You Used to Leave Me Love Notes

I’ve seen it bantered back-and-forth in mom groups, sometimes turning into a heated debate, the big question: “who do you love more, your child or your significant other?” Almost everyone says their child, no question. I can see it. I understand. My instinct is to say I love them equally, just in different ways. The love is a different kind of love. But when I really think about it and get up close and personal with that honest part of myself...I've seen myself express love in totally uneven ways since my husband and I had our son. And by that I mean I show more love for my son than my husband. I am so thrilled to see my son walk in the door after being away from him, I am immediately hugging and kissing him and ignoring the man who came in right behind him. The man who just took care of him, who helped give him to me. I have fought with my husband, ignored him, then turned and smothered my son in kisses to comfort myself. I know it's not fair. It's not fair to my husband. It's not fair to our future selves. It’s difficult to say I love one more than the other but my actions show otherwise. I don’t think it is the right question to ask.

I think the question should be “who do you prioritize?” I know the immediate answer is, of course, your children. Hear me out for a minute. By only prioritizing your children you are not being fair to anyone. Obviously your infant needs you more than an adult. But man, that infancy stage flies by doesn’t it? My love for my husband waned in those middle of the night cry fests. We have never been so mean to each other, in those moments of exhaustion and frustration. We did not take that out on our son but we absolutely took it out on each other, leaving biting remarks before one of us tended to our son to rock, soothe and comfort him. Can you imagine what those moments would be like if a little love drifted back in? If some of the love showered on the child flickered between the frustrated parents? I get it, we are human. I am the queen of emotional outbursts and breakdowns. Plus, postpartum hormonal fun makes it a whole different party. We were so fortunate to have an easy delivery and a quick transition home with our son. I am not saying the love wasn’t there, it definitely was. But it was hidden in the shadows and the longer it stayed in the dark the more difficult it was to see.

My husband and I have every hope our child will grow up happy and healthy, and live a full and wonderful life. We also hope to be there together, living a new phase of our own lives, a time that will feel complete even when our child has left the nest. There's no question that our child needs us more right now. For very specific reasons. Love is one of those reasons. It seems to come easier for the sweet perfect baby nestled in your arms versus the adult snoring next to you while you are wide awake, both of you raw and imperfect, flaws falling out all over the place. But we need to have room in our hearts for the person we share our life with. They matter. They should be a priority. My son hasn't known me for the years my husband has known me. He will never know me in that sense. Our parent child relationship is simple. Love. Care. Snuggles. Sometimes yelling and tears, but it always, always ends in a hug and a clean slate the next morning. Marriage or adult relationships are complex. They are intricate and difficult but they matter so much. We need to model healthy love for our child so they know as they grow up and find their own great loves, they deserve to be someone’s priority, forever. We need to prioritize each other and our relationship so we have something left to enjoy when it’s just the two of us. I don’t want to wade through the darkness, searching for that “used to be great” love as I am writing the last chapters of my life. I want to hold my husband’s hand while we watch our children grow. I want to hug him tight just as much as I want to hug my son. Sometimes we have a family hug and it feels like another layer of our love. Us and him. Sometimes we need a moment to ourselves to remember. Us alone, just as we started.

When I thought about the love letters my husband used to write me I realized our love absolutely changed after baby entered the picture. It had to. It has taken me several years of self reflection and quite the bumpy road in marriage to realize the love for my spouse is just as important as the love for my child. I am not saying it is easy to make him a priority but I am growing to understand it is necessary for our relationship to survive, and even better, thrive. I get it, trust me. Before we ever dreamed of having children I sat up on my pedestal and said I would never leave my husband in the dust if we had a child. Years later I remember the feeling behind why I made that huge claim. If we don’t work on re-prioritizing now I’m not sure how we will find that space years from now with resentment built upon frustration built upon the pain of not feeling important. My first step is recognizing the different ways we prioritize each other. Here is my love letter to my husband, thanking him for his efforts in making me a priority in this whirlwind of a life.

Dear Husband:

You used to leave me love notes. Do you remember when we trekked back and forth between different cities while we were dating? I would wake up early to make it back in time to my morning classes and find the ice scraped from my car, or an album you found at the used CD store queued up to play. I would sleepily stumble into the living room of my apartment to find you already gone, a sentiment scribbled from your bursting heart on my whiteboard or on a scrap of paper left by the bed.

Do you remember when we were first married? The first year of learning to share your life with another was rough, as they often are. After one particularly bad fight I went out to my car on my lunch break and found an apology note from you with a peace offering of my favorite black licorice.

Do you remember when I told you I was pregnant? I kept it to myself for a day and then couldn’t contain it any longer. I told you quietly while we lay on our bed. And then we walked the path near our house, talking about who our child would be, who we would become. Our love notes blossomed into photos of my growing baby bump marked with the number of weeks.

We shared more than a decade without a child. For most of that time I thought we would never have one and it would just be you and me. Always. When our son changed our lives forever love notes turned into different kinds of gestures.

Do you remember how you cleaned my pump parts each night after work? You held our son while I worked out and let me escape to Target, or to get a haircut, or find a moment to just be something other than mama.

Do you remember me crying in the night wanting to leave my job to stay home with him? You listened and you cared and we made it work.

No matter how far we have drifted we always find our way back to our center. Years from now I will ask if you remember taking our son out for a day of adventure to give me the time and headspace to write this blog post.

You used to leave me love notes and now you show your love in so many other ways. Thank you for making me a priority. I hope, as these years go on, you will say the same of me.

I love you.