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Good morning, Mamma. A young friend recently asked me out to lunch to talk about marriage retreats. Marriage is work, no doubt about it. And worth the work, for sure.
It’d be nice if marriage was easy joy. You know, like pulling a pint of Ben & Jerry’s out of the freezer, or having a deliveryman show up at your front door with a big bouquet of flowers. VIola! Hey presto, this is awesome!
But no. Marriage is more like making the ice cream, or growing the flowers… wonderful, but it takes work to get there. Ongoing work, what’s more.
Weekend marriage retreats have been a Godsend for my husband and I. This ice-cream-making-flower-growing thing gets hard sometimes. It’s nice to have a little support in our gardening efforts.
I’m going to post a link about a marriage retreat that my husband and I have enjoyed. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we’ve been back four times. It’s put on by a Christian group, but the messages they send about valuing your marriage, investing the time and energy into keeping it vibrant, and effective communicating would be valuable to all folks. They even talk about sex. And they’re funny, which, in my opinion, is essential if you are going to spend two and a half days talking about marriage.
Bless your date night, Mamma. Bless your marriage. And bless your day.
Remember, date night doesn’t have to be complicated. Grab and hour or so to sip a little something, hold hands and talk about what you like about each other. Sitting on the front stoop with a beer and a baby monitor counts. Snuggling on a sofa with Chipotle burritos watching your favorite DVD counts too. Even one glass of wine at the great Italian place across town.
Good morning, Mommy! Happy Thursday. Happy almost-Friday!
Just about every day of their lives, I have told my children, “I love you. I think you are wonderful. And I will love you forever, no matter what.” In just those exact words. Just like that.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Try it. You will feel in your heart and your gut the power of those words. And, what’s more wonderful, your children will feel it too.
We are human. We will make mistakes. But, as my mother once told me, love fixes a lot.
Make sure you tell them, Mamma. Unconditional love it too important to be assumed.
Good morning, girl. Happy Friday!!! I am oh-so looking forward to my weekend. But first, I have to get today’s work done. And get Monday’s work set up. And then make a meal plan and do laundry and have a budget meeting with husband. Right. Then I can have fun.
But wait a minute. Why is fun the last thing on my list? Really. Like it’s the least important thing in my life?
Yes, we have to be grown-ups. Yes, everyone needs clean socks and undies for Monday. Yes, the bills need to be paid and the work needs to be done and on and on and on…
BUT. If we wait until everything, everything, EVERYTHING is done, before we play, let’s be honest, we’ll never play.
I totally blew it last weekend. I got all my grown-up stuff done (checking off my to-do list, Bam! Bam! Bam!) But I hardly spent any time having fun with my kids. I got to Sunday night and wondered where my weekend went. I was more tired Sunday than I was Friday! I forgot to play.
And play is so important. These lives of ours can make the strongest woman crazy. Like, certifiable, crying-at-your-desk-because-you-can’t-remember-the-last-time-you-laughed crazy.
Please don’t get there.
Your husband wants to play too. And your kids definitely want to play. WITH YOU. Please make memories of more than just yelling at them to stop hitting their brother.
Guard your play time. Value it. Please. Cut corners somewhere else to find that hour (or two or three or four) to be silly with your kids. Or romantic with your husband.
Paper plates are fine. Mac & Cheese and apple slices are an awesome dinner, awesome. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work too. Call all your utilities and put them on autopay. Overnight laundry is just fine. Let you husband do the grocery shopping if he is willing; who cares if he gets the wrong brand of butter or whatever. Or order your groceries online. Let the kids fold the laundry. Do it together and no correcting how they fold the towels. Creative folding works just fine. Spend the time talking about their day.
Seriously, Mamma. We cannot do everything. You are fabulous in every way, but you are not all powerful. And you need to play. And your kids need to play with you! And your husband needs romantic time.
If you feel like a drudge, it’s time to rethink how you are using the hours of your one precious life.
This weekend, make time to play. I promise I will too.
How much time with your family is enough? Well, it depends, I guess, but there is, most certainly, enough and there is also not-enough.
The reality of this hit home yesterday when it came up twice in my day. During a lunch strategy meeting, I and two Mommy colleagues got to talking about money vs time. A recruiter had been nosing around, offering a job at more than double the pay with more than double the travel. Not one of us was tempted to look at it.
That afternoon, I met with another colleague who confided that she was dialing way back, skipping a conference, taking Fridays off, resigning from a board she had loved serving on. “My kid needs me,” she said.
(Do men chat like this at meetings? Sorry, I digress…)
I think I’ve talked before about two jobs I had that just about killed me. Both were the highest profile jobs I’ve had in a twenty-five year career. Both allowed me to work with uber-smart people and contribute to ego-boostingly important projects. Of all the work I’ve done, those two positions were, professionally speaking, my favorites. But.
But, in each case, they took me away from home too much. The price was too high for my young family. Ten years later, my kids will still refer to that period in our lives as, “Mom, remember when you were gone all the time?” My daughter gets very tight lipped when it comes up in conversation. At fifteen she started talking about how she planned to manage her education to land a career that would allow her enough time at home; do you wonder why?
There is enough, Mamma. And there is not enough. Only you know what your family can handle. What your kids need. What your marriage needs. What you need.
Choose carefully. We can work till we die, but we only raise our kids for a little while.
I kissed my husband this morning. Well and truly kissed him.
That might not seem like a big deal; after all, we’ve been married for years and years, I must have kissed him a thousand-thousand times by now.
But. There are have-a-good-day-honey kisses. There are bye-honey-thank-you-for-all-your-hard-work kisses. There are I’m-in-a-hurry-to-get-to-work-but-if-I-die-today-I’ll-wish-I-had-kissed-you-goodbye-so-here kisses.
And then there are kisses.
Where you feel your husband’s lips. Where you are aware of his smell and his breathing and his warmth.
And it is so lovely.
Even if it just lasts thirty seconds.
I needed that kiss this morning. So did he. I think we’ve seen each other for maybe 50 minutes total this week (maybe). And what time he won’t be working this weekend will be filled with parties and kid sports practices and kid Christmas prep.
We both needed that kiss.
Today, one week from Christmas, remember to be a couple. Remember to feed and water the relationship that, in so many ways, is the backbone of your life.
Even if it’s just for thirty seconds.
Good morning, Mamma! Happy Friday! Early this morning, before the kids were awake, my husband and I had our weekly Friday morning budget meeting. Second one in a row – Woot! Woot!
It’s weird talking about money, isn’t it? People just don’t do it. But it’s so huge. It is woven through just about every action of our day – such a terrible stressor or such a lovely safety net. It’s the number one thing married folks fight over; it’s why we work (well, part of why we work) right?
So, this budget meeting…
Oh, we’ve had a budget for years. I would type out a beautiful excel spreadsheet, anticipating costs for the year to come based on past bills and events coming up. I’d print it out and show it to husband – five pages of color coded beauty. He would thank me for my conscientiousness, we’d both comment on how much we’d have saved by the end of the year. We’d feel smug. We have a budget!
And sometimes we even followed it.
Mostly though, we just lived. Whoa! Class party that needs costume? It’s your turn to bring snack? What do you mean you lost your cleats? The too often Working Mommy crutches of Starbucks, take-out food and retail therapy. Dollars just dribbling away, seeping around the edges of our budget.
It happens. Apparently this year it happened to us a lot. Three weeks ago I opened the credit card bill (the one we have entirely paid off, with great fanfare, twice now in our marriage) and it was suddenly up into a nausea inducing level of debt that must be addressed. Cue the guilt and chagrin. Cue the panic and the embarrassment. Ugh! I hate the sick, scary feeling that we screwed up and the horrible pressure that comes with debt. How does this happen?
Well, we know how it happened so, thank God, we know how to fix it.
It happened because we spent when we felt like spending instead of spending the way we had planned to spend. And we can fix it by actually living our budget again instead of just looking at it.
Thus the Friday morning budget meetings.
How about you? Been there?
Thank God I have a partner willing to work with me on this. Thank God we’re both employed and we can get back on track fairly quickly. This is not easy stuff, but with two committed grown-ups in the house, it can be done.
This money stuff, this is tricky and tough to talk about, but it will cut your legs out from under you if you don’t get it under control, so brave the discomfort and plan a budget meeting.
Get some education if you, like me, had parents who didn’t teach you this stuff. Go to a class! Read a book! It’s not like you turn 25 and suddenly you absorb an understanding of assets, liabilities and interest rates. Years ago, husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Great information. And funny too. We’re big fans.
Whatever plan you follow, I hope you have a plan, darling. Get this stress out of your life.
And it’s nice if you can do it week by week, over a yummy latte with your man. Makes you feel like a grown-up. Makes you feel like partners. Good stuff.
My daughter asked me yesterday, as we were driving around having a delicious vacation day together, into a comfortable silence as we drove, my gorgeous, teenage, looking-at-colleges daughter turns to me and asks, “Mom, what’s it like being married?”
(For those of you still in the My Little Pony and Doc McStuffins stage, enjoy. These questions are coming to you someday too.)
And most of you know, I’ve been divorced and remarried. I’ve also watched my friends, I’ve celebrated with girlfriends who talk about their men with gratitude and joy, and I’ve held others as they cried and dialed attorneys offices. I know a lot of ways marriage can be.
“Well, honey,” I started, and paused, praying for God to give me something wise and helpful and accurate, “They say a good marriage is the best thing, and a bad marriage is the worst. I think that’s because your marriage will touch every aspect of your life. It can either uplift and support everything you do, or it can be a weight and a pain that affects everything in a negative way.”
I paused, again, praying for the words.
“You know I was divorced?” She nods. “Well, he and I went into that marriage without really talking about some of the real world aspects of what marriage means. We hadn’t even talked about whether we wanted kids. Not about where we wanted to live, not about what we hoped our life would look like, not about money, nothing. We were attracted to each other, and we enjoyed each other’s company, but that’s not enough.”
Daughter, frighteningly, is listening intently. “You’ve said you were like the country mouse and the city mouse.” She offers.
“Yes, we liked each other, but wanted very different things from life. And I was afraid to talk to him. You have to be able to talk to your husband.”
“You talk to Daddy.”
“Yes. And sometimes we talk loudly in the garage, right?” Daughter smiles. The garage is where my husband and I go to argue when things are really heated. “But we work hard at telling each other what we need, and we work hard to listen to each other and to work it out. You know we’ve gone to a counselor to get advice when we’ve been stuck, right?” She nods.
I talk about how important it is to marry someone you trust and respect. I talk about how there will be things you don’t like about your spouse, and that’s okay. I mention her Daddy’s love of car shows and bad 80’s music. She laughs.
We are getting close to our destination, and I want to end this little life lesson on a positive note. I also want to be as accurate as possible about my own marriage, which I am immensely grateful for, and which I want my daughter to know is wonderful, but not perfect.
“Daddy and I are each other’s best friends. Knowing that he is there, that he and I have decided that we are in this for life, that we will do whatever work we need to do to make it good… it’s a warm safe thing that I carry with me throughout my day. Even when my day is really hard, even when Daddy and I are disagreeing, I know that under everything is this base of love and trust. It’s work, a good marriage is work, it can be really hard work, but it is so worth it.”
…How’d I do, Mommies? Lord, I hope alright. And heaven help you when these questions come your way.
This morning, I asked my husband about it. His answer? “You are like the sun,” he said. “Even on the dark, cloudy days, I know you’re there, and that you will always be there, providing warmth and light.”
“You mean when life is cloudy or when I am cloudy?” I asked with a smile.
“Yes.” He responded, and kissed me. Not bad for a stoic Swede.
With love, Mamma. So much love,
Monday, Monday. Here we go. Did you have a lovely weekend, Mamma? We let the kids stay up late to watch the lunar eclipse, a great excuse to sit on our front porch in the dark, and talk and wonder and snuggle for an hour. So nice…
I’m thinking this morning about a conversation I had this weekend with a woman at church who is deciding to give up her work and stay home full time; she is so excited, but was feeling a little guilty for choosing not to work. That conversation came almost a week to the day after a conversation I had with another woman who confessed to excitement that she is going back to work after years of staying home because she thought staying home was the right thing to do. And three days after a conversation with two women, one of whom couldn’t wait to get back to work after the birth of her daughter (she felt guilty too), the other who took significant time off from her (very big, very fancy, very high-paying job) to adopt three kids.
Choices. Lives. Personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Options.
We are all so different. We were created differently, we are handed different situations, we have different desires. Not all of us who want to stay home can. Not everyone who wants work can find a job. Some kids need more mothering than others.
Here’s what we all have in common: We love our kids, we are trying to do our best in life. As a mom, as a worker, as a wife.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you “have to” or “should” do your life this way or that way. Talk to your heart, your husband, your kids, your God. Know what is right for you. And, to the best of your ability, with the choices available to you, build a lovely life. No guilt. You know what you need; you know what your family needs.
There is no one perfect option, there are many ways to do this well.
Build beauty and love and meaning, to the best of your ability, every day. If there is no beauty or love or meaning, change something. If there is too much pain, change something. You get to. You are the pilot of your life.
The new feminism – the power to direct our own lives, to build what works for us and for our families, the power of choices.
Fair warning, somebody somewhere will tell you it is the wrong choice. But as I tell my kids: Know who you are, and know why you are who you are. And it bears repeating: there are many ways to do this well.
Go build it, Mamma.