Recently, my husband and I were talking about what it looks like to put your husband “first”- or, more, to complete the typically portrayed three-tiered priority triangle- God, husband/wife, kids. The concepts really make sense to me. It all seems good….but I remember struggling a lot after Vivi was born, feeling like by the standards of marriage people, I was failing at it. But I felt like if I remedied it, I’d be failing as a mom. You see, Viviana didn’t go down. At all. Till eventually she hit a space in there where she started napping, at some point during the day or evening, for about 20 (30 if we were really lucky!) minutes. We were definitely thankful Ben worked at home, so we could make use of any time she gave us. I felt really bad, and like I must be doing something wrong during the stretches where I knew Ben desperately wanted a few minutes with just me, and I couldn’t give it. He kept assuring me that it was okay, right now he wanted me to take care of Viviana’s needs, and that it was only a season. He assured me I was doing fine with the whole balance thing, and he was more than happy to express his love by making a few sacrifices for us. Sacrifices? Yikes….him sacrificing his desires so Vivi can have what she needs….isn’t that putting her first?
Needless to say, it was quite a battle of the mind, in spite of Ben’s total support. I just had this huge picture in my mind of what a “good” wife should be, because all the marriage books say so. But, I was equally committed to and passionate about natural mothering. In my heart, I knew these two had to fit together- I knew that “natural” mothering is close to God’s heart, and what He wanted for me. The marital books also say you should never let a baby sleep with you, and would probably tell you to just let the baby cry. Neither of us wanted to go there. So….after two or three months, she gradually started taking one nap down a day, which gradually grew in length, and now I always get her to sleep in our bed, and I put her down for the night a couple hours before we go to bed. Let’s just say…..life feels easy. But- to get back on topic….
What does it look like, really? Ben expressed his feelings that it just isn’t practical to put the husband “first” in a physical sense, and furthermore, that it’s no fun being a check-list item. He suggested that what it really is, is thinking about your spouse. It’s seeking out ways to bless him, letting you know he was on your mind. Then we were talking about it with his brother-in-law and his wife, and he expressed it so perfectly. It was so tangible, concise, and clear- and talking through that and Ben’s views, I finally felt freed to be a daughter of the King, a wife, and a mommy, all to the best of my ability.
So, here’s the kicker….it means putting their desires first. It means serving in the ways he would want you to. It doesn’t necessarily mean throwing your newborn in nursery so you can worship God “unhindered”- it might mean pacing the hallways, worshipping God as you care for one of His little ones. It means doing what you know your husband desires, fully blessed by him and free to care for your munchkins. It means loving your husband passionately, pursuing him sexually and romantically, is an expression of love to God. It means that it’s okay to feed your hungry newborn first, or to succumb to a season of wearing your baby 24/7…as long as you’re seeking out your husband’s heart, reminding him of how loved he is, and sharing with him your dreams for spending time with just him, once it becomes practical.
All that said, it’s not a “get out of jail” pass. :-) Your husband needs you. Period. You can’t just make up excuses not to spend time with him, or make up reasons why you simply don’t have time or energy for him. That attitude is an entirely different topic. You need to spend time with your husband, and you need to figure out how to do so during the kid season of life- someday the kid’s will be gone, and it would be so much more beautiful if you were still situated at home with your best friend. But if you’re struggling with guilt when you are trying your hardest to fit everything in “correctly”….rest assured. This is a passing season, and God sees your heart. For that matter, your husband probably does, too. And he knows if your heart rests with him first and foremost. He knows whether or not you’re working to create time for him. He knows if you’re seeking out ways to bless him and make him feel special. During the early months of Vivi’s life, I did what I could. One of those things was writing lots of love letters- something I could do while holding a sleeping baby, which also reached out to his primary love language- words of affirmation. Even if I couldn’t snuggle up with just him, I tried to reach out and touch him. And the moment I did break out a few free minutes, I made him clock out of work immediately. He understood my attitude, and never once held the struggles against me or Vivi. He never saw him and Vivi as being “enemies” fighting for my attention (of course, if you know my husband, you know how ridiculous the very idea sounds).
It’s been really freeing to come up with a definition of what exactly the pyramid of priority means, together with my husband. It leaves me feeling like I can pursue the passions God’s given me whole-heartedly. It’s reminded me that there isn’t anything faulty with natural mothering, and it can fit in beautifully with giving my husband priority- something I felt in my heart, but wavered about on the surface when I felt like maybe I was failing as a wife. I’m so thankful God created me to be a wife and mother- and that He knows how to fit them both together!