Marriage: you pledged for better or for worse, stars in your eyes and butterflies in your stomach. But did you really know the full extent of what you were promising when you made those vows? It’s easy to handle moments rich and poor, sick and healthy… until you add children to the mix. Once you are married with children, all the stakes change. Forget fidelity and finances for a moment. Here are just a few of the real moments that can make or break a marriage with children:
1. The teething baby’s third wake-up of the night. The first you can handle, no big deal. They second is a drag, but yeah, doable. But the third? The one that follows the first and second screamings, when it’s now almost 5AM and closer to morning than it is midnight, and you might not have a chance to go back to sleep before you have to get up for the day? That right there is the nitty gritty, how-much-do-you-love-me line in the sand for a married couple.
2. The toddler’s diarrhea blow-out. In the car. On hour six of a long-distance road trip. In her carseat. You don’t know what hawt is until you see your spouse mopping down a nauseous toddler covered in her own body fluids in a truck-stop parking lot off of I-95 in 33-degree weather while you deflower the carseat lining and cover it in plastic T-shirt bags from the nearby fireworks store. Ask me how I know.
3. The phone call from school telling you your child(ren), and possibly you, have lice. If you have been through it, you know why. If you haven’t, you will. Oh yes, you will.
4. 7PM on a random Wednesday night. You’ve held it together all day. You got through dinner somehow. Now you’re in that morass known as the bath time/homework/bedtime timeframe, and the weeds are high. This is when you are the most exhausted, the most drained of all your emotional and mental stamina, and it is when your children decide to really let their funky flags fly: the whining, the stalling, the last-minute proclamations of a need for a tri-fold poster board or unfortunately-timed realizations of empty printer cartridges for homework completion all happen at 7 PM on Wednesday nights. Worst of all, you can’t even look forward to a new episode of Scandal afterward. These are the times that try (wo)men’s souls… and when you are most likely to lose your mind on the other adult in the house.
5. The decision whether or not to binge-watch without the other. You both started House of Cards on a whim once the kids were in bed one quiet Friday night. Next thing you know, you have insomnia and your partner doesn’t… and there’s a whole second season of House of Cards just sitting there in your queue, begging to be watched. If you forge ahead, you best be just as good an actor as Kevin Spacey is when you finally have another child-free moment together to watch and you-know-what happens in Season 2, Episode 1, or else your spouse is going to know you watched on without him. You know exactly what I am talking about.
6. 12:37AM on Christmas Day, every year. There is no marriage gauntlet like the one where you make the mad dash to create a holiday for your children while simultaneously avoiding WWIII with an in-law or two. Curating the magic of Christmas, for example, while entertaining a posse of over-sugared, sleep-deprived children and smiling through gritted teeth at someone’s grandmother who doesn’t approve whatsoever of how you are raising said children? That requires a rock-solid bond of two people in it to win it.
7. When all hell breaks loose at the restaurant. Perhaps you chose poorly when you picked a place to have a meal out on a Friday night; maybe you just pushed your kids’ behavioral goodwill just a teensy bit too far. Whatever the issue, you and your spouse now find yourselves in public with a child (or two… or even four, if you are the same kind of bonkers as me) possibly lying on the ground, sweeping the floor with his arms and legs as if he was attempting to make snow angels on the tile. Or you have a toddler losing her ever-loving mind, loudly and aggressively, or a baby who has decided now is the time to really tell you how she feels – with feeling. When you lock eyes with your co-parent over the table, feeling the burn of your fellow patrons’ glares on the backs of your heads and the furrowed brows of your server nearby, it is imperative that you be on the same team.
In fact, that’s really the key to every harrowing scenario a couple faces as parents. When it hits the fan – and it will hit the fan, sometimes daily (sometimes hourly) – you cannot turn on each other. Choose to be a team. You need each other. A house divided cannot stand, and parents who do not present a united front are quickly taken down by the tiny savages they produced.
Ask me how I know.
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