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The One Parenting Philosophy I Fully Subscribe To

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I believe the number one thing you can do for your kids (apart from the obvious food/bath/books stuff) is to have a happy marriage. Nick and I take that very seriously—and sometimes get a little flak for it.

It doesn’t matter how much organic food your kids eat or how little TV they watch or how many extra curricular activities you cart them to if you, yourself, are not happy. And for me to be truly happy, I need my relationship to be thriving. And that takes work. I interviewed a marriage counselor for a story once about divorce and he said that parents think the best thing they can do for their kids is to be around them constantly, showering them with attention. When really the best thing they can do is get away from their kids on a regular basis and nurture their marriage. When he said that I was like, Yes! I agree! That’s how I am! I have no problem going out without my kids! My babysitter is loaded because of me!

I read a quote recently (in Parenting) that says it all:

“In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too.”

Nick and I have been married for almost seven years, together for 13 and we work really hard to make sure our relationship is considered “happy,” and that we not only love each other, but like each other. And it isn’t always easy. Last week I wanted to kill Nick for a number of reasons and he wanted to kill me for a few more. We both work from home, which probably has something to do with it. He’s in sales and has a loud voice and likes to listen to music (rap, sometimes) while he works. I’m a writer and like shit quiet. By Thursday, even the sound of him clearing his throat was making my blood boil.   

And so after a long week of working and parenting side by side, enduring intense, milk-spilled-everywhere family meals and taking the kids to my parents’ pool 87 times, I knew we needed to brush our hair (me), put on some real clothes (me again) and get out of dodge to reconnect. I booked a sitter for Saturday night without any real plans to speak of. I just knew it was essential that we get of the house without the kids. Honestly, we could have driven around in the air-conditioned car and been happy so long as we were able to finish a sentence without having to break up a fight over who got to walk down the stairs first (my kids fight about everything). We wound up stopping at our friends’ house for a drink and then having a late, light dinner a deux at a restaurant right by our house overlooking the harbor.

On our date night (a term I hate, a concept I love), we talked mostly about non-kid things (another thing that’s important to us). But we did touch on how nice it was to be out and enjoying each other's company and how we really want our kids to grow up knowing what a healthy, happy relationship looks like. Nick and I are happiest when we’re fully connecting and with two jobs, two kids, a house to care for and great friends and family life, it isn’t always easy. And so we always prioritize us, which may seem selfish to some. It’s why we often don’t eat dinner until 9 p.m. (so we can eat together and talk without the kids around) and why we spend way too much money on babysitters. Sometimes my family rolls their eyes at how much time Nick and I spend talking and hanging out and just being alone together, but it doesn’t bother us, because it works for us. We know what we need and we make sure we get it. And after our recharging Saturday night, we had the best Sunday with the kids we’ve had in a long time. We were in the pool, in the sprinklers, in the Sound and we stayed on the boat until 9:30 p.m., not even realizing how late it was for school night (gasp!). And even though Nick and I didn’t say much more than, “Are you gonna wipe her this time or do I have to?” to each other all day, we felt connected. We felt happy. And when Nick cleared his throat this morning, I didn’t want to kill him at all.

How do you make your marriage a priority? Do you? When was your last date night? I’m getting another one on the calendar asap!