Before my husband and I had children, our lives were wrapped up in each other. We were rarely apart, and when we had free time, we usually spent it doing something fun together. I'd spend half the day in the kitchen preparing a gourmet supper that we'd enjoy by candlelight. On summer weekends we'd picnic in the park or stroll around downtown Kyiv. We'd watch movies late into the night. (And we often did other things late into the night, if you know what I mean!)
Well, those "other things" gave us the kiddos–three of them in under four years–and now our lives are wrapped up in them. Babies and toddlers are epically needy, and though we're trying hard to teach them otherwise, ours still seem to think that they the center of the universe. So we spend most of our time caring for them, and if we have a few free moments, usually the first thing on my husband's mind is taking a nap. Sometimes we still stay up past midnight together, but when we do, our enjoyment is clouded by the knowledge that we're going to have to pay for our indiscretion in the morning, when that first child shuffles, bounces, or whines his way to our bedside shortly after sunrise.
But despite these obstacles to intimacy–and I mean that word in all senses, not just the sexual–despite these obstacles, I find that my husband and I are closer than ever, and we are continually becoming even better friends and lovers. I think our secret during this stage of life has been solidarity. It's true that children can draw a couple together, but they can also push them apart. The difference is solidarity.
Google says solidarity is, "Unity or agreement of feeling or action, esp. among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group." This is what my husband and I share. We've agreed how we want to raise our kids and what values to teach them, and we support each other in the process. That mutual support is the most important aspect, as far as our marriage is concerned. We know that it's a team effort. Sometimes one of us has to contribute more than the other, but when we have solidarity, there are no hard feelings. It's an "us against them" mentality, rather than "me versus him." The focus becomes working together to try to stay one step ahead of our boys, rather than making sure that the other parent is doing his or her fair share. When one of our boys launches a soccer ball off our fifth-story balcony and then has the audacity to scream insults down at the neighbor kids who found it–or when someone spits chewed-up plums all over the kitchen–or poops on the stairs–or smears boogers on the wall, my husband and I know that we can commiserate with each other later, even if we happen to be on our own during the damage control phase. We form a support group of two, and the fact that the kids now outnumber us deepens our sense of solidarity.
Of course, commiserating together isn't all that keeps us close. We are intentional about cultivating our relationship, and we jealously guard our couple time. But the shared challenge of finding ways to spend time one-on-one further affirms that we are in this together. It all comes back to solidarity. Solidarity has led us into deeper intimacy.
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P.S. For those of you who take offense to my saying, "It's an 'us against them' mentality, rather than 'me versus him' ": yes, I do mean that parenting is a battleground! Hmmm, maybe I should write a post called "Choose Your Battles."
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UPDATE, July 19, 2012: This post is linking up with ToLoveHonorAndVacuum's Wifey Wednesday series. Click over to access a list of marriage posts from other bloggers.