Wife First, Mother Second: Finding the Proper Order of Things

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"Wife first, mother second" by Shannon Whitmore (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2014), CC0/PD

When I became pregnant for the first time, many mothers warned me of the dangers of putting my responsibilities as a mother before my husband or myself. They told me how all-consuming the job of a mother can be, one that often seems to begin the moment you wake up (or more likely, the moment your baby wakes you up) and ends when your head hits the pillow (and during those first few months — or years — extends through the night as well). Four years later, I can go an entire day without seeing anyone but my son, my daughter, and my husband (and sometimes that’s only for the hour that it takes to cook, eat, and clean up after dinner). The cycle of eat, play, sleep can be monotonous, but it is also both time- and thought-consuming. During those first few months of motherhood, I could go hours without eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom because I just didn’t have time to think about it. It’s a reality that I’m sure most mothers understand.

We can go hours without thinking once of our own needs. Hours can pass before we realize that we need to eat, drink, or just sit down for a minute. We can easily ignore the demands of our own bodies for hours on end, if we are aware of them at all. There were countless occasions during those first few months with John that in the quiet moments after John finally fell asleep, I suddenly became intensely aware of the fact that I needed to eat, drink, or pee. It was almost as if my stomach and bladder were aware that my son’s needs were more demanding than my own, and they acted accordingly.

If it’s easy to ignore our own needs in favor of our child’s, it’s even easier to ignore our spouse’s. Our bodies will eventually communicate to us what they need, and they can’t go more than a few hours without those needs being met. Even those needs that are more dormant within us — the need for rest, sleep, and companionship, for instance- can only be held at bay for so long. It doesn’t take much before we grow weary from a lack of these essentials. Mothers who do not obey these fundamental needs quickly find themselves struggling against the beast that is postpartum depression.

I was regularly reminded to consider my own personal needs, and during those first few weeks that John was alive, people were constantly making sure that I was eating, sleeping, and seeing people other than my son. As our newborns grow into infants and toddlers, it becomes easier to remember that our needs must be met from time to time, but the struggle to remember your spouse remains.

My children have changed a great deal in the past three and a half years. In my own experience, as soon as I figured out one challenge, it was usually only a matter of days before the next one emerged. First John didn’t sleep at night, and only napped for thirty minutes at a time during the day. Then he refused to eat any food that wasn’t the consistency of mush (at eighteen months old). A year later, he was a big brother, and I was dealing with the constant juggling act that is called raising multiple children. Sometimes life gets easier for a little while, and sometimes it gets harder, but it is always changing.

"Wife first, mother second" by Shannon Whitmore (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2019 Shannon Whitmore. All rights reserved.

Honestly, sometimes it’s even easy to forget that I’m married. When you dedicate so much of yourself to being someone’s mother or father, you can occasionally forget that in addition to being a mother or father, you’re generally also a husband or wife. As we forge these new relationships with these tiny human beings, we have to remember not to neglect the relationship that made those little lives possible. As difficult as it might be at times, mothers and fathers cannot neglect their relationship with their spouses. To do so would be disastrous.

Andrew and I were warned of all of this prior to the birth of John, but it helps to be reminded from time to time. Andrew and I work hard to preserve our weekly date night, even if that means rearranging our schedules and turning down other invitations. Even though we don’t have extra money to burn, as is often the case with new parents, we can still have date nights at home. From time to time, we can even go out for a proper date, thanks to the generosity of our friends and family. Though it takes a bit of effort, especially when babysitters are involved, our date nights are completely worthwhile. Marriages fail when spouses don’t put each other first; marriages are often incapable of withstanding the demands of parenthood when priorities are not in the proper order.

Two Christmases ago, Andrew and I prepared a very special Christmas gift for one another. Rather than purchasing gifts for each other, we pooled the money that we normally would have spent on Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day gifts and booked a mini-vacation for ourselves in Boston, MA. My parents-in-law graciously agreed to take care of John for two and a half days so that we could have that time to ourselves, and we were able to spend those days focused on each other and our relationship (and the knowledge that we were going to be parents again). It was just the thing that was needed after a stressful semester and a demanding Christmas season at work. It was just the thing that was needed to remind me that I am a wife first and mother second, a truth that makes me both a better wife and a better mother.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

How is your relationship with your spouse currently faring? How might you and your husband work to improve it?


Copyright 2019 Shannon Whitmore

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About Author

Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and working in youth ministry. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.

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