I made a frightening realization a few days ago. I cannot remember what my husband and I were like before we had our kids. Truly. I sat with this thought for a good five minutes and actively tried to recall what we used to do together, how we used to interact, what we would talk about. The memories were there, but far too hazy to coalesce into a story that I could hold on to. In just four short (yet very eventful) years, I had lost “us” to parenthood.
My only hope was that my other half could provide me with a fully-formed memory or even an entire picture of our life pre-parenthood. Sadly, when I came to him with my concern, he simply agreed. So we sat together for a moment just looking at each other, utterly stunned, until our 4-year-old came running up to me saying, “I have to pee, Mommy! Quick!”
And that tells the story, really. Once you have kids, virtually every moment in your day (waking or not) is devoted to them. Initially, it happens out of necessity. A newborn baby literally requires your near-constant attention just to survive – especially if you’re a breastfeeding mother. I recently came across a feeding chart I kept for our pediatrician when my son was brand new. Somehow I’d forgotten that I used to actually nurse him anywhere from 10 to 17 times a day, and that was when every feeding would last 30 minutes or more. That’s almost eight hours a day on the high end! Clearly, there was little time to focus on my husband – especially considering I was also still at least half responsible for our darling 2-year-old.
Thankfully, children have a knack for gaining tiny bits of independence almost every day. Theoretically this would free mom and dad up to get back to their love roots, but we all know that rarely happens. Maybe it’s because we’re individuals, first and foremost, so when we begin to once again taste moments of freedom, we want them to ourselves.
I know that was the case with me. The urge to connect (or re-connect) with my husband, either emotionally or physically, rarely popped up during the first few years of parenthood. I stole moments alone to read emails or celebrity gossip or to (gasp!) fold laundry. It sounds so shallow to hear myself say it now, but it’s the truth. And who knows – maybe it was for the best; if I had completely lost myself, I doubt there would be any navigable path back to an “us.”
But now, four years into our lifetime of parenthood, I miss my husband and I miss being his wife. More specifically, I miss feeling like his wife. I feel like a mom, and I’m so proud to say so, but I let that identity consume me. We have both allowed some bad habits to take hold and they’ve slowly (or quickly, depending how you look at it) eaten away at the structure of our relationship. The daily check-ins went away – those inane conversations about what you ate for lunch or who called you out of the blue or what’s going on at work – gone. We stopped brushing our teeth together, watching movies together, sleeping together. We barely even kissed goodbye or hello anymore. We were crumbling down to our foundation and neither one of us did much to stop it.
The great news is, after a few poignantly vulnerable sessions with our therapist we discovered that the foundation we built had somehow been beautifully preserved. We sorted through the debris of resentment and hurt feelings to find a solid love that had been there, patient and steady, all along. Which means it’s time to build again. It will require true commitment and honest effort from both of us and it won’t happen as quickly as it did the first time around. But my God, is it ever worth our while.
(Photo: Lana K/Shutterstock )