Couple Vacation – Selfish or Survival: I read this survey in a magazine as my husband and I are enjoying a rare couple’s vacation in Hawaii. I asked my husband what percent he thought said “survival.” He guessed 70% -- the result was in fact 90%. Finding time for the two of us, pictured below at my parents 50th anniversary party, has been a struggle for me since becoming a mom. My husband was my first priority in our early time together although we were both busy with jobs, school and other activities. We took a number of years to get to know each other before we took the plunge and became parents. I vividly recall my fear when pregnant with my first son that bringing a child into our relationship might “ruin” it. We are polar opposites in many respects and had worked hard to find balance and joy in our diversity.
Our beautiful baby boy, who bore a striking resemblance to his handsome dad, of course did not ruin anything. I remember seeing my spouse’s eyes fill up when he was handed our son in the hospital. And I couldn’t have felt more love for him than I did at that moment. That scene, baby to dad, dad’s eyes fill and my heart swells repeated itself with our second and third children although the last hand off took place in a house in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In many ways, becoming parents brought us closer and took our relationship to a much deeper level as we saw ourselves and each other exhibited in various ways in our children. But making quality time a priority was challenging in the context of a two working parent household. We have only rarely taken a trip together. And date nights are not a frequent occurrence either with all the kid and work activities. When we did a good job of getting out together once a week for a period, it was unusual enough for our eldest to ask why we all of a sudden needed to spend that much time alone together.
When we lived apart for ten months in 2005, we learned how much we loved being in the same physical space and reveling in the little moments of each day. But even following that experience, we struggled to keep balance between our familial relationships. Kids needs are immediate and demand attention. As a working mom, I prioritized those in the time I had. I recall when we brought a baby conure (a small parrot) home as a pet for my eldest. We previously bought a parakeet from a local pet store that died within the year which devastated him. Dimitri did his research to determine what type of bird he wanted and I did mine to find a reputable a breeder. Any baby has special requirements, even an aviary version. We needed to acclimate it to our home and teach it skills which took time and patience. And those duties fell to my eldest and me.
About a week after the little feathered one joined our family, my husband said to me in his deep Greek accented voice. “I know I went down in your priorities with the birth of each of our boys.” Our daughter had not yet arrived. “I am okay being number three behind them. But if I am now below the bird, we have a problem.” I laughed out loud. Although looking at his face, I could see he was quite serious. It is a line I remember when I realize I am starting to take our relationship for granted. We have our whole lives so it is easy to think I have time to focus on it later. He is a big reason for my success. He is the one I want there by my side for the triumphs and tragedies life brings us. As we stroll around the stunningly beautiful grounds here, we still enjoy each other’s company without the craziness of three kids. We have come far together over the decades with successes, struggles, laughter and tears. We chuckle when we hear a child misbehaving, and one of us can say, “Not ours!” Although our children and jobs are frequent topics of conversation, taking this time specifically for ourselves away from both is necessary and good. I would love to hear how other's find time to focus on Mom and Dad.