The Kids Will Be Fine: On Putting Marriage Before Parenting

John and I have been married for almost fourteen years and we are not the lovesick puppies we once were.

We still love each other, of course, but it’s not the infatuated, needy kind of love we experienced when we first married, when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other and we flitted our weekends away napping in the warm sun or lounging on the couch all afternoon reading books, unfettered by responsibility.

The Kids will Be Fine: On Putting Marriage Before Parenting Colleen Duggan Catholic Writer

John and I share a deep, committed love, a love that has been refined from suffering and heartache and loss and beauty.

Together, we have six children and we devote our time to caring and raising them.

We love our kids, we would die for anyone of them if necessary, but we are guilty, like many couples, of allowing our children’s needs and schedules and desires to trump nurturing our marriage.

We are guilty of skipping date nights in order to save money, yet we justify the thousands of dollars we shell out so that our children can be involved in extra curricular activities, activities that run us ragged and leave us spent.

We are guilty of securing babysitters in order to fulfill volunteer ministry obligations and then are disappointed when we have no money left over for a date night for ourselves.

We are guilty of skimping on regular date nights because after we pay the babysitter, we don’t have the money to do something luxurious, like a trip to the movies or dinner at a nice restaurant.

We are guilty of indulging our children’s nightly stall tactics, which includes multiple trips to the restroom, requests for water, and more than a handful of books, all of which eats away at our short window of time for conversation and connection.

We are guilty of giving everything we have to our children—physically, emotionally, and mentally—and then are befuddled when we have nothing left to give to each other.

At the beginning of summer, I invited John to be a part of a book club in which I’ve participated for years.

Every Tuesday evening for the last six weeks, John and I have snuck out of the house so we can discuss Dante’s

Divine Comedy

with a group of other adults.

It’s been the highlight of the summer.

Each week, we look forward to Tuesday night, to the evening of fellowship with other adults, the cold glass of white wine (and no whine), and to the great, adult discussion.

We analyze the sheer beauty of Dante’s work and it’s a delight to have a conversation with John that doesn’t revolve around responsibilities like finances, swim team schedules, or discipline issues.

Our weekly Dante dates and the boat cruise this past weekend have allowed me to realize in a new and deeper way, that John and I often have our priorities backwards when it comes to our marriage.

Our children are the fruit of our marriage, but they are not our marriage.

While we are, as their parents, required to meet their physical, emotional, and moral needs, we shouldn’t allow those needs to take over our interactions.

We must do all we can to raise good, Catholic children, but that effort cannot be at the expense of our relationship.

One day, many years from now, our six kids are going to grow up and leave us.

When this happens, will John and I be strangers to each other?

Will we be two people who at one time liked each other, but after years of work and childrearing, look at one another bewildered and skeptical?

I pray the answer to those questions is no, but I fear if we continue down the track we are on--allowing our children’s schedules and needs to dictate our how we relate to each other as husband and wife—we will be on the fast-track called failure.

I believe the best thing John and I can give to our children is a good marriage and I’m recommitting myself to making sure that happens.