Here is a theme in modern marriages. Husband wishes for wife to set aside a little more time and care for romance; to look forward to date nights rather than worrying so much about leaving the children; to linger together in the evening instead of darting off to chores or projects; to insist that the children go to bed on time and stay in their own bedrooms; to try to present herself nicely when he arrives home. Meanwhile, wife resents husband's requests, certain that he has no idea how exhausted and overworked she is, how mind-bogglingly many are the demands of her day, and how worried she about the children’s well-being and development.
There is a wildly unhealthy culture of pressure on mothers, Christian mothers included. We work ourselves ragged and worry ourselves sick, managing every minute, giving ourselves and our children no breathing room, as if their well-being was entirely in our hands and letting up for one minute would ensure our failure as mothers and their failure as human beings. We’re determined to do better for our children (enrichment activities, superman nutrition, careful education, spiritual formation, structured play) with less support than mothers have ever had.
Meanwhile, our society views the institution of marriage and individual marriages as less important than ever. The upshot is that we receive none of what would be good community pressure to be faithful, caring wives. All around us, wives slander and dishonor their husbands, and they eventually pick up and leave to explore the greener grass on the other side.
These two pillars of modern life tempt us to neglect our marriages while wringing every drop of energy out of our bodies and spirits to raise “perfect” children.
Correctly prioritizing within our hearts is necessary for our own mental and emotional health and for the well-being of our families. As Christians, we understand that our loves are correctly ordered when they are God first, then husband, then children. I need to continually re-examine whether I’m living this.
What a relief!
Our Lord asks that we put Him first, that we let him be the breath of our lives, that we do the best we can with what we’re given, and entrust Him with the rest (or as my favorite parenting author puts it, “All I ask is that you do the best you can. Struggle to surpass yourself in loving service, and leave the rest to my almighty power….”).
Second in importance, we cleave to our husbands, cultivating our love and unity so that it refreshes and inspires us as women and overflows naturally into our lively mothering. I don’t think this is a nice string of sentiments; I think this happens, with grace, if I let it. I’m also pretty sure that living this way is much easier and happier than going it alone as anxious, burdened, resentful Supermom.
Our vocation and our call to holiness is to learn to fall more in love with the person who we fell in love with, chose, and love more than anyone else on earth. That’s amazing. I can’t believe I get so sidetracked sometimes.
Time, effort, and even money spent figuring out how to make our marriages thrive is unquestionably worthwhile. I think it’s not a matter of finding more time or energy in a day but rather reprioritizing, giving ourselves space from our other cares and responsibilities in order to make adequate room in our hearts for our husbands. We are asked to tithe to support the Church; there’s a good argument to be made for similarly trusting God by setting aside money even on a tight budget as a necessary expense to support our marriages, for date nights or for whatever else we enjoy doing together. Babysitting. Planning ahead for date nights at home. 90 seconds for makeup and perfume. Listening more than talking (I always blow this one). More babysitting!!
I find after only five years of marriage that investing in marriage pays dividends in many forms. Mom is happier, more lighthearted and more detached from the cares and ups and downs of daily life with the children. Dad loves being in love, coming home to delight in his bride, laughing together as they acknowledge and enjoy the many blessings of faithful Catholic family life. Children are secure in their proper place in the family, as the fruits and the beneficiaries of a living, life-giving love.