Nicole, this is an article that really struck me, as my husband and I are in the middle of parenting a toddler and are constantly trying to balance parenting and our relationship. I agree with the writer that oneís lover should be a higher value than oneís children. However, she makes the act of balancing the intense and immediate needs of a small child with the needs of two lovers in a marriage. In our society, where child raising is done alone in a nuclear family, it is very hard to be the kind of mother and wife I want to be. But, I do my best. I also think she makes it sound like having sex is the measurement of keeping romance alive. It is certainly very important, but I find that it is hard to find the time and energy to really talk and listen to David talk about the things that we are thinking and feeling and doing, as well. That is as important to me as sex, and we have to try very hard to make time for both.
The thing about this situation that isnít simple is that values shift and change in different contexts. To illustrate, here is the top of my values list.
- work Ė right now this is baby caretaking, homemaking, and gardening
- health Ė Iím not so good at doing this one all the time, but I am working on it
- barbershop singing
These are my overarching values, but what I focus on and put the most time into changes depending on the circumstances. On barbershop competition weekends, I spend very little time with David and Livy, and I focus almost completely on singing. When Jason comes up for the weekend in May, David and I will focus more on him and spend less time building our relationship. When Livy was a tiny baby, I put most of my energy into her and let housework, David, health, and friends slide. As she gets older, I spend more and more time on other values. I am not being subjective about my time. I carefully weigh the attention each value requires, keeping their order in mind, and make a decision about how to spend my time to make myself as happy as possible.
David and I knew going into having children that it would change our relationship drastically in the short run. We knew that would not kill our love in the long run, and we decided it was a short term loss that would lead to a long term gain. We do spend less time on each other, but we know that as our children grow up, weíll have that unfettered alone time more and more, until we are alone all the time. But we will also have grown children with whom we have the kind of relationship we want (at least we hope Ė there is always the kidsí volition in the equation).
But all that aside, I do think the author is right that we have to know the order of our values, and not sacrifice a higher for a lower. And we have to do what it takes to make our relationships thrive even with children. After all, we are living in the present.
To whoever said they didnít think this was a big problem: it is. I see Momís all the time who have totally given themselves up in their relationship with their children. It isnít just a problem with neglecting their romantic relationships, but with neglecting all their values. That doesnít make a happy or healthy person. It makes a martyr, and it makes children riddled with guilt.