It’s late on a Wednesday night and the house is (finally!) quiet. My husband is working late tonight. The kids are asleep. I look at my computer and think about all the work I should do. I’m behind on just about everything, but really just want to go to sleep. But I also want to see my husband when he gets home in a few hours, and if I go to bed now, we will spend another two days as proverbial ships passing in the night.
So I weigh my options. Isn’t that what life and parenting are all about? Weighing options and prioritizing and letting some things go, but feeling a tiny bit guilty about the things that you had to let go. Parenting is hard and life is hard. My husband works hard and I work hard. We’re all working hard. We’re toiling away to pay the bills and take care of our families and deal with the various shit that adults have to deal with because, let’s face it, adulting isn’t what we thought it would be when we were kids.
Each day, I feel like I’m operating on a deficit of time, money, or energy. There is always something on my to-do list that isn’t getting done, some obligation that I’ve let slide, and some way that I’m falling behind. And I doubt I’m the only one who feels like this. We’re all fucking busy. We’re all maxed out. We’re all struggling to find time for the things we want to do and the things we have to do and the people we love.
So we weigh options and we prioritize. We figure out what we can let go and what is important to us. We skip happy hour so we can make it to our son’s soccer practice. We shift some relationships to the backburner, and we let go of other relationships entirely. Our friend circles grow smaller and tighter.
We redirect our physical and emotional energy because there is only so much to go around and those damn kids of ours suck up so much of it. We turn our attention toward our children and away from other adults. Some friendships fade. We might go days or even weeks without talking to our sister. We don’t call our parents as often as we should. We make sacrifices for our children, including the sacrifice of other relationships — siblings, friendships, and sometimes even our marriage.
Time and energy are at an all-time low, especially in these early years of marriage and parenthood when there is always a child who needs to be fed, dressed, changed, or bathed. We have no time to ourselves, let alone for each other. We are exhausted all the damn time and there are nights when we are touched the eff out and can’t stand the sight, let alone the sound or touch, of another living person. There are days and weeks when schedules conflict, and as a couple, we are the proverbial ships passing in the night. There are times when I miss my husband so acutely that I can feel it in my bones.
But it is in the missing of each other that we know how much we need each other. Time and energy for my marriage aren’t going to magically fall into my lap. I have to carve out the time, and fiercely protect it as if my life depended on it — because, in many ways, it does. So I weigh the options and prioritize.
It will never be enough, though. It can’t be. Not right now, when life is this busy and full and rich. There aren’t weekly date nights or long romantic weekends away. Some days, I can count on both hands the number of actual words my husband and I have exchanged because one of us is traveling or we are working opposite hours. We don’t catch up on our days over mid-week lunches like we did when we were childless professionals, but instead in disjointed and unfinished sentences while we wrangle our kids through the dinner-homework-bedtime routine each night.
It’s hard as hell to make it all work and to find the time, but I’m committed to trying. And sometimes that means that my own needs — or even my children’s — take a backseat. It doesn’t mean that I love my children less, of course not. But it means that prioritizing my marriage benefits our entire family, including my kids. My family started with me and my husband — just us. We are the core, the rock, the foundation. When we’re off, the entire family is off. And when our kids are out of the house, we will once again be just us. We are still us, but if we don’t make the time and find the energy to take care of us, then eventually we’ll just be a “you” and a “me.” And, quite simply, I care too much about us to let that happen.
It’s hard as hell to prioritize a marriage and take care of us, especially when the you and the me in the marriage are both so tired and drained and maxed the fuck out all the time. But we try. We do what we can, as much as we can.
I look at the clock. It’s late and I’m tired. My bed is calling me. Should I go to sleep or wait up? Sleep or husband? Me or us?
Even though I’ll be tired as hell in the morning.
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