Before I was married, I remember my mom telling me a story about what her mom told her the day my sister Kelley was born. While my mom was snuggling with her firstborn, my grandma sat on the edge of the hospital bed and said, “Beth, remember: always put your husband first.” My mom couldn’t believe what Grandma was saying. My mom had this beautiful little 7 pound 7 oz baby in her arms and thought: what could be more important than this? Like my own mother, I, too, have felt overwhelmed with feelings of love and responsibility for my firstborn. Nothing, it seems, is as important as his needs. This maternal drive, let’s call it, is probably what allows new moms to operate on such little sleep. However, it’s also important to keep this maternal drive in check in order to attend to my marriage.
On Saturday night, Josh and I went on our first date together, without Dylan, since he was born. We had the perfect night planned: dinner at our favorite pizza place followed by a bluegrass concert at 7th Street Entry. Josh’s sister, Kim, agreed to babysit, and I was looking forward to it all week. As we drove away from home, though, toward downtown, I had the gnawing feeling that I was forgetting something. Partially, it was because I carried only my wallet and lip gloss in my coat pocket, and left the lumbering baby bag at home. But another (obvious) part of it was that we didn’t have Dylan with us. For the first time in a long time, I sat in the front passenger seat, across from Josh, rather than in the backseat, next to Dylan. (Side Note: prior to having Dylan, I always thought this was kind of ridiculous. Whenever I’d see women in the backseat, hovering over a car seat, I’d wonder what type of overprotective mother she was. After a few road trips with a screaming baby, however, I now understand: her role is to re-insert the pacifier. Again. And again. And again.)
Dinner was easy. Josh and I had great conversation. The wine was delicious. I feel kind of guilty saying this, but it felt so good for it to just be us again. Toward the end of the meal, we made small talk with another couple seated next to us at the bar. They were moving here from Michigan and asking us about the area. Through conversation, we mentioned that it was our first night out since the birth of our first child. They were so excited for us. Having four kids of their own – ages 11, 7, 4, and 2 – the wife said, “Put your marriage first.” I nodded and smiled, noting that vague feeling of familiarity when female wisdom gets passed down from generation to generation.
Later in the evening, while listening to the eclectic sounds of Elephant Revival (http://elephantrevival.com/) with Josh, I felt really happy. And then, also, really tired. All of a sudden, exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. After the band had been playing for an hour, I tugged at Josh’s sleeve whispered in his ear, “Do you care if we go home now? I’m so tired.” He kind of laughed, then grabbed my hand, and walked me out of the dark, crowded bar teeming with drunk 20-somethings. It was a perfect night.
When we got home, Kim said Dylan was great – he only screamed for an hour and a half when we left. I thanked her for not letting us know that earlier in the evening; had she called with that sort of news, I may not have been able to enjoy the evening as much as I did – that maternal drive would have prevented it. But because of that maternal drive, I also think I understand what my grandma was trying to tell my mom. It’s easy to get lost in loving this beautiful baby – he fulfills such a huge need of mine to nurture. But, Josh needs nurturing too, and Dylan needs that strong support from both of us. So, as Dylan grows up, I’ll do my best to remember: “Love your husband and put him first and your children will thank you for it later.” Thanks, Grandma.