I couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle at my wedding! Seriously, the ceremony was running a few minutes behind and I remember literally jumping up and down, so eager and excited to become Mrs. Teresa Ator! I adore my husband, but let me be really honest here and tell you that one of the many reasons I was so excited to become a wife was because it meant that one day, I would also get to become a mom!
I am the oldest of four children, so I had lots of experience taking care of littles and I loved every minute of it. God really did create in me a deep desire to love and nurture kids and I was thrilled at the thought of potentially having our own children and becoming parents together one day!
Fast forward a few years and a couple of kids later and we began to realize just how all-consuming this parenting gig really was, and still is 23 years later. We had two boys at this point, and while they were sweeter than I could’ve imagined, they needed more attention than I could’ve ever imagined!
Our lives were consumed with diapers, dishes, and dirty clothes, which left little time for anything else, particularly each other. We were quickly learning that if we weren’t intentionally carving out time together, it simply did not happen.
It was in these early years that we realized we had to make a decision to prioritize our marriage. We both believed (and still do) that a healthy marriage was vital to a joy-filled family and we knew that we wouldn’t have a strong marriage without working hard to strengthen it. We wanted our marriage to take priority over parenting!
I think God feels the same way about marriages. Have you ever noticed that in Genesis, each day after God created something, He called His creation good? He did! Beginning on day 3, after creating land and sea, the Bible begins to repeat the phrase, “And God saw that it was good.” In fact, He says it 5 times in 15 verses in chapter one. Here’s the thing I find interesting, once He creates Adam and Eve, He adds the word very to the mix!
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” Genesis 1:31. He was so pleased with His creation of the very first family! It’s good for me to remind myself that when God joined Randall and me together, our family was complete, very good! We couldn’t be more grateful that God blessed us with 5 beautiful children! Michelle, Riley, Jake, Nathan, and Lainee, and didn’t complete our family. Our family was complete when we exchanged vows and walked down the aisle together on our wedding day nearly 25 years ago.
What I have learned is that God designed the family as a picture of His redemption! He explains it in Ephesians chapter 5. Our biggest desire is to show our kids, as well as all those we do life with, a picture of this sacrificial and redeeming love God has for us through our marriage.
I admit it was HARD to set aside time for just each other, and some days it just didn’t happen. However, we were committed to picking up where we left off and making it happen for each other and for our kids. We were definitely better parents when we did! We have learned how important it is for us to continually develop and invest in the most significant relationships in our lives, both with each other and with our Heavenly Father.
Believe it or not, time flies at an insane speed when raising a family! Though it may not feel like it, I can testify that it won’t be too long before your family will return to just the two of you at home. Investing in your relationship with God and your spouse will help you enjoy those moments of empty nesting when they arrive, and they will arrive!
Here are a few boundaries we put into place to make sure we were prioritizing our marriage:
- Couch Time: Each day when Randall got home from work, we took 15 minutes to sit on the couch and talk about our day. If your house is anything like ours was, this doesn’t sound doable, but our toddlers and preschoolers quickly learned that we were going to focus on each other for a few minutes. Eventually, with consistency, they weren’t quite so needy.
- Date Night: When my in-laws were raising their family, they went on a date night every Friday night! I loved hearing her reminisce about those days! If this is something you can schedule for your family, DO IT! It’s easier for us now that we don’t have to make arrangements for our littles. When every week wasn’t possible, we scheduled a couple of date nights each month to focus on each other.
- Nightly Routine: Having a bedtime routine, where we put our kids down by 7:30 became our favorite time of the day! Taking advantage of the time between the kids’ bedtime and your bed time can be magical! Often, we would even wait to eat and have a quiet dinner together over candlelight! A routine like this is not only beneficial to your marriage but creates healthy sleeping patterns for your kids!
- Daily Check-In: One of the things that we found most honoring and helpful to each other was to ask the questions, “How can I pray for you today?” or “How can I serve you today?” These two questions enabled us to keep a gauge on how the other was doing and be able to wholeheartedly petition the Lord on the other’s behalf!
- Overnight Getaways: This was and still is our favorite thing to do together!! It is so good to retreat from the everyday weights and responsibilities of life and simply enjoy each other’s company as a way to reconnect!
Randall and I are right on the cusp of an empty nest! Our baby is 16 and will be off to college in less than 2 years! While that feels really sad in some ways, it’s also extremely exciting!! It’s actually so FUN having adult children (particularly when they bring grandkids into the mix and “Owen Randall” our first arrives next month)!
It feels like it happens overnight, so hang on! I get how hard it is. Life with littles is full of all the things, good and bad! Keeping your marriage a priority in the midst of these years can be extremely hard! I want you to know that you CAN DO HARD THINGS!! Your marriage and family are so worth it!
What are the things you do regularly to make your marriage a priority?