Two-and-a-half years married, and five-and-a-half months pregnant, I was in love and excited to become a mom. A short workcation to Southern California doubled as a babymoon, as Joe and I enjoyed each other on our last getaway before taking the leap into Parenthood. Those moments we spent together in Laguna Beach — taking barefoot walks in the sand, eating fish tacos from Las Brisas Restaurant, and drinking Belgian beer at Brussels Bistro (well, him, not me) — have been branded into my heart forever.
Life before kids.
Life before diapers, dreary-eyed feedings and dig-in-your-heels standoffs with tantruming toddlers. So much changes after we have children. Being a parent, especially at first, is so demanding that it’s easy to focus on our new roles as dad and mom and to forget about the roles that got us into this parenting mess in the first place, our roles as husband and wife.
My oldest child, the one whom I am carrying in the photo above, will turn six on March 13. In another 12 years, he’ll be moving out of the house. I am one-third of the way through our time together living under the same roof. (I just figured this out now. Cue tears.)
The other night, Joe and I had just finished watching television and were shutting the lights out and heading to bed when Joe said something to me that I haven’t been able to forget.
“We spend our whole lives raising our children. Then they grow up and leave us.”
Leave us? What a weird thought. But yes, alas, it is true.
“Look at my parents,” he said. “Look at your parents. Everyone is grown and out of the house, and it’s just them.”
Just us? I have forgotten what that feels like. What will we do? What will we talk about? I think we both felt a little depressed by the thought.
Right now, our lives are our kids. But the truth is, if Joe and I are lucky enough to be married 50 years, we’ll have spent less than half of that time as a family, and more than half of that time as us.
It was a good wake-up call, honestly. If we choose to spend these busy years of our lives investing time into our careers, our hobbies, and our children, and neglecting our marriage relationship, there will be nothing left of us to enjoy when our kids grow up and move out.
Scary thought. No wonder we hear so often about couples who divorce as soon as the last child leaves for college. The stress of life has taken its toll, and when the kids are gone, so is the love that started it all.
I want to enjoy my husband both now and in the future, just like I enjoyed him then, sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, resting my swollen, pregnant feet.
Who knows, someday we may be on that beach again, just the two of us. And if we are, I want those moments in the sand with my wrinkly, seventy-something sweetie to be just as precious as the ones we shared when we were twenty-somethings.
It starts with us. And it will end with us. I had better start preparing now.