It was 8 years ago that we threw a spectacular party under a big white tent by a lake in southwest Connecticut with 150 of our closest friends and family. Afterwards we were whisked off to NYC in that stretch limo, spent the night at the W Hotel penthouse where Eric Clapton frequently stayed (or so we were told). The next morning, we had breakfast on a private 700 square foot rooftop patio before heading off to JFK for the beginning of a storybook honeymoon in Italy.
It was a time of pure self-indulgence and fun. We enjoyed frequent socializing with friends, city living, travel, and copious free time. There were long walks together, lazy sunny weekends lying on the grass in the Public Garden, and quiet rainy Sundays curled up on the couch together reading the newspapers.
That was our life 8 years ago.
Last week, our 4-year-old son woke me up at 4am because he had a dream about a scary ghost. I assured him that there were no such ghosts, tucked him back into bed and gave him a kiss on his forehead. He then lovingly wiped a booger on my arm because he didn’t have a tissue.
When my alarm went off the next morning to get ready for work, I sleepily walked into the bathroom only to find one of our daughters sitting on the potty with her head resting against the sidewall, eyes closed, and drooling.
And of course there is our 100 lb. lap dog that continuously entertains with his less than stellar manners and bodily sounds as he snuggles into our bed each night. By all accounts, he’s our first-born and contributes heartily to the chaotic cacophony of our home.
Our life together has certainly gone from one extreme to the other and gives merit to the phrase, “having kids changes everything.” And while most will agree that being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world (I agree!), it also changes your lifestyle, your wallet, your views of the world, your goals in life, and it changes your relationship with your significant other.
In the beginning, it’s all about nighttime feedings and diaper changes, sleepless nights, and an overnight transition from life being about you and your wife to being about the baby (or babies!). You’re both trying to figure out a routine that works so you can get some sleep and function at work. Sometimes that means you pass each other in the night and don’t see each other (awake) for a day or more.
As the kids get older, there are birthday parties to attend, soccer practices and games, dance classes, playgroups, swimming lessons, and the ill-fated “bath time”, all the while trying to work full-time and advance our careers that we so love and in which we find professional purpose and meaning.
We are perpetually tired.
There’s less time, money, sleep, and unfortunately, there’s often less “us.”
It’s easy to lose sight of where it all began and the person with whom you chose to take this path in life amidst the chaos and randomness of the world. And while the focus is certainly the kids, you don’t want to find one day that you’ve neglected each other for so long, that you no longer remember or recognize all the reasons you fell in love in the first place.
We all struggle everyday to find a few moments of “us” – a subtle flirt, a hand on a knee when trying to make believe we aren’t completely exhausted on the couch at night after the kids go to bed, or merely holding hands as we walk to the park with the kids.
It’s those moments, however few, that are the oh-so-important reminders to us both that “I’m here and I love you.”
So while lazy Sundays reading the newspaper might be replaced with trips to Monkey Joe’s, the local park, the ball field, or a dance recital (or all four!), just remember that beautiful girl you fell in love with; remember the one that fell in love with you. Remember the one with which you share this often trying but wonderful life while raising some of the most amazing, smart, funny, and sensitive kids.
Over the years, I’ve come to find that the following subtle reminders go a long way. Print this and put it in your wallet. And put another copy in her jeans pocket.
1. Get a babysitter and use them. The kids will be fine. Seriously. Life can’t be just about the kids. Celebrate “us.”
2. Leave her notes in random places.
3. Flirt. Nobody is too tired to flirt.
4. Talk. Take the kids places where they will be entertained so you can spend a few moments together. Not about the list of things you need to do but rather about life and each other.
6. Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll lose your mind.
7. Enjoy your kids now as they grow up faster than you will want them to.
8. Touch. When we lose that physical connection, we lose more than you think.
9. We all make mistakes. Support each other.
10. You are not alone in how you feel. We’ve all been there (or will) and you will get through it.
She was once that pretty girl you met at a party. She was once that girl you couldn’t stop thinking about. She was once your girlfriend. Then your wife. Then the mother of your kids. She was (and is) your everything.