's how different our wavelengths are at that moment in time. Would I like to be more preemptive in resolving marital conflict? Absolutely. Would a few hours alone, away from our home each month solve that? Absolutely not.

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Everyone has their reasons. For us, my partner doesn't work a standard nine-to-five. He's gone for 24+ hour periods two to three times a week. I have meetings for work at night and when the stars align and those meetings fall when he works, it's a mad dash to get one of three trusted sitters or family friends to step in to help with our kiddo.

We don't have family nearby to fill those gaps. I overpay sitters in hopes of attracting the best young adults in town. Those costs add up, especially when you factor in daycare (which is about to be the cost of our mortgage when number two joins us this summer).

We are tired. We already feel like we don't have enough time as a family. So what do we do? How do we prioritize our marriage?

Early, consistent bedtimes for our kids are key for us. We try to be done at 7:30-7:45 p.m. each night. That leaves us with over three hours to chat, catch up on shows, watch new movies and connect without the constant interruption of a toddler asking for another fruit snack or showing us her princess dress for the 87th time.

When we are visiting family, I'm not shy about asking them to give us a few day dates during the trip. We've even taken a parent-only weekend trip with the help of my mother-in-law so we could get a few nights to sleep in.

We LOVE our alone time, but the extravagant times come at a cost.

It's worrying about putting family or friends in a position where they feel like they can't say no. It's texting your shortlist of sitters and getting a string of "sorry I can'ts" in return. It's worrying you're using a favor for fun when you may really need it for work purposes around the corner.

I know these are all MY problems and worries. Some couples sort it out, make it work and don't stress about the logistics of leaving their kids and I couldn't support you more. I am of a 'you do you' mentality. Because we are all unique in our needs and that doesn't make anyone more or less right.

I just know these years are short and time is fleeting. If we do this right, we only have a handful of years of being "needed" the way we are now. Before we know it, these babies who need one more feed, one more kiss and one more sip of water will be off at camps and sleepovers and we will be sitting on the couch, wondering how the house got so quiet so quickly.

It won't be like this forever. It's hard to remember that in the midst of the sleep-deprived fog of newborns, toddlers, and some combination of all of the above.

Prioritizing your marriage isn't about standing reservations at the newest restaurants or lining up sitters, it's about recognizing what each other needs, verbally or non-verbally and responding with empathy compassion, and communication. It's apologizing for short tempers and cold shoulders. It's talking through resentment you're feeling and offering solutions to overcome it. It's asking for help in a way that your partner understands you aren't saying they don't do anything to help, but there is just SO much that needs to be done and you can't continue carrying the heaviness of your load.

So if you're where we are and prioritizing your marriage doesn't look like leaving the house without your kids, you're okay. Your marriage isn't doomed and you don't have to feel guilty.

One day in the distant future, you will have ample alone time to connect and you will long for the weight of a baby rocking in your arms and a sweaty toddler wrapped around your neck, under the covers. For us, we chose this family—this home full of chaos, busy schedules and ample needs, and it stems directly from our love for one another. As long as we have sight of that, we have it all.

And to be honest, we're doing just fine watching Netflix, trying new recipes, and ordering our favorite takeout. Our family has never made me love my husband more.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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