With the prospect of having our own household again dancing tantalizingly in the near future, Donald took me for a walk. Walks have often been our time to discuss our hopes and dreams, to plan for our futures and consider important truths. This time, he wanted to reconfirm that our previous sense of balance between parenting, careers, and maintaining our marriage, was still something that I agreed with.
Donald outlined what we had agreed upon before: he would work full-time, I would work until our first child was born, and then (assuming financial stability) I would be a full-time mom. Raising our children needed to be first priority and extra activities should not detract from it.
I kept walking, but my mind was racing. Did Donald want my identity to be solely that of mother and devoted wife? Was he asking me to never have a career or to have my own interests or activities?
Donald, familiar with what my silences mean, asked me to tell him what I was thinking. I started talking, brainstorming as I went. I said that I would always want to be involved in the community and to make a meaningful contribution, but that I did not have to have a paid job or a traditional career. I said that I wanted to put our children first, but that I also wanted to develop myself as an individual. I might get involved in things like the PTA, which is child-related, but I might also seek out a book club or historical society to challenge myself mentally and emotionally. I encouraged Donald to think about doing the same, to avoid spending all of his time only on work and kids. He needed guys' nights out and activities only for him.
As we were talking, I realized that we had left something out. We had talked about our roles as parents and as individuals. We had not yet said anything of our roles as spouses. I know that my own parents neglected this part of their relationship when they had children, and thirty years later are just now trying to put the pieces back together. This kind of thing happens too often. I will not allow it to happen to Donald and me because of neglect.
I truly think that making time for each other will be the most challenging part of our relationship when we add children to our lives. It is so easy to focus on the things that scream (literally) instead of on the things that suffer silently. We will need to work hard to provide opportunities for ourselves and each other to grow together. I will need to learn how to stop being silent and to ask for what I need, for what our relationship needs.
Now is the time to practice.