“You get on the plane and sure you don’t have kids to worry over but what are you going to talk to your husband about? Lives are so busy and revolve around the kids, what are you going to say?”
On the weekend I was talking to a woman about my upcoming trip to France with husband sans kids and that’s the response she gave me. And I thought to my self, “nope, my husband and I are good on that front.”
Having recently read articles by Sam Leith and Catherine Rodie commenting on Andrew G Marshall’s book, I Love You But You Always Put Me Last (child proofing your marriage) there was something lacking I thought.
What isn’t mentioned in either article, (perhaps Marshall doesn’t mention it in the book either) is keeping yourself strong; you, the individual, the very person that your partner fell in love right at the beginning. You can’t have a strong relationship if one of you is feeling fractured, or lost, or redefined as someone’s partner or someone’s parent because before all that there was simply you.
For me, my kids are not my entire identity and they do not wholly define my marriage. It’s an easy trap to fall into and sometimes a difficult lesson to learn.
Soon after my second child was born I was really feeling the loss of identity. I was house bound, money was tight and paradoxically the unpredictability of my day (I’d like to ring a friend but I can’t guarantee the toddler nor the baby will throw up, throw food, or throw a tantrum) or even the mundane nature of being a stay-at-home parent (Wiggles for the 100th time) was too much to bear.
I made a deal with my husband, who I add was feeling the loss of identity too. We weren’t going to ‘try’ and work on our relationship per se, we were going to try and work on ourselves. He started his movie nights without me, I started working out, and we essentially took care of our individual selves.
It made us feel better so when we came together it felt good. We celebrate our achievements together and help each other with individual achievements.
The toddler and baby are now 12 and 10 respectively. I think our direction worked a treat.
So I write, I blog, I read, I work. I talk to my husband about things other than the kids because I still remember me before my husband and the kids.
While date nights are a good idea, making love shouldn’t be forgotten, and communication skills are important; self-love (which may sound hokey) is most important. Without it, everything else will fall short.
Last year I travelled to New York on my own. I like my own company, always have. But that trip essentially forced me into the most selfish (but not in a negative) frame of mind. What do I want to do today? Travelling on your own teaches you a lot about yourself.
Next week when I get on that plane with only my husband for the first time in just over 12 years we’ll be asking ourselves “what do we want to do today?”