One afternoon in The Baby Cave, my
husband and I walked in the door and lay down on the rug. The world
dissolved and we melted together, our bodies recalling the old spark.
Then the children pounced on us—crying for
attention, pulling us apart. They couldn’t bear to see us kiss, focused only
on each other.
What evolutionary instinct makes
offspring disrupt their parents’ intimacy? The way our girls carry on,
you’d think our snuggling threatened their survival.
Either way, the irony is that “the
parents’ relationship is the linchpin of the family.” So claim the authors of "Babyproofing Your Marriage," three married
moms who want you to “laugh more, argue less, and communicate better as your
I’ve read this book many times, carried
it in my bag with the diapers and wipes. I believe that “nurturing the
marital relationship is central to our children’s sense of security and
happiness,” as the authors claim.
“I’m divorcing my husband,” she
wrote. “But don’t feel sorry for me– it’s the best thing I’ve done in
Another friend has two young children the
same ages as my own. A look of horror must have crossed my face when she
told me her husband had left
“Hey, it’s going to happen to half of
us,” she shrugged.
I know the statistics. Americans have one of the
highest divorce rates in the Western world. Many of my relatives and
favorite celebrities have taken a ride on the D-train. But my own parents
stayed together for 35 years, and I assumed that granted me immunity.
Let me back up: I have a strong marriage. But
raising babies has challenged us to the core.
How can we snap out of Mommy-Daddy mode and channel the old,
Oprah says you can have a romantic
date night at home after the kids are in bed. Turn off your phones, light
the candles, and fall in love with each other again.
But Oprah doesn’t have kids.
And how can we leave the kitchen in
shambles? How can we snap out of Mommy-Daddy mode and channel the old,
free selves? The girl who loved to dance at dive bars, shake her hair till
the sweat flew. The boy who walked the red carpet in Hollywood, surfed big
waves on the Cali coast.
He was a rock-star songwriter in a muscle
car. She would jump naked into any water—even the river just after ice-out.
Winter drew them together under fierce
northern stars. Who can help them find each other again, as they did that
first night beside the frozen lake?
“Let go of the past,” says my husband.
“You can only move forward,” says my
“Kill the ghost of your past self. Surrender
to the chaos and wonder of parenthood and embrace it wholeheartedly,” says "Babyproofing Your Marriage."
It’s good advice, but I’m bad at
I remember my late father shaking his
head in disapproval when my aunt and uncle divorced. “They stopped
trying,” he told me. “Marriage takes hard work, and they were tired of
That was the only marital advice I
received from a family member. Back then I thought I understood what he
meant. I remember nights lying awake while my parents fought, burrowed
under blankets to muffle their voices. Once my mother threw a gallon of
milk at my father—it glugged out like white shame on the linoleum.
Now I try to fill in the gaps. How did
they survive the emotional pain of arguing? What kind of “work” helped them
through conflict and into compromise?
One friend says that most marriages have
bad patches—a hard few months, even years. But they’re not necessarily
headed for the D-train.
“We were in a dark place for two years,”
my friend admits. “But we made it through. We’re stronger for it.”
I want to follow her lead, though
sometimes I fear we’ve displaced our intimacy onto our children.
My 4-year-old strokes my eyebrows at
bedtime. “An ear nibble,” she begs. “An ear nibble, and an ear bite.”
I oblige, taking her soft lobe in my mouth as she giggles.
My round toddler has already nursed to
sleep, her free hand patting my cheek. These girls love me effortlessly, but I know it’s a fleeting thing. Another few years and they
will withhold affection. They will return my embrace with an embarrassed
half-hug, the way I hugged my parents when I was a pre-teen.
Children eventually grow up and away. In
the meantime, a marriage can starve from lack of intimacy. If you neglect
it, it will wither like a houseplant.