When Motherhood is Killing your Marriage
By Ashley Willis
I LOVE being a mom. It is one of the greatest blessings in my life. But, if I’m honest, motherhood has been really hard on my marriage at times. And, over the past year, I’ve found out that I’m not the only married mom who feels this way.
Last year, I put out a call on social media asking moms about some of the hurdles they face when it comes to being both a wife AND a mom. Many of you took part in a mom questionnaire that I issued via email (thank you!), and time after time, those surveyed said that BALANCING marriage and motherhood is one of the biggest struggles. There is so much guilt, resentment, pride, and disappointment around this issue, and sometimes, it feels like motherhood is literally killing our marriage.
Here’s what one mom had to say:
Both of my children are under five and require tremendous amount of attention and energy – for keeping up with, training, supervising, and general care. Everything is new and unexpected. It is difficult to attend to other areas at the same time, such as cleaning and maintaining my home, work/projects/other commitment outside of home, and marriage.
-Stephanie M., Married with 2 kids
Can you relate, Sweet Mama?
Our kids are always on our minds, and they should be. We’re reading parenting books, looking into the best schools and colleges, and making sure they are healthy and well-rounded individuals. We’re attending their activities and going to parent-teacher conferences. We’re talking with other moms about our kiddos to make sure we are on the right track and in the know.
These are all good things. Really, they are. But, somewhere along the way, our mommy role takes center stage. We tell ourselves that this is how it is supposed to be. Children MUST come first, right? Our husband is a grown man, so he should understand this. We’ll work on our marriage when the kids are grown. We want to give our kids the best life possible, after all. We want them to have the best of everything and experiences that we never had, right? So, of course, this means they are our primary focus until they fly the nest, right? After all, can’t our marriage wait?
This is what our culture tells us, and it seems like an honorable stance. We are their parents–their primary providers, teachers, and leaders. So, if we don’t make them our priority, then who will?
I get this line of thinking. I do. It’s a very common one. But, unfortunately, it has ruined far too many marriages or kept parents in a loveless, lifeless marriage only to divorce when the kids leave. It’s the kind of marriage that is only “for the kids” and “with the kids.” Sadly, this kind of marriage is doomed to fail unless we change the way we think about motherhood and marriage.
Friend, please understand that I am not judging you if you see things from this perspective. I think it comes from a place of striving the be the best mom you can be. After all, these precious kiddos are a tremendous blessing, and we want to give them a great life. But, we must realize that our marriage can’t wait for our children to grow up. It cannot be placed on the back burner.
Our marriage relationship must be prioritized, fostered, and fed too–while we are raising our kids. Not as our husband’s “other mother,” but as his one and only lover. This takes time and intentionality, and we most certainly need to get on the same page. And, this requires us spending time alone with our spouse. It means we put forth just as much–if not more–time and effort to strengthen our marriage and keep it going strong. But, how exactly do we do this?
I know some of you are agreeing with me here–you don’t want the gift of motherhood to become a curse for your marriage. But, you don’t see a way to do this without neglecting your kids or failing to complete the many tasks you have on your plate. I get it. There are only so many hours in the day. But, friends, the truth is, we always make time for what is most important to us. We make assumptions about things that aren’t as important.
Ouch! I know. I feel the sting too. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but I’ve seen this play out too many times. If we don’t make time with our husband a priority, then our kids, and everything else, will automatically take that time.
It’s good for our children to see their parents strive so hard to spend time with each other. They are learning how marriage is supposed to work. If we never go on a date or put the kids to bed early to have “mommy and daddy time,” then we are basically showing our children that they are the center of our universe and the marriage just really isn’t that important. But, when they see us investing in our marriage relationship, our children will place a high value on marriage too. This is one of the greatest gifts we can offer them as parents.
A friend of mine recently shared with me that, for years, her marriage had been rocky. They had multiple children in a short amount of time, and they both decided to “focus on the kids,” during this child-rearing season. At first, they didn’t seem to notice a change in their marriage because life was so busy changing diapers, running kids to and from school, and staying on top of things.
She decided to be a stay-at-home mom, and her husband threw himself into his work to provide for the family. She loved being at home, and he loved his work. But, as the years carried on, they both began to fight about everything.
In her husband’s eyes, she didn’t keep the house quite as clean as he would like. From her perspective, he worked too many hours and didn’t make enough money for the family. They were constantly blaming each other for the lack of peace in their home. They even considered separating. They felt like God wasn’t answering their prayers, and they just couldn’t get along anymore. But, then, something changed.
They started reading Christian books and articles on marriage that they would see through their Facebook feeds. Whenever they attended church, the pastor would say something about marriage that resonated with them. So, they decided to sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation one day after church–something they hadn’t done in years.
They each confessed to how they personally got to this negative place–no blaming, just confession. They listened to each other without interrupting or trying to correct a statement. Then they talked about how they wanted things to change in their family dynamic and the steps that were necessary to get there.
They enrolled in a marriage class at their church. Even though things were tight financially, they budgeted for a bi-monthly date night. They even sat their kids down and explained that Mommy and Daddy had not been spending enough time together, and they are going to be spending much more time alone together to improve their relationship. And, day-by-day, little-by-little, things began to change. With tears in her eyes, my friend told me that she is more in love with her husband today than she has ever been.
They made God the foundation of their relationship and started putting their marriage before the kids. This is how God designed the family. A strong marriage is built on a firm foundation of faith in God and constructed brick by brick through our commitment to one another. When we approach our marriage and family this way, our kids are safe and secure–realizing that their parents are working hard to stay strong together.
So, Married Mamas, can we be a “good wife” AND a “good mom” at the same time? Absolutely. This will happen naturally when we put God first, continue to prioritize and invest in our marriage, and then, work TOGETHER to “train our children up in the way they should go” through the highs and lows of life.