I didn’t realize it had been too long since Kory and I traveled alone, until we kissed the precious cheeks of our three kids, said goodbye, and walked out the door without them on August 6. It was the day before our 16th wedding anniversary, and we were headed to Santa Barbara to celebrate.
I really do love my children. And I realize how fortunate I am to have them. But geeze.
How many times can they say that in 24 hours?
Sometimes I just need to not hear their voices for a while.
And sometimes, I need the space to take all that energy they consume and put it right back where it belongs.
On my husband.
Can you relate?
I’ll never forget the moment when the harsh reality of the mommy-to-wife transition slapped me square between the eyes. Little Bit was a newborn. And it had been “a day.”
I had nursed him six times.
Pumped twice so he wouldn’t starve when I was away.
Changed my clothes four times because he threw up on me after almost every feeding.
Dealt with three poopy diapers, gifts from my other son who refused to potty train and was rationing out his bowel movements throughout the day just in case I was forgetting about him.
Walked my stairs 50 times. (At least.)
Cooked three meals (none of which anyone liked).
Did four loads of laundry.
Organized a closet. (Why does postpartum come with a need for label makers and Container Store bins?)
Wrote a bench brief.
And took a conference call. (While nursing.)
I was spent by 7:00.
So I put the boys to bed early. Sat my oldest in front of the T.V. And I put a note on the back door, asking my husband to tuck her in when he got home.
And then I crawled (quite literally) into bed.
Not too long thereafter, my unsuspecting husband came into the room (having followed the instructions on the note to a “T”), got in bed, put his arm around me, and kissed my neck. And all I could say was:
“Are you kidding me? Is there anyone in this house who doesn’t want a piece of me?”
And without waiting for his answer, I flipped around to put my back to him, covered my head with the pillow, and fought back the tears.
It was ice-cold.
We laugh about it now.
He’ll admit his timing was less than stellar. But in the moment, I completely shut him down. And I knew my response was worse than his timing. Honestly, though, I couldn’t muster up another ounce of energy to offer him in love (or in repentance).
The kids had chewed me up and spit me out. And I needed the day to end.
Some days are like that.
Some seasons are like that.
And if we want our marriages to stand a chance in the face of all that crazy, then we have to fight for them.
There are countless ways to “work on our marriage,” but in our experience, none of them can replicate what happens when we vacation together:
A vacation lightens our emotional and physical loads so we can discover new bandwidth to invest in each other.
It quiets the noise of the daily grind so our conversation can go to a deeper, more personal place.
It brings out the best in our personalities, reminding us why we fell in love in the first place.
It creates space for physical intimacy without the worry about which kid is going to knock at the door at wrong time.
It allows us to be spontaneous, which revitalizes the spunk and playful side of our relationship.
And it brings us rest.
Along with frequent date nights and shared activities we both enjoy, regularly getting away without the kids may be the single-most significant reason we’ve made it this far and still like each other.
I think it’s also the primary reason we’ve had any success in the realm of parenting.
So moms, listen up.
I know your hearts.
I know your desires for your children.
I know because I share them.
But I’ve also learned this:
For those of us who are married, we will never be a better mother to our children than we are a wife to our husband.
And husbands, Kory will tell you (and has done so more than once if you attend our church):
You will never be a better father to your children than you are a husband to your wife.
Through 15 years of ministry, though, we’ve heard every excuse in the book for why couples stop investing in their relationship after marriage. For why they stop dating. And for why they haven’t taken a vacation together in more than ten years:
Yes, baby sitters are expensive.
Yes, the kids keep us busy.
Yes, our jobs consume us.
Yes, we’re so tired at the end of the day we barely have the strength to fall into bed.
But we also know, from walking the journey with other couples, that marriage counselors and divorce are much more costly in terms of time, money, and energy.
Divorced couples have told us that.
They’d tell you themselves if given the chance.
And they don’t want you to make the same mistakes they did along the way.
So do yourself a favor.
If you’re not already regularly dating your spouse, start now.
If you don’t have an activity that you share as a couple not involving the kids, find one.
And if you haven’t gotten away without the kids in the last two years, plan a vacation.
More than a weekend is best (because if you’re anything like me, it takes a weekend before you can really slow down and unwind), but if a weekend is all the childcare or money you can string together, it’s better than staying home.
If you’re afraid to leave your kids with someone else for a few days?
Maybe it’s time to lift that up in prayer to the Lord. Good childcare is available if you’re willing to go looking for it. And as good as you are (and I know you’re good), they’ll survive without you for a few days and may even have fun! (You think you need a break from them? I’m just sayin’…)
If you’re afraid to be alone with your spouse because you’ve forgotten how, own the feelings and do it anyway. You’ll never know what might be until you try.
And if your schedule or budget doesn’t include any margin to get away?
Maybe it’s time to cut some things out.
No more excuses.
Plan your trip.
Get out of town.
And reconnect with the one who made you a family long before any children may have entered the picture.
If you can’t get enough of Confessions Of A Pastor’s Family, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!
P.S.S. The winner of the All In Sky Ranch Family Devotionals is Kristin Goodson! Congratulations! You’re going to love this book!