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"Marriage first, children second" by Danielle Heckencamp (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2018 Danielle Heckencamp. All rights reserved.[/caption] Do you often find yourself traveling from one day to another in a rather robotic fashion? And it usually only takes a disruption in our days to make us stop and reflect with a bit of guilt on our schedules and our purpose in life. As mothers, who easily multi-task and focus so much on our role to feed, clothe, and bathe our children, oftentimes we forget that long before the birth of our children came their father, our wonderful husbands. Thinking back to those early months of marriage with my loving husband -- those were the carefree days, before little feet shuffled up the stairs, when the house was always clean, laundry only needed to be washed on the weekends, and we came home from our full-time office jobs to eat a quick meal together. There were long Sunday naps and every weekend included a new dining experience. Those days were quiet and relaxing with my husband, but now we have a new normal. A world full of messy faces, copious amounts of vacuuming, and endless questions about dinosaurs, bugs and unicorns. We are living in the early years of parenting with four children ages eight and under, but we wouldn’t trade these years for the world. When our oldest child was barely a year old, each day brought new experiences, unsolvable frustrations, but it was encompassed with an endless love for that little baby who consumed every second of our attention. The lack of sleep and unknown territory of motherhood, nursing, and dirty diapers was exhausting. It was then that I began to feel drained and incomplete, and then it dawned on me. While strenuously working each day to care for this blessed baby, my husband and I weren’t getting the time together that once came so easily. "Marriage first, children second" by Danielle Heckencamp (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2018 Danielle Heckencamp. All rights reserved.[/caption] These moments together as a couple were exactly what we were lacking. I would love to take credit for a moment of awe-struck awakening that brought me to this conclusion – my husband and I needed to revive date night, but in a way that was compatible with our new family. This simple, yet profound idea came from another mom, a veteran mom. This amazing mom had eight grown children and remembered quite well those early years of parenting. She reminded me how even more important my relationships with God and with my husband were for the good of the family. And she was absolutely right! As soon as I focused on my prayer life and began to put my husband first (as much as possible with an infant) the days became less hectic and much more peaceful. No longer did I view this parenting role as something only I could fulfill, this was a mutual endeavor. I was primarily changing diapers, nursing the baby, and caring for her while he was at work, but when he came home, I needed him. And it was through the grace of God that I was able to discover this and admit this. While I was tirelessly working to make the baby feel secure, I needed him to help me feel secure.
“The woman is at the heart of the home. Let us pray that we women realize the reason for our existence: to love and be loved and through this love become instruments of peace in the world.” ~ Mother Teresa
I’m so grateful for that veteran mom who told me to put God and my husband first, because from that day forward my husband and I focus on each other and miraculously, family life is much more peaceful. Those little faces beam with joy every time my husband tries to steal a kiss from me. Our “date night” might be a bit sometimes unconventional, whether it includes a show on Netflix sitting on our living room couch, or a night out to dinner and a movie, but it is still important, because is only our night. We may only have time to watch a TV show or talk about our daily adventures after the children go to bed, but cuddling on the couch is exactly what we need in that moment. It is difficult to have a monthly date night with four children, but we have found other ways to spend quality time with each other. Some months we make special dinner reservations, while other times we play recreational volleyball, or sometimes we take a walk together after dinner with the children. Every day brings new opportunities for us to show our love for each other. A good and healthy marriage doesn’t require expensive vacations, opulent dinner reservations, or expensive jewelry. A strong marriage needs two people willing to show their love not only through the good times, but through each day in small ways. "Marriage first, children second" by Danielle Heckencamp (CatholicMom.com) Image created using free elements in Canva by Danielle Heckencamp. All rights reserved.[/caption] So, as I look back on those early days of motherhood and our growth personally and spiritually as a couple, the future holds so many opportunities for us as we grow older. I have learned that if we first focus on God as a couple and then to focus on our children, our relationship will grow and foster, so that one day when the children have flown the nest, we will still have each other. And at that point in our lives, we will be able to focus more on our relationship which we pray will be an example for our children and possibly future grandchildren.
“The family, as the fundamental and essential educating community, is the privileged means for transmitting the religious and cultural values which help the person to acquire his or her own identity. Founded on love and open to the gift of life, the family contains in itself the very future of society; its most special task is to contribute effectively to a future of peace.” ~ St. Pope John Paul II

Copyright 2018 Danielle Heckenkamp