Motherhood means being superhuman at times. We perform the circus act that only a mother could handle of juggling multiple balls in the air. We run around the house doing our finest multi-tasking, at times with one baby on our back, one in our arms, while using our "free hand" to pick up the trail of toys that lay scattered in our path.
And when your free hand isn't free, no worries; we have become experts at using our feet to kick, scoot and yes, even pick up things we need off of the floor! We're just that good.
But when we are operating at full force, diving into complete Mommy mode, what about our partners? We have committed to each other and are "works in progress" with a lifetime contract to help one another. But that takes patience, love, commitment and tons of hard work. If it was easy, everyone would do it, and everyone's relationship would last. Frankly, and sadly, it's much easier to throw in the towel than to push through and do the hard work and daily maintenance that your partner and relationship require to thrive.
But coming from a mother with three young children and another baby on the way, all who constantly need and rely on me, who require so much of my attention and patience and affection (not to mention the 20 young children I teach, coupled with the other balls I'm juggling in the air), what does that leave for my husband at the end of the day? This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. And if my marriage suffers, do my children suffer as well?
In case you weren't quite sure, the answer is and yes.
If a couple who has children together thinks back to the time before they became parents, life was very different. You held hands to and from the car. You finished each other's sentences because you were so in-tune with one another's thoughts. You likely had in-depth conversations, no matter how long they needed to last.
You slept together, in more than one way, and on the weekends, slept in for as long as you pleased. You left each other cute notes around the house and throughout the day, sent one another romantic texts and emails about how you couldn't wait to get home and see them again.
Now, there is constant chaos, tons of clutter and unending noise. Instead of holding each other's hand, you're struggling to carry the diaper bag, hold a baby and wipe another kid's nose, all while attempting to manage the cell phone, keys and purse in the other hand, while hollering like a crazy person at another toddler who is trying to run away from you across the parking lot.
The cute notes have turned into emails and texts throughout the day about how many diaper changes the baby has had and what your partner needs to grab at the grocery store on the way home. The long, thoughtful conversations that used to happen over dinner are now shouted over the babies and toddlers screaming and throwing their food, and finally, you officially give up and say, "I'll shoot you an email or text tomorrow to tell you about it."
And the thought of having that alone time once the kids are in bed. Well, 9 times out of 10, I have already collapsed and passed out cold with one of the babies, as there wasn't one ounce left of me to stay awake a second longer.
It's inevitable; life changes after you bring a baby into the world and into your relationship. It changes a lot. So much for the better, but with that also comes different, which also can be straining on your relationship. But what happens when we devote all of our time and energy into being the best parent we can be and our partner, naturally, and rightfully so, feels neglected?
Does that, in turn, at some point down the road, affect your parenting, individually, and co-parenting as a team?
If you hadn't already guessed, the answer is absolutely, without a doubt, yes.
But how do we fix this? Is there a quick fix? Unfortunately, I don't think there is. Trust me, after never ending research and many disappointments, I have come to find that there isn't just a band aid to put over the seeping wounds that need loved and cared for. It takes a daily surrendering of oneself to be the partner you need to be.
Are the children fed? Are they changed? Are they warm and safe and sound? If all these areas are met, can you sneak five minutes of attention towards your partner to ask and truly listen about their day? Can you surprise them by going out of your way to wait on them, hand and foot, even if just for a few minutes, to make sure they have what they need and they are taken care of?
Some may think, how does this even tie into making me a better mother? How will me taking less time from my children (and I know some of us already don't have what seems to be an efficient amount of time already due to working), make my partner and I better parents? As far-fetched as this may seem, it's actually glaringly apparent as to how this is the case: a better relationship between partners generates a better relationship with and for your children.
It's a proven fact, our children feed off of their environment. Our children feed off our moods, our words, our actions, as well as our interactions. They look to us to see what love is, and hopefully we not only say it, but show it. Actions, speak alarmingly louder than words.
We've all heard the saying, "A happy wife is a happy life." And I have to say, I agree completely, but likewise, a happy marriage equals a happy family.
Sometimes it's not about how compatible we are, year after year, change after change, but rather how we deal with the incompatibility. It's safe to say that any marriage over a week old, there are always grounds for a divorce. The true test and trick is to find, and continue to seek out, grounds for marriage, for love and for each other.
The truth is, it's never equal. When one is giving 80%, the other might only be giving 20%. And yes, at times you will find yourself battling within your relationship as you are giving 100% while your partner isn't capable of giving anything.
As unfair as this is, we have to thank God for it. Thank God that one of you is able to hold on tight enough for the both of you. The silver lining and advantage of one falling out of love with the other, is that it keeps you together until you fall again.
Undoubtedly, a happy, thriving, healthy relationship between parents, will manifest happy, thriving, healthy children. Life is not perfect. Marriage is not perfect. Relationships are not perfect. Parenting is not perfect. But it's a matter of taking those imperfections, staring them straight in the face, and trying to make them a little less imperfect tomorrow.
Rome wasn't built in a day. All we can ask of our children, and ourselves, is baby steps. Meaningful, determined, sincere, baby steps. And think of the difference we can potentially make over time.
Remember: children are amazing imitators. Give them something, give them someone, to imitate.
Long is a teacher, author, columnist, grad student, photographer, and most importantly, wife and mother to three, soon to be four, children under the age of six. To follow her more closely, please see her social networking below.