It’s not easy keeping the romance alive with four kids; it’s work. Like, actual work.
But it’s totally worth it.
In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought I’d share something romantic and swoon-worthy. But, I have four kids so I’m going to share something practical and definitely relatable. I’ll start with the math, because nothing says romance like arithmetic.
15 years together
12 years married (well, in May)
4 kids (8, 5, 2 and 2)
If you add all that up, you get zero free time, a hectic schedule, and exhaustion. It’s an easy recipe for marital failure, but we decided a long time ago that wasn’t in the cards for us. I married my husband because he said to me while we were in the first few months of dating, “I will never be the kind of husband who sits on opposite sides of the room from my wife or has an entire life outside of her she’s not involved in,” and I fell in love. I love the idea of being a team, and I love the idea of doing life together. It’s what works.
We were married years before we had kids, and we did a lot of traveling. Almost every weekend was a new hotel in a new city. I remember distinctly one year we were in New York on weekend, California the next, Miami the following weekend, Hawaii three weeks later, and Cleveland two weeks after that. We had serious fun. Then we had kids.
The fun didn’t end, but it did change. Date night meant a babysitter. Trips mean coordinating babysitters or taking 800 million pieces of luggage into the airport, and it’s a lot of work. With four kids, it’s a recipe for straight crazy. A lot changed when we welcomed kids into our life, but our commitment to our marriage did not. If anything, our marriage became stronger. We have kids we want to model a healthy, happy marriage for; and we want them to see healthy, happy, respectful, fun, loving, generous, kind, and hilarious in our marriage.
Or maybe we just became stronger because now it’s us against them. And they outnumber us.
Every single person in the world fortunate enough to know my husband will tell you he is all the good things in life. In fact, they’ll tell you he’s pretty perfect, and it’s hard to find things not to love about him (apparently his hanging my clothes in the incorrect sections of my closet when he does laundry only bothers me and not the entire world…weird, right?). While my husband has his fair share of flaws, he’s someone I could talk about all day long because he’s just a good person. Kind, loving, generous, sweet, patient, ambitious, dedicated, loyal, a hard worker, an amazing daddy…I could go on all day long.
I recognize all the good in my husband, and that’s what I focus on. I love to build him up, compliment him, do sweet things for him, and try to make him feel even a fraction of how good he makes me feel. I think that’s part of the reason our marriage does work so well (that, and we surround ourselves with a group of amazing friends with the same values, long-term marriages, and happiness we feel). It’s what makes me feel even crazier about him today than I did 15 years ago when we first began dating.
Making Marriage Work
Listen, we have our fair share of arguments. For more than 8 years I’ve worked from home, and I had days I’d lose every ounce of patience with the kids and totally take it out on my husband. Now he works from home, too, and he is so focused on his work it’s like I’m not even here sometimes. I don’t mind, per say, since I’m just as much of a workaholic who loves my concentration. But, when I want his attention, I want it now. I can stress him out, he can stress me out, and we can both become stressed when our schedules get too crazy, which happens often. We argue, and we don’t always like one another – but we always love one another.
Making our marriage work takes work with all the tiny humans vying for our affection up in here, but we do it.
- Frequent Date Nights: We are all about date night, and we never go more than two weeks without one. We try to schedule one every week, but sometimes that doesn’t work with the kids’ schedules. We never, ever, ever let more than 2 weeks go by without a date. It’s good for our souls.
- At Least Two Trips Per Year Sans Kiddos: We love the kids, and we love to travel with them, so don’t feel bad for them. They’ve racked up plenty of their own frequent flier miles, after all. Twice a year we make a point to take a weekend or longer away and spend it without them. We love that time, and it’s so good for us.
- Nightly At Home Date Nights: We do this every single night. Twins in bed by 6:30, girls by 7:30 (8:30 on practice nights) and date night for us. It’s a glass of wine, a conversation on the deck, catching up on our favorite shows, or just hanging out together. It really doesn’t matter, because it’s two uninterrupted hours of time together every single night. We shower together, go to bed together, and spend serious time together. I love having that to look forward to each night.
- Morning Wake Up: We always wake up together and drink our coffee together before the kids wake up. It’s a nice way to start the day, even if we don’t speak to one another while we sip. I mean, I don’t really have conversational skills until I’ve had two cups, and he’s not a fan of dragon lady-Tiffany (she sucks).
- We Laugh: A lot. I mean, a lot. Our kids crack us up. They’re funny as hell, and we love that. And when they’re insane and we’re overwhelmed, we laugh. Because, really, it’s better than crying.
- It’s the Little Things: The one thing I credit for keeping us so close after so long – and a million kids – is all the little stuff. My husband is a master of the little stuff. He brings me flowers all the time because he knows I love them. He orders me awesome coffee mugs from Etsy when I mention seeing one I like. If he hears me mention I’ve missed the kids on particularly busy weeks, he books a weekend away for us so we can spend some quality time with them. If I’m overwhelmed, he makes an appointment for a massage for me or books a babysitter and plans an impromptu date night. He brings me chocolate. He makes my coffee in the morning. He’s good to me. I try to do the same for him, though I’m not sure I could ever do more than he does.
Never underestimate the little things. They are the biggest things. Marriage is not an easy deal, but it’s pretty easy when you enjoy it. It takes work, but it’s not bad work. It’s the kind of work that makes life fun. I’ll take the difficult task of scheduling babysitters around busy schedules for a weekend away or a date night over an unhappy household any day.
Today is the universal day of love, but we don’t really celebrate in the traditional manner. We make it a big deal for our kids, because it’s fun for them. Chocolate, cute shirts to wear today for their class parties, and a few little toys make it all worth their while when they get out of bed. My honey and I exchange cards, little gifts, and he always sends me red roses to commemorate the day, which I love and appreciate.
Otherwise, our day is pretty tame. It’s all kids and school and cheer practice and stuff. We did stop working long enough to have lunch together, but I was back at my desk before he was done with his lunch. Does that count? Our oldest has cheer tonight, but we did grab some filets and fresh loaf of French bread that my husband will cook after everyone goes to bed. We’ll drink a glass bottle of wine and enjoy the quiet. And I’m pretty positive I wouldn’t have it any other way. Um, except for the fact that I ate about 200 pieces of chocolate from the kids’ stash already today. I am appropriately ashamed!
What are your favorite Valentine’s traditions?