Parenting

Married, but dating.

“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.” – Anthony Robbins

At my bridal shower, my bridesmaids had each guest write words of advice for me as I dove into married life. I will forever remember reading one, “ find time for just the two of you– make it a priority to still have date night.” I remember thinking, “Well duh! Of course we will still go out on date night!”

When my husband and I were dating, we made it a priority to not get in a “routine” of what our date nights looked like and would call eachother out on it when they began to get “too routine”. (Yes, going out to dinner is nice, but maybe we should take a break from Chili’s or Applebee’s and find something different! ) My husband was great at romantic surprises: picnic lunches at the local winery, showing up at my house with wine and flowers, cooking and planning a game night in together,  or planning a great dinner out at a restaurant we both had never tried. Knowing how we had dated and kept our relationship exciting with special things like this, I never feared that we would have an issue with it once we were married. I never thought twice about the wise words from a dear friend of mine.

Then, we had Kellen. Our  baby boy. And now, I understand my friend’s wise words. I’m tired. I’m worn out from the daily grind of parenthood. We’re on a tight budget with less money flowing in. Instead of planning fun date nights, I look forward to cozying up in my sweatpants, turning on Netflix, and scrolling through my Facebook feed. Why? Money. Time. But really, the fear of leaving our sweet boy with someone other than me or my husband. (Yes, I know I need to cut the cord and leave him sometime!)

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But that’s where my husband reigns. He is the king of still finding ways to date, though married. He is able to “keeping dating” by making me  feel special; by taking the time to build up our marriage each day. You see what he discovered is that dating your wife or husband doesn’t have to be huge or costly; it just takes time. Time to remember what they enjoy, what makes them tick, and what makes them feel special. Time away from the piles of laundry, vacuuming that needs done, or the newest post on Facebook;  traded in for time together and thoughtful gestures. While he has managed to do this throughout our marriage each month through notes in my lunches at work, surprise weekend plans, or just an encouraging morning text message, he seems to be outdoing himself in the dating field this holiday season.

This December, I turn 30. And through the stresses of being a new, first-time mommy, facing the reality that I will have to leave my son soon and return to work, my husband has stepped up his dating game with a 30 day countdown of special gestures, gifts, and surprises to my 30th birthday. Each day, I’ll update on what surprise gesture I received–not to brag (though he is AMAZING!), but in hopes that it may encourage you to find ways to continue to “date” your husband or wife.To take time for each other and set the stress of work, parenting, and life aside for just a few hours to focus on your marriage.

30 Days of Sweet Ideas from my Husband that you could steal:

  1. iMovie made with pictures of me as a baby through now!
  2. Family Date: Making Puppy Chow; idea from a “how to” video I made as a child.
  3. Sushi Date night–my favorite!
  4. Starbucks cup and giftcard–much needed for this tired new mom!
  5.  “Treasure Hunt” for our daughter and me with a matching necklace set at the end for the two of us.
  6. Stuffed animals of my favorite pets as a child–fun memory and stuffed animals for the kids!
  7. Day date trip to where I used to live before we got married–dinner at our first restaurant we ate at together there!
  8. Lunch date at Kentucky Fried Chicken after church– to correlate with a fun story for my childhood when my speech made “kentucky” sound like a curse word!
  9.  Gingerbread house building for a fun family night activity!
  10. “Exhausted Mom” ticket–good for a child free hour of relaxation with candles, music, and a nice bath!
  11.  Family Baking Night– making a reindeer food, a holiday tradition!
  12. Tis the Season…trip to shop and give back to others as a family. We bought gifts for two kids from our local “Angel Tree” for Christmas, a fun memory from when I was a child and my sister and I did this together one year!
  13. Girls’ Spa Afternoon- surprise nail salon trip for me and our daughter !
  14. “Goodwill Hunting”- trip to Goodwill together to buy “costumes” to dress-up as  two of our favorite country music artists, then we went out for lunch like them for a fun date!
  15. Ice-Skating- This is a fun tradition we started together last year! He even arranged for my mother-in-law to meet us there to watch our son!

What do you and your significant other do for date nights? Do you balance life and dating each other well? I’d love to hear ideas from you below!

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Parenting

The Hypocritical Momma

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I will never be a stay at home mom. I remember thinking that, saying that, and rolling my eyes at the thought of any sane person who, after spending years in school and thousands of dollars on a college education, would just up and decide to abandon their dreams and goals to sit at home feeding their baby all day. And to a point, I have kept that promise. I am not a stay at home mom; but now my long-term goal? To be one.

If you met me five years ago, you’d find a very different woman. I had my “dream” teaching job at a school our staff called “Disneyland”, I was completing my Master’s in School Administration, I owned my own home and spent the weekends downtown with good friends. What else do you need at 26? I was content. I had goals of becoming a school administrator and following in my parents’ footsteps (both work in school administration).

Then, I met my husband and just like every cheesy Hallmark movie, you find yourself head-over-heels in love and your priorities change. I decided to leave the amazing job and sell my house for love–and to this day I would not change a single aspect of that decision.We were married on June 16, 2017 and celebrated with the most amazing week in Jamaica, followed by a “familymoon” with my step-daughter, Aubrey, to Disney World. Life was great!

As the suitcases were unpacked and stored and school began, we switched our focus to adding to our family. While we had Aubrey, we only had her 50% of the time with the shared custody agreement, and as much as I saw her as my daughter and loved her as my own, I still would never be “her mommy.” I had wanted to be a mommy since I received my first baby doll. I wanted to carry a child, love on that child, and be there for each new memory and moment. Little did I know, it wouldn’t be that easy. My past medical history (a post for another day) made it difficult for us to conceive. As I was given rounds of medication to help the process, I also began digging into bible verses to help me keep the faith that God was a part of this process. Justin and I prayed together each night, and we read bible verses related to conception and trusting in God’s plan and timing. Six months. That doesn’t seem like a long time–especially to others who I know have tried, without success, for longer than that to conceive. In our sixth month, our doctor referred us to a fertility doctor. I was crushed. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office–feeling so empty as I listened to my doctor go through the information and “next-steps”. I vividly remember thinking that maybe this was why God led me to Justin and Aubrey–that maybe I would never get to be a “real” mommy, but I’d still go through the joy of parenthood with him through raising Aubrey.

As the holidays approached, I tried not to think about the news-but my mind focused on the “what-ifs”. What if we can’t afford these appointments? What if we find the money and the procedures don’t work? A million questions swirled and occupied my mind. My husband tried to take my attention away from my fears, planning a birthday month countdown for my 29th birthday. Christmas Day came–my 29th birthday. My only wish? A positive pregnancy test. I woke up early that morning to sneak one more test in–hoping for a Christmas surprise. Negative. I hid my disappointment and enjoyed the next few days of celebrations with our family.

December 29th. Three days until our appointment with the fertility doctor. On a whim, I decided to give it just one more go for this month and picked up a pregnancy test to take while Aubrey napped that afternoon, splurging just one last time for the digital ones. Two LONG minutes and I sat in our bathroom, crying again. Except this time, in disbelief, staring at a small, bold “PREGNANT”. My mind raced. I didn’t have time to Pinterest “cute ways to tell your husband you’re pregnant.” I FaceTimed Justin right then and there–in the bathroom–and 39 weeks later, we welcomed our sweet Kellen Robert Ray.

What’s the point of this story? It took us six months to conceive our sweet boy– pennies to those who have struggled  longer, or those who continue to still struggle. Those six months were some of the hardest of my life–filled with self-doubt, sadness, frustration and fear that my husband would be disappointed in me for something so very out of my control. I felt broken. My heart aches for those who are still struggling, for those who suffer through a miscarriage, or those whom lose their child.

Most importantly, those six months taught me why momma’s struggle with the “back-to-work” or “stay at home” decision. They have waited so long to have a child– their WHOLE life in fact. Then, when they finally meet their childtheir WHOLE world– they have just weeks or months to decide whether they will leave their job and the financial stability it provides, or leave their WHOLE world in the care of someone else. It’s hard. I am in month three of my maternity leave and it’s constantly in the back of my mind. What do I do? What is best for my family? What will I miss? What if….?

So don’t be like me. Don’t be quick to judge the stay-at-home mommas who left careers to devote their life to their children. And stay-at-home mommas, please be slow to judge the mommas who can’t stay at home–know their struggle is also real. It’s difficult to leave their child each day in someone else’s care–knowing they will miss out on some milestone or “first” along the way. Instead, encourage, support, and lend an ear to both of them because in the end, no matter what type of “momma” you are, it is a hard, yet ever so rewarding job.