Could you ever imagine telling your daughter that her brother comes first? Of course not! Could you ever imagine telling your children that your job comes first? It seems crazy when you say it out loud, but, for some of us, we say this everyday to our spouse. “The children always come first.” Doesn’t this imply that someone else comes last?
Long gone are the short courtships and whirlwind romances where lovers rush to get married before the sailor ships off to war. Today, we date for years, we now give ourselves the freedom to really get to know someone without rushing to the altar. We live together, move to different cities together in search of the perfect job opportunities, the perfect place to set down our roots…the perfect life. If life is so much more perfect today than in the fifties, why has a failed marriage become the norm?
Some people would say that we have become a generation that has gotten used to not having to work things out. Some say that back then, people “put up with” a lot more then than we do now. But, let’s be honest, the truth is most people have just forgotten to put their marriage as a priority in the hierarchy of life. For most people, it is job and children first, and if time and energy permits, spouse. The one thing that has gotten lost over the years is that feeling loved is a need, not a desire. People need food, shelter and love. Not much more. Love is the topic of almost every song ever written. People live for it, they die for it, they can’t live without it.
Fairy tale weddings can take a year to plan. We consume ourselves with invitations, venues, dresses and showers. We dream of it as little girls. We work and plan so hard for that one big day. Why do we stop dreaming and planning after we say “I do”?
Boyfriends and girlfriends that hang on every breath, every word, so excited to just be together, turn one day, into Mommies and Daddies. We condition ourselves to believe that once baby comes, nothing and no one else matters. We forget the road that lead us to the greatest day of our life, the day our babies are born. We forget about the love, romance and the togetherness that brought us to our true life’s dream. We quickly forget all of the effort it took to get to that moment. We are told that you shouldn’t have to work at a “good marriage,” that “good marriages” should run on autopilot. No one tells you that marriage is like a job. No one tells you that if you don’t show up everyday, you lose it.
We are currently in a society where the “best” mom or dad wins. We raise our children to believe that they come first, that they are OUR special recipe of perfection. Even when our children are toddlers we present them to the world as the fastest to get a first tooth, the first step, the fastest to potty train. Our children are “better” than anyone else. Better athletes, better dancers, better scholars… frankly, better than anyone else’s kid. We beam with pride for all that we accomplish raising them. We take their successes as an extension of ours, their wins are our own. We tell anyone and everyone that will listen about our super heroes. We spend our time competing with other parents, we battle to the end.. Whose kid is the best? (because if my kid is the best, then I must be the best too…) and somewhere amongst all of that chaos is someone that misses you, the old you, the one that used to be somewhere on the list, the person you shared all of your dreams and wishes with. The one that helped you make those dreams a reality. The repayment we give is often a nice consistent spot at the bottom. I mean, you’ll get to the bottom of the list after you get to all of the important things…your time will come again when the kids are all grown.
Romance, date nights, sex and long talks at the end of the day are replaced with impressing bosses, maintaining finances and producing the next pro athlete. In the mean time we often sacrifice the main player on the own team. Remember TEAM US? If we raise our children to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else’s, are we really teaching our children anything at all? Did we forget to teach our children that parents are the foundation for a happy family? Did we forget that without the foundation, the family falls apart?
My adult son said it best, “There is a reason why the word mother is in smother.” I have loved my children, like a modern day Shakespearean tragedy. My children thought a red carpet was always going to be beneath their feet until they found out differently when they went into the real world.
The “real world” does not offer them the celebrity superstar status that we fool them to believe exists. We sacrifice ourselves and our relationship with our spouse trying to maintain this fallacy as long as we can. In the end (if we even make it this far) we have children that go off into the world to make their own way. Your chauffeur position is terminated, you look across the empty house to a stranger….and…who are you again?
Girlfriends! As someone who has been through a divorce and lived to tell the tale – DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
Show up for your most important job, everyday. Don’t forget about the love bug next to you that got on one knee once upon a time – and don’t let him forget about you! Take your husband away, alone. The kids will be fine – they might even learn some independence and self-reliance! Give yourself permission to have fun with you husband, have drinks, have crazy sex, make fun of the weird person at the cocktail party (the absolute second the car door shuts). Enjoy each other!
Don’t waste your time competing with other parents, they may not be the people you want to emulate anyway. Be the parents that kiss in front of the kids, show them what true love looks like so they see what it is, and what it isn’t. Enjoy your children along the way too, one day they will be on their own – and so will the two of you.
Don’t forget the last soldier that will be standing next to you, the wrinkled knight in shining armor. Don’t make him wait until the end for the Purple Heart. Take care of his heart along the way. Love is limitless, there is plenty to go around, for the kids, your partner, for yourself. You will give your children the best gift there is – permission to do the same when they become parents.