To the Moon and Back
What does it mean to be in a loving relationship with your spouse when you have kids? Now, I will be first to admit I fall short in the realms of perfection, but I do know there are certain things I know about the life I have and the person I love. My wife and I have been married for over seven years, and we recently celebrated our tenth year together.
I know what you’re thinking – why am I still reading this? It’s possible that my words might resonate, because I believe wholeheartedly that I have the better end of the deal. My wife is smarter than me. She clearly has the patience of a god, teaching around 40-some pre-kindergartners each and every day. What might be even more important is the fact that our two kids, one boy and one girl, adore her to the moon and back.
So, the point of this whole writing exercise is to hopefully share things I know in my relationship that I use to try and make sure I treat my partner with the upmost respect at all times – and hopefully, that will resonate to my children to do the same as they grow older.
One. Show your spouse how much you appreciate what she does.
In our family, Meghan is the bread winner. She takes care of 40+ kids and then comes home to our own kids, ages four and six, and provides for them. How do I show her that I care? Well, when I recently quit my job to write full-time, I took over as many chores as humanly possible. Yes, I did chores beforehand, but her work ethic is non-stop.
Despite working a full-time job, her first instinct when getting home is to make dinner, clean the kitchen, start laundry, and everything else under the sun. Now that I’m home, I’m cleaning the bathrooms, going grocery shopping, and any other tasks she does or we do together on the weekends. I want her to know that I have always appreciated everything she has and will do for our family, by making sure she knows I understand all that she’s done. The easiest way to do that is to do everything she’s used to doing, so she can come home at the end of a long day and relax…or at least as much as possible for a parent.
Two. Get your kids into the habit of appreciating what your spouse does.
Everything I mentioned about handling chores whenever possible, your kids will see the hard work you’re putting in. In many cases, your kids will want to help too. It’s also important to start a dialogue with your kids and then you can set the example for them. When it comes to teaching our kids, we know we have to start early. When we bring dinner to the table, you say, “What do you say?” Of course, we’re hoping they say, “Thank you for dinner.”
As they get older, I’ve tried to initiate the conversation by thanking Meghan whenever she prepares a meal. It can be anything, from a meal prepared on the stovetop to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I always say “Thank you for dinner, momma.” After a while, the kiddos will start to say thank you for other things. Thank you for breakfast, mommy. Thank you for getting my clothes, momma. Can I help fold laundry with you?
Yes, when your spouse hears your kids asking to help with chores, it is absolutely magical.
Three. Take the kids out of the house and let your partner enjoy the silence.
How often has your spouse taken the kids out to the doctor’s office, picked them up from school, or done any number of things while you were still not back from work yet. Yes, I completely understand that being at work doesn’t mean anyone is a bad parent or unproductive. The point of this is to make sure you take a moment to step back and realize a lot of things are getting done in your absence.
In my previous job, I would leave for work at 7 a.m. and get home around 6 p.m. I am sure there are a lot of families that experience this type of work schedule, so you’ll understand it when I say, “Take your kids out when you have time.” After a long week of teaching, I know Meghan is exhausted and needs to sit without any interruptions. That’s my cue to get shoes on, grab a soccer ball, and head outside for a bit to play (weather permitting). It’s safe to say she appreciates being able to read or watch some TV without any Frozen songs being sung from the kids’ playroom, on a microphone.
Four. Don’t forget to tell her how amazing she is.
My wife pours her heart and soul into everything she does. You can tell it pains her to discipline the kids when they do something that’s unsafe or disrespectful. It means she puts our kids’ overall well-being above anything else. You can also tell how happy Meghan is when she sees how much joy is on our kids’ faces. She is such a monumental part in their happiness, so it’s important for her to understand that. In all instances, I tell her, “Our kids have the best momma.”
I know as a parent, it’s also easy to recognize I haven’t said “I love you” enough or I’ve been lacking in the flirting department. Granted, I’m not the best flirt in the world, but I definitely enjoy giving Meghan a compliment, whether by telling her how great she looks in a new dress or an old pair of jeans, or letting her know a project idea she created for us to work on together is amazing. I’ve also told her how much I love her laugh, which is why I try to tell as many corny jokes as possible.
Okay, so that last one might be a little selfish. I love knowing I can make her laugh, and maybe knowing I can make her laugh helps me realize how much better I am with her in my life. Like my wife, your spouse is dedicated to the relationship, so make sure you let them know that your soul is in a much better place because of who they are.
Five. DATE NIGHTS!
Finding time to squeak in a date night is HUGE. As with any parent, it’s so easy to focus on our kids, because we want the best for them – always. Before you know it, months have gone by and you can’t remember the last time you went out with your significant other. This date night doesn’t have to be a surprise. Actually, if it’s been a while, let your partner know about it immediately. This will give you both something to look forward to and you’ll notice an improvement in both of your moods.
Date nights are a wonderful way to connect with your spouse that doesn’t have the attention focused on your kids. When you first have kids, it’s weird to be away from them. I remember both of us constantly checking our phones during the first few date nights, but eventually we understand they’re okay with their sitter, and it’s equally okay to get lost in the moment enjoying each other’s company.
You’ve managed to find your way to the end, hopefully, with five ways to tell your partner how much you appreciate them. It doesn’t always have to be said. Sometimes, it can be a simple action of taking the trash out, or when your kids are potty training, cleaning the toilet on a regular basis. Nothing says love like a clean toilet.