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When I was pregnant with my first son, I received more advice than I could possibly process. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without people giving me their (often unsolicited) child-rearing opinions. So around the middle of the second trimester, I just stopped listening. As soon as I’d hear the infamous “Let me give you one piece of advice,” I turned on my smile-and-nod and turned off my ears. Rude, I know. But I was just so over people telling me how to raise my unborn child.
This became a running joke between me and my husband. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when he came home from work one day and told me that he actually received a valuable piece of advice. The reason it resonated with us is because it had nothing to do with our child, but everything to do with our marriage.
The advice was simple: before the baby gets here, make a list of 10 things you enjoy doing together as a couple.
When the baby turns 4 months old (aka the time you begin to arise from the fog that is having a newborn), revisit it, and commit to making time to do all of those things.
We’re a long-time couple, we’re planners, and we’re overall Type A control freaks. So it shocked me that neither of us had the forethought to think about how we’d continue to make our marriage a priority after our world was turned upside down. Over dinner at a nice restaurant at a time when we had a vast amount of disposable income and no real responsibilities, we made our list. Things like dinner dates, day trips to local vineyards, watching Netflix documentaries, and hosting friends at our house topped the list. We giggled and assured ourselves nothing would change once the baby arrived. (Famous last words, right?)
My husband is my college sweetheart, and he’d been my number one priority since I was 18-years-old. But a few months after we made that list, we quickly learned that making your partner your number one priority is outrageously easy to do when they’re running unopposed. But, when a baby enters the picture, it can become slightly more complicated.
Somewhere in the midst of postpartum depression, utter exhaustion, anxiety, and the monumental learning curve that comes along with the first child, we lived in survival mode for those first 4 months. We slept at odd hours, bickered in the middle of the night, and completely considered living the rest of our lives as recluses.
Yet somewhere around the 3-month mark, our son started intentionally smiling at us. He cooed more often than he cried, and things started to feel more normal. Around that same time, I genuinely saw my husband for the first time in weeks. Like me, he had bags under his eyes and spit up on his shirt, but I loved him more than I ever had, and I went to go find that list.
That afternoon as we sat on our couch eating DiGiorno pizza in our sweatpants, it seemed like a lifetime since we had made that list over dinner at a fancy restaurant. Now, taking a day trip to a vineyard wasn’t in the cards, nor was a fancy dinner. But we were committed to going on a date. One call to my mother-in-law was all it took, and that night, we went out.
We ate Jimmy John’s subs in the restaurant and then walked around Lowe’s. It was a date that, pre-baby, would have seemed so lame and insignificant. But to this day, it’s the best date I’ve ever been on.
Becoming a mother has taught me so much about life, love, and the importance of making my marriage a priority. I’ve learned that where or what we’re eating for dinner doesn’t matter as long as we get to connect and have a real conversation. I’ve learned that holding hands in the paint aisle at Lowe’s is just as meaningful now as it was when we held hands backpacking through Europe.
Whether you’re expecting your first or are knee-deep in motherhood, I encourage you to date your partner. I don’t know much, but I know that making my marriage a priority is the best thing I can do for my family because it makes me a better mother and a happier woman, and who can argue with that?!