With the kids now aged 26, 23 and 19, I can honestly see the rewards of making time over the past 26 years for 'himself and I'. It was something we felt very strongly about from our first son was born in April 1991.
Himself and I decided to get married when our eldest son was 18 months old. We had talked about marriage before the boy was born, but it was something we didn't want to rush into because we had a baby in our lives. Our marriage was going to be because it was something we wanted, and not because there was a baby. Some people might disagree with this, but even then I was looking beyond the baby years. Did I still want to be with this man when the baby was grown up? I knew I did, but I still wanted to do it when we felt the time was right for us.
As we prepared for our wedding during 1992, we were enrolled on a 'Pre-Marriage course'. The priest who led this course was very contemporary and one of the things he highlighted to ourselves was the importance of making time for us - time away from the baby. We took his advice on board and did just this from the very early days.
Now, we didn't leave the baby home alone! We didn't run out on the baby! And we never neglected the baby - just as we never neglected our relationship. So as each Saturday night approached, a family member or close family friend came along and babysat the young man who was then our baby boy (still is I guess!). We ventured out for a couple of hours each Saturday night and it was our 'child-free' time. It was the time where we caught up on what we were doing during the week. How work was going for himself, and how I was dealing at home with our ever-growing child. It was on a Saturday night that we learned about each other during each week.
As our family grew, and by 1998, we had three young sons, we still continued to take a Saturday night as 'our time'. There were times when we couldn't afford to go out to eat, have a drink etc, but we still took that time away from the house. And then as we could afford, we began to take a holiday on our own, without the boys, every two years. Yes, we left the country and the children behind for a week every now and then. Horror some might think. The boys didn't go without holidays - their grandparents and Auntie Louise ensured they had the 'best time' when Mum and Dad were away. And we also took our own 'family holidays' to the sun when money allowed.
So why am I writing about 'our time'? In just a few weeks time 'himself and myself' celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We still have three little boys (well three tall, grown men) and we still have 'our time'. That Saturday night ritual hasn't changed. Life has changed in so many ways, but 'our time' remains just that.
Not every relationship, and certainly not all parents, were meant to stay together. What works for one couple can't surely work for all couples. But it's something that I personally feel very strongly about. It's something I often go back to and think about the advice in 1992 of that very worldly-wise priest. And it's advice we have continued to live by.
We have fun. We laugh, we cry and hell, we fight. But that little thing over the past 25 years, known to us as 'our time' has stood by us in every way possible. I've read articles where parents are slandered for leaving their children to go on holiday, to go out on a regular basis. Well, sod that. My children (young men) are the most important people in my life. But my husband is my partner and it's a partnership I value. And it was down to us to ensure that that partnership grew as we and our boys did.
Being parents isn't just about the kids. Looking after Mum and Dad and that all important 'our time' is equally important.
So, as Saturday night approaches, I'm already looking forward to another wee night out. Still not tiring of them. And then in a few weeks time, I'm looking forward to walking the streets of Paris, and spending some quality 'our time' there, as we mark 25 years of marriage.