Keeping Your Husband First During the Busy Years
by Gert Slabach
This article first appeared in the May/June 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
We felt eyes watching us as we ate by candlelight in front of the living room fireplace. It was late when Dave got home and we had sent the kids to their rooms. One by one, they meandered into the dining room, trying to watch us unobtrusively.
They knew they couldn’t come into our space. This was our time. They were a tad bit jealous, but that was okay.
One of the ways children learn the value and importance of the marriage relationship is when they have to give up their wants so their parents can have special times. Children need to know that the relationship between their parents is special. While they might fuss at not being able to go along on dates, it will breed security. They’ll grow to understand that marriage is so important that even children can’t get in the way!
How can I keep my husband first when the demands of motherhood are many, constant, and tiring? Here are seven ideas that worked for me.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Sometimes when a baby arrives, mom loses focus. Her busyness in taking care of baby results in neglecting her spouse. Do we sometimes cement the idea that the baby and mom go together when we insist on such things as carrying the baby into church? Invite your spouse to carry part of the load. Parenting should not be a competition. Don’t let your children divide your team. In conversations, name your spouse first. Our words and speech patterns reveal where our heart is. Who do you refer to first when you’re talking about your newborn - your spouse or your baby? When we’re always naming the baby first, guess who isn’t first?!
MY WAY IS NOT THE ONLY WAY
Most husbands are more willing to help if they think they can “do it right” or feel appreciated for their efforts. Don’t get caught in the sentiment: mommy knows how to do it, but daddy doesn’t. Allow him to do things differently than you do. Mismatched PJs don’t matter, but getting a diaper on tightly does. Don’t sweat the small stuff and give him space to learn. Children are resilient and won’t be cheated if it’s not done our way. Do you like being the only one who can do this for Susie, the only one who knows how Johnny likes his cereal? When a spouse isn’t allowed to participate in the child’s care, we end up feeling lonely and tired, with little energy for our spouse.
YOU ARE A TEAM
Mom is not more important than Daddy. Early on, we need to proclaim that Mommy and Daddy are a team, not a caregiver with a helper. When our kids get that picture, they’ll understand that a good marriage involves teamwork, even in raising kids. Some children want Mommy to do it because we’ve trained them that only mommy can do it right! Fathers will help more if we don’t try to do and be all things to our kids. When your husband helps more, you will be less stressed and have more energy for your spouse.
WHOEVER DISCIPLINES SHOULD COMFORT
The idea when Daddy disciplines, Mommy should comfort is wrong. This is another way to show our husbands and our children that we’re on the same team. After being disciplined by their papa, our kids’ inclination was to run to me. They expected me to comfort them (Daddy hurts me and Mommy comforts). First, I required them to “make up” with their papa. One Sunday morning, Dave took our toddler out for discipline. They were gone for a while. When they came back, she wanted me. I whispered that when she could sit on her papa’s lap and love him first, I’d hold her. She whimpered and cried, reaching out her arms for me while other moms glared daggers in the back of my neck. She didn’t need her mama so she’d feel loved. She needed to respond to her father and reckon with the fact that he loved her as much as did I. Finally, after long minutes (wherein I received nothing out of the sermon), she leaned back against her father and allowed him to cuddle her. They made up. When I offered my arms as promised, she didn’t need them anymore. Had I allowed her to come to me while still upset, he would have become the enemy, and I would have been the savior. Dave was equally capable of nurturing and hugging her as was I. When mothers tries to comfort their kids after they’ve been disciplined by their father, they choose the child’s side over his. Choosing sides makes wives less willing to keep their husbands first.
MAKE TIME FOR HIM
To our spouses, love is spelled T-I-M-E. Get rid of deterrents to connecting at the end of the day. What can’t wait until later? A fussy newborn or a toddler who is having diarrhea are all now concerns. Folding that last load of laundry, being on Facebook, or reading a few more chapters in the book can wait. When a pattern develops of something else always calling our attention, then someone or something has replaced our spouse. Schedule time for him and for intimacy. Take a nap, tidy your bedroom, and whisper in his ear when he comes in for supper. He’ll encourage you to take a nap every day after that!
WHO BELONGS IN THE BEDROOM?
When our kids were scared or sick, they would walk past Dave (closest to the door) to get to my side because I was more welcoming. Our room was our room, and kids didn’t (normally) belong there. One daughter commented recently, “I don’t remember ever sleeping in your bed with you. When we came into the room because we were sick, Papa cleaned it up and Mama got the mat out and ready for us to sleep on. It was a tag-team effort.”
When a toddler becomes distractive to your intimacy, then it’s time to move him to another room. You might not be ready for that, but your spouse will be. Let your husband decide when it’s time to move the baby out of the room. If nursing a baby is more difficult if he’s in another room, try making a deal with your spouse that if he will get the baby and put him back in his bed after your nurse him, the baby can go to another room. He’ll either be up helping keep the baby out of your room, or he’ll concede to let your infant in a few more weeks or months.
REMEMBER THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO HUSBANDS
Husbands need respect and admiration. One of the best ways to give that is speaking positively about him to the children. Build up anticipation for the return of the man of the house! Dave tells me that most days I had the kids excited about his homecoming. I didn’t instruct; I just modeled.
Men care about how their wives look. Do the things that are important to your spouse. Don’t allow your kids’ wants to trump the things that your husband desires on a consistent basis. Be neat, be tidy, and be appealing when he comes in from work. If need be, tell your kids it’s time for you to get spruced up because your man is coming home and you want to look nice because he’s the most important man in your life!
These seven ideas can help you keep your spouse in first place. Just choose one for now, then add one at a time. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your husband. I’m sure he’ll be glad to help you choose the first one!