When they met almost 41 years ago at a laundromat near what is now World’s Fair Park, I’m sure my parents had no idea what the next 40 years would have in store. Five months after their first date, they said, “I do” on a boat floating down a lake in East Tennessee and started a journey that would lead to many adventures. Four children, seven grandchildren, and a lot of life experience later, my mom has “been there and done that” when it comes to navigating the challenging waters of motherhood and marriage. As a military wife, a mother of a child with multiple disabilities and health issues, a stay-at-home mom and working mom, and now a high school teacher, she has a lot of encouragement when it comes to marriage in this stage of life.
Here is some of her advice on marriage and motherhood:
1. Keep faith first.
When I asked my mom for her advice to balance motherhood and marriage, her immediate response was, “I would not be where I am if it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus Christ.” A strong faith has always shaped my parents’ marriage, and my mom credits that for surviving difficult times. When things were hard or she and Dad struggled to make a decision for the family, they turned to prayer and trusting God. She said, “if you live your life to serve God, it helps you remember that it’s not always about what you or your spouse wants, but what God wants. That really helps you to keep things in perspective.”
2. Be thankful for the good things about your spouse.
When times get tough, we feel frustrated, or we feel that we have no energy to invest into marriage, Mom suggests focusing on the things we love — even if all we can think about is something small. “Try to keep a good attitude and avoid complaining. Choose to love each other, even when you don’t want to,” she said.
3. Focus on what you can do. Don’t regret what you can’t.
There wasn’t a lot of extra money to do extravagant things as a family when I was growing up, but my parents always tried to make the most of what we could do. Mom was very creative with coming up with fun ideas, like picnics at the park or fun craft projects, and they cost very little. She said, “be happy with the memories you are creating. Don’t worry about what you can’t do.”
4. Develop sweet daily habits.
Every morning, my mom makes coffee or hot tea for my dad, and she used to always make his lunches for work. My parents have an ongoing friendly competition about who loves the other more. It has been going on as long as I can remember, but they are constantly trying to outdo each other. The sweet thing about their contest is that it doesn’t involve expensive grand gestures. Instead, it’s about little things, like who can bring the other one cold water when they are working together in the yard. Through the years, these sweet gestures have turned into habits that help my parents show love and respect for one another.
5. Get creative with dates.
My dad traveled a lot for work, and Mom stayed very busy with four children, volunteering, church activities, keeping up with multiple appointments for a child with special needs, and working outside the home. Dates had to be creative. Mom emphasized the importance of finding ways to spend time together and connect. Lunch dates, exchanging babysitting with friends, sharing a dessert, enjoying a show after children go to bed, cooking together, or bringing each other sweet treats were just a few of her suggestions. She said, “it’s nice to have special trips and dinners out, but sometimes it needs to be a mini-moment. The mini-moments add up.”
6. Serve together and include kids.
Before they had children, my parents volunteered and served together. This attitude of humility and service continued after having children. Whether helping plant trees, visiting nursing homes, filling Thanksgiving baskets, shopping together for Angel Tree gifts, or even volunteering to water a neighbor’s plants, there were many ways that the whole family would work together to help others. Serving helped keep things in perspective while we were growing closer as a family.