As anyone with kids knows, life is chaotic and exciting, in both good and bad ways. Clutter and noise. Frantic food preparation. Homework. Activities. Music and sports practice in the house. It’s both fun and annoying and stressful and life fulfilling. Realizing you are raising two young people to have values and morals and life skills for the world they’ll one day be released to is incredibly satisfying and give meaning to our lives. But man, can that chaos be challenging.
When LoudBoy is yell-singing (or yinging as we call it, Will Farrell has a good example)
and the dog chasing/barking at him and me or Holly going at it with Birdsnest about something, I try to remind myself to enjoy these crazy moments. While I try to stay in the moment and not look ahead, it’s hard not to think about how short these years are with young children. How small the window is for them to believe in Santa and reindeer, and how the excitement they feel in anticipation of Christmas brings our cynical adult selves back to a lighter and wonderful place. The movie the The Polar Express embodies some of this, as kids begin to lose that Christmas spirit. So we need to savor these life moments, and not let our own thoughts or stresses muddy these family times.
In the not too distant future, the house will be quiet of loud music or piano practice or kids fighting. It will just be me and my spouse, or you and yours. And what then? Kids have a tendency to be a black hole of love and attention, sucking in and taking a lot, and it takes an effort to make sure the light of your love reaches out to the person you married as well. We’re friends with several couples, and know other acquaintances, that haven’t been able to get out of the kid gravitational pull. They’re in essentially sexless marriages focusing nearly entirely on raising kids. While not necessarily disdainful towards each other, in fact they probably do love each other, but are merely apathetic towards a passionate relationship as husband and wife. So what do these people do once the kids are grown and out of the house? One of my friends already covertly complains in the form of jokes about his lack of sex life, and they’re youngest is three, so that means a long spell of dissatisfaction if he sticks it out and things don’t change.
That’s why it’s important that during these times when things are the craziest in our lives that we buttress or build a solid marriage with our husband or wife. One of my mentors always said that, though it was difficult, the best time to market and do business development was when you are the busiest with work. Because if you don’t, when you complete the work or project, you’ll be left wondering what you’ll do next. We need to continue to plant and maintain our marriage garden, so when the quiet times begin, we simply move to the next chapter with our best friend and lover.
That means taking care of ourselves physically and being as healthy and good looking as possible. It means getting that relationship dynamic right – if you’re a man, lead and be a Captain – the marriages noted above, without exception, the husband allows the wife to make 90% of their family decisions…not a good dynamic. That means taking time to do activities and share time with just our spouse, be it classes, or workshops, or the gym, or date nights, or weekend getaways. It means finding a hobby that keeps us happy, and bringing that happiness back to the marriage. It means reflecting and talking and snuggling and being intimate so that connection isn’t lost. That’s one reason why regular married sex is so important – it’s a connection that you can’t have with anyone else and brings two people together, regularly, in an intimate way.
So learn to embrace the chaos, even if it drives you crazy right now, since it will soon be eerily quiet in the house. Find and grow new passions and hobbies, both outside the marriage and with your spouse. Show your kids what a good, passionate marriage is like, because they will model their own relationships after yours. Doing these things helps us to have happy, lifelong marriages and to buck the divorce trend so prevalent today. As I mention in my book, it is so easy to fall into the trap of kids at the center of the family, and it takes awareness to keep the family dynamics in check for the long-term benefit of everyone.
Good luck to all in this crazy holiday season, hope your preparations are going well!
Post Script: A day after I wrote this post I met with a client who told me he was a day away from signing divorce papers. We’ve become sort of friends the last few years and he opened up a little. He was married over 22 years, and his wife dropped the ILYBNILWY speech on him, siting the reason for her divorcing him is “they’ve grown apart.” They have four kids, ranging in age from 13 to 22. We talked about some of the mistakes he made, and how they put the kids at the center of the family, and advised me to make sure we continue to make sure the husband-wife relationship is still strong – making time just for us. He also said that since he traveled a fair amount for work, his wife ran the household how she saw fit, and it wasn’t until recently (when he stopped traveling) that he tried to even jump into the cockpit and intervene. By then it was too late. This illustrated many of the points I made above.