“What a waste of a lovely night…” These words from a charmingly romantic Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling number in the movie La La Land kept clanging around my head the other day. My husband had a rare weekday off work and our girls were whining and screaming and in full-on “WE’RE ALMOST THREE!” mode. I was working hard to manage the tantrums but I instead kept hearing that line, “What a waste of a lovely night,” repeating in my mind. My children were throwing themselves on the floor, my husband was trying to rally the troops and I, without preamble, began to cry in our kitchen.
I waded mostly solo through three exhausting weeks of travel and visitors to reach this elusive day off as a family. My apparently lofty goal was to enjoy my time with my husband and I wasn’t. Anyone with kids has moments of, “This is supposed to be fun!!,” but this was different. This put into sharp relief the question I have been struggling with for over a year. Should we have another child?
We Even Bought The Minivan...
We both want one. We both think about it and talk about it and I have been taking prenatal vitamins for months. We have bought a minivan. We could change some habits and potentially manage financially with some retirement savings in tact (college tuitions are another story). But where will this potential third child leave our marriage? We have somehow managed successfully through the first three years of twin parenthood and emerged more amused and besotted with each other than before. I do not fear the sleepless nights and financial costs (much) of a third child. I fear the time constraints and lack of babysitters. I fear losing the energy to put my marriage first.
Making the decision to have another child requires us to imagine a different life while actively living in our current situation. I can picture the adorable baby and toddler he or she would become but seeing how to continue to put my marriage first is harder. Declaring my marriage comes first without guilt or reservation, above even my children, shouldn’t require courage but somehow it does. Recently I confided this to someone and my Mom Guilt bells began to chime. My mind went to places reserved for shame and embarrassment. Then I realized something magical: this guilt was almost entirely fabricated. I feel not only no shame but almost a smugness in putting my marriage first.
Declaring my marriage comes first without guilt or reservation, above even my children, shouldn’t require courage but somehow it does.
Actually Putting Your Marriage First...
Everyone has probably read one or two or 100 articles about how your marriage should be number one “because one day the kids will leave.” This is true (or so we dearly hope) but it’s not my reason for putting my marriage first. I put my marriage first because my husband is my favorite person in the world. No one pushes me harder or encourages me more. There is no one I respect or admire or laugh with more. I read a quote once by Emily Blunt about her husband that has somehow stuck with me since 2013. “When I met John my life really changed. When I feel the support I have from him, I feel invincible.” I probably have little actually in common with her but substitute “Joe” for “John” and I could have said these words. With him I have the confidence to be me without any need to change unless I alone desire it. We make each other better. Nothing in my personal life is more important than both of us repeatedly choosing to be married to each other day after day.
I don’t claim our marriage is all sunshine and rainbows. We’ve made each other cry and fume. We’ve spent days tiptoeing around each other being excessively polite. But we do spend most days loving and liking each other. We talk about wanting more time together almost constantly. The pain in these moments pushes me to focus on my marriage even more.
Having a(nother) child inevitably cuts into time with your partner, as it should. Children deserve time and energy and love just as much as relationships do. But how many days is too many days quietly humming, “What a waste of a lovely night?” How many cancelled date nights is too many date nights cancelled because of fussiness or flu or fevers? I remember having these same intense fears when we found out we were expecting twins. Somehow having one child seemed manageable but two? That was a recipe for disaster and divorce. The fear of it nearly consumed me at times.
This fear is altered by the wisdom of having two children and knowing the wonders and weariness they bring. We have yet to make a decision and will likely continue to waffle but I fully recognize this debate is a privilege.We struggle with nothing more or less than the conflict between overwhelming love for each other and for our children. And what a lovely life that makes.
Do you struggle with the decision to have more children and the impact another child will have on your marriage?
An Alabama native, Kristen moved to the Madison area in the summer of 2014 with her husband, Joe, and their then 3-month old identical twins, Paige and Kate. Licensed as a clinical social worker, Kristen became an “accidental stay-at-home mom” when her income didn’t cover daycare costs. Kristen and Joe enjoy Madison and the challenges and rewards of being far from family while raising young children. With two really early risers, Kristen enjoys “sleeping in” until 5am and lifting weights.