The 5 Things We Started Doing In Marriage After Kids
In those early months following having my first child, every play date I had with other new mothers two topics came up without fail - sleep and marriage. The sleep piece for obvious reasons as between the training and the regressions and the all-around lack of it, it’s a hot topic. The marriage piece was where I felt oddly close to these women that I hadn’t known before we all found a common thread in having kids around the same time. But we were all desperately looking for someone to affirm that it wasn’t just us who felt like our marriage was a little ( a lot ) unhinged.
I was pretty well prepared for postpartum period, and I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed the transition into motherhood, but I was zero ready for the upending of life as we knew it as a couple. I’ve written plenty about the changes before (here, here and here) so I won’t belabor the feelings - my husband wondering when I would prioritize us again and me wondering why his life didn’t seem as affected and changed like mine.
At around six or nine months, not coincidentally when we brought on a part-time babysitter we re-met as parents and found our new rhythm. But since then and especially now as we transition again to being parents of two, we’ve held close a few learnings.
Date night - This made me feel like I’d officially aged when an evening of catching up had to be scheduled. But it made all the difference for us. When we were in a state of tension following having Bodie, one of the big things that kept coming up between us was where we as a couple fit in. I admittedly thought my husband was being a child thinking he still came first. He thought I was being a martyr putting our child before everyone including myself. We did, in fact, meet in the middle eventually - at date night - a time intentionally carved out weekly to be with one another. To talk about things hopefully outside of parenting (not always but we try). Sometimes it feels forced - as we would so much rather veg on the couch but once we’re out, dressed, sitting at the bar, chatting up the bartender, it reminds us of different energy in each other.
Saying thank you - for everything. Dan makes me breakfast in the morning. He should get the appreciation for that. I text his mom to get a date on the calendar to see the kids, I get a thank you. There’s nothing too small to stop and notice because, in the intensity that is juggling work and kids and life, there’s really often only room for little things. And if they pass by without being seen, then we may quickly feel underserved.
Asking to remove the charge - When things are moving so quickly, it is so easy to offend one another or say something with charge unintentionally. And then that can promptly snowball into a negative back and forth unless we catch it quickly. Dan and I have found success in pointing out if we heard “charge” in the other person’s voice and then asking for the other person to try again to say it in a way we can listen to it. This avoids so much unnecessary conflict.
Taking turns with self-care - I give Dan all the credit on teaching us this and it’s a work in progress. He knows what he needs to be the best version of himself not just for his sake but for the kids and us. It often happens that he’ll ask for what he needs - a gym session or a quick nap - and I’ll be bitter because I’ve had neither until he forces me to ask for that time in return. When we both carve out equal bits of time on the weekend to recharge, we can support each other to get what we need with more ease and enthusiasm.
Enforcing boundaries - We live very close to a lot of family and friends and pre-kids we were always visiting, entertaining or generally quite often out and about. Beyond the fact that “going out” feels exhausting at this particular moment, we know that sometimes pushing ourselves to see and do with others takes away from what we can give to each other. That’s not to say we cocoon the four of us all the time, but we do audit the weekend or summer plans and figure out how we can set aside time and space as a unit.
What strategies do you use to protect your relationship while parenting? It takes work and thought and we’d love to hear your ideas! xo