Friday, September 23, 2011

Marriage advice in the Operating Room

So. Awhile back I got to stand in and observe a fancy new procedure two of the doctors I work for are currently preforming. It was very interesting and I enjoyed the whole process. But what stood out to me the most from that day was a conversation I had with the charge nurse before the procedure began.

She was inquiring how I was able to be there the entire day (I normally only work afternoons), and I told her David was able to be home with the twins. I then explained how we work opposite schedules so Luke and Abbey always have one of us home with them.

"That's great, but be careful" she cautioned.

She went on to explain that she and her husband had done the same thing for 15+ years as their children were small. And then the kids got into high school, the changed their shifts around and were able to spend more time together as a couple.
And they realized they didn't know how to.

Something about the way she spoke made me take heed. I've had many, many people tell me not to neglect my marriage and that it's important for us to make time for each other, but it's always gotten shuffled to the back of my mind, as we've just been knee-deep in trying to survive infanthood and toddlerhood with two little ones.

But this time, I listened. I knew she was right. (In retrospect, maybe it was just the fact that we were wearing surgical masks so her eyes seemed so much more prominent and pouring... =) )

It's interesting the opinions and advice you get on such a matter. I've had many people tell me I needed to leave my babies overnight much sooner, as that will help them with separation anxiety and teach them other people are safe and "good" at caring for them as well. On the flip side, I've had people advise me not to leave them overnight until they are "much" older.

The research -as is so often the case with research- you can pretty much make say anything you want it to say.

My take? Every kid is different. Mine were born on the same day and are being raised at the same time by the same parents, and they are very different. You've gotta do what works for your family. What I've learned so far is I can't push my kids. Especially Abbey. Around 10 months she became a real Momma's girl and remains so today. She doesn't like to be far from me and if I'm around she's usually in my lap.
And I don't push her. The few times that I've tried, she's become much clingier as a result. Sure, we have our times where she needs to be outside of her comfort zone, simply because it's what needs to happen at the time, but they are few and far between. She simply hasn't been ready for me to be gone for an extended period of time before. Luke has his clingy moments, but isn't as serious about it as his sister. I wouldn't say he's been really ready before either, although he's probably been more ready than Abbey.

But I also haven't been ready. I never even missed a bedtime until they were 14 months old, and Dave and I went out for our anniversary and Auntie Natalie put them to bed. And guess what? The twins didn't miss a beat. They went to sleep just fine for their Auntie and slept great. We've been gone for bedtime one other time (Natalie sat again) and it went off without a hitch as well. But I've never been gone overnight before. Dave's been away overnight a (small) handful of times, and he's offered for me to get a chance to do the same, but I just haven't felt ready.

Which brings me to my next point. I don't want to project my separation anxiety onto my kids.

I have a penchant to hover and I'm already fighting Helicopter Mom tendencies. I personally think at 17.5 months my kids are still young enough to need me A LOT so I don't sweat these tendencies too much just yet, but I'm aware of them and know at some point I'll have to pay more attention to them.

I worry about my babies. Like, a lot. I do best when they are with me. But I don't necessarily want them to know that =)

But back to the advice.

I put this kind, wise woman's words into the forefront of my mind and began to keep an eye out for a good time to carve out some time for my marriage.

Towards the end of the summer, Abbey started to become more and more independent, and comfortable faster in new environments.

I could attribute this new confidence and independence to a lot of could be because of the hard work we put in her first year+ of making sure she is properly attached to us. It could be because I don't push her, and so she's finally feeling comfortable knowing that she won't be forced to do something she isn't ready to. Or it could have very little to do with our parenting and simply be a natural progression at this age.

Whatever the case, I began to feel like she was ready to be without both Daddy and I for a night.

I felt like Luke would be able to handle it fine too.

Then the perfect scenario for babysitters appeared. I knew I would not be willing to leave my babies anywhere but our house, so whoever watched them would need to come here. Well, my sister Emily stayed with us for 12 days (so Abbey and Luke were already used to having her around the house and a daily part of their lives) and my sister Natalie was more than willing to sacrifice a night of freedom to come have a sleepover with her niece and nephew. (Yes, I know I am ridiculously blessed with wonderful extended family!!) I was beginning to have confidence my kids would be okay for a night...but would I? That's where the real hang up lingered.

The main reason I finally decided to go away for the night is my marriage. My marriage needed it. Dave and I needed it.
Fear not, Worriers, our marriage is fine, but it could be better. For the last 17.5 months we've operated on the idea that neither of us is going anywhere and we are no doubt in this together, but we've often been two ships passing in the night. Our conversations our often reduced to cliff notes. We are Luke and Abbey's parents, and that involves wonderful things like sharing the mutual joy when they do something adorable and fun, both our hearts swelling with pride when they learn something new, and the absolute unexplainable feeling of seeing your spouses features or mannerisms in your child. But there are other components to co-parenting that aren't as wonderful for our arguing about discipline, and sleep deprivation (which can put even the kindest people at their worst), and financial stresses, and being pulled in two more directions than we were previously. Yes, we are Luke and Abbey's parents - and we are beyond BLESSED to have such roles- but we are also Dave and Kendra. A couple that existed for 6 years prior to Luke and Abbey's birth. And that relationship needs some nourishment.

I also firmly believe that one of the best gifts we can give our children is the gift of parents who have a strong, healthy marriage.

And a strong healthy marriage isn't going to just happen.

David and I are friends, and we have fun together. And honestly (and sadly) it can be easy to forget that in the daily grind.

Natalie told me about this smokin' deal, and we were able to go away and do our entire trip for under $125. Room, meals, a movie, everything! Amazing! For a family on a tight budget this was a huge blessing.

So, we went away.
For 26 hours.
And we had a blast.

And guess what??? Our kiddos had a blast too! In their very own environment with one on one interaction from a loving auntie.

Our room was adorable...

The view off our deck...

The happy couple...

It was a wonderful time away.

It was also a little strange...

I keep reading articles about how around this age my children are fighting a strange brew of wanting to be independent and yet still very much drawn to be with me. I can't help too. For nearly 10 months they were a part of my body, and then for another 13 more as we breastfed they remained a part of me. That's nearly 2 years where we were practically inseparable.

Now we are entering a phase where we are all able to be a little more independent. And it's both exciting and something I am slightly mourning.


Jen S. said...

WOW--that is a HUGE step! GOOD FOR YOU GUYS! So glad you had a good time, and the kids did too :)

Aunt Carol said...

And it's going to get better and better.

Vanessa's Dad said...

One can only change when one:

1) Recognizes/acknowledges the NEED for change,

2) WANTS to change,and

3) Is willing to COOPERATE WITH THE PROCESS of change, willing to do the WORK needed to change.

Sounds like you got all three. Cool that the "work" of change involves a fun time away with your spouse. :) Thanks for sharing your lesson with all married couples in your Blog Empire.


Lacy said...

Kendra, I am so happy for y'all that you got a romantic night away!! This is something we have a hard time with too...the transition from Mama & Dada to WIfe and Husband. I hope I get brave enough the next time we have family come visit to ask for a night away! (We need it!!) My MOPS speaker this week was talking about the same thing...

Basically, don't be too busy holding little hands right now that you neglect your husband's, because once those little hands grow up and move away, it is your husband's hand that you'll be holding for the rest of your life!

Lisa said...

Thank you for your honesty. My twins are 14 months and lately I have felt like we are just parents of the same children. Not the couple who could have fun together no matter what, the couple that expressed love more freely than now. I love him, I do, it's just I am missing US. Badly. We have been away from our children overnight, but to attend weddings, etc. There are great moments, but they are b/c of the children. Thank you for the reminder that WE are as important as they are, that we are the foundation of this family. The family is not strong unless we are.

Kat said...

Before we had kids, even while pregnant, I worried and worried about losing the "couple" feeling. My husband and I talked for hours about the fact that we need to make sure our marriage is always strong and to put it in front of our children. But now that we actually have our baby girl (she's 8 months now), it's like it flew out of my mind. I can't imagine ever wanting to spend time apart from her. And although I know that it's super important to be a couple, right now I just want to be with my baby.