5 Mothers On Healthy Habits For Marriage Post-Kids
I’ve talked about marriage plenty before (most recently, here). Most of my early playdates with new moms and their babies included wide eyed wonder at the adjustments and the all around hard work it takes after adding children to the dynamic. Dan and I are coming up on our five year anniversary and I’ve been patting us on the back a bit for all that work and all the reward. I’m proud of where we are in our communication, our teamwork and our commitment to prioritize the life we choose to live with each other. We are certainly not the only ones to tell you marriage after kids takes constant recalibration so I asked five women I trust and respect to share their advice.
Chelsea, mother to one, San Franscisco, CA
We're only a handful of months in so still trying to establish but I think it all stems from remembering you're on the same team. Instead of always thinking of what the other person is lacking or what you're doing more of (which I'm guilty of and only leads to un-healthy habits), remember the team thing. Also, removing absolutes from arguments like 'you never take out the diapers' or 'you always get to sleep in later' - because it's usually not the case even when it feels like it. My husband and I try to give each other free time each week to do our own form of self-care. We remind each other to make time for our friends too, which we both need. We always hang out after the baby is in bed and make dinner together. Sometimes one of us might need to jump back on the computer for work afterwards, but we know we have dinnertime to ourselves, unplugged. Finally, showing appreciation. A quick 'thank you' or hug can go along way when you both feel drained as a parent. It's easy to take each other for granted, but getting in the habit of not letting the other person feel that way is huge.
Hitha, mother of two, New York, NY
Our weekly family meeting and marriage check-in has been a game changer for us. Every Saturday evening, once the boys are in bed, we get some dessert, settle into the couch, and AirPlay our family meeting agenda onto the tv. The meeting starts with logistics - purchases and financial review, schedules, appointments, travel - but ends with asking 3 questions that our friends Kat and Daley curated and shared with us. These check-ins offer a time and place to discuss the things that we don’t have time to get to during the week, and open up and be vulnerable to one another. This weekly practice has made us better parents, better in our work, and most importantly better partners to one another.
Maya, mother to one, Washington D.C.
My husband and I try to share a few things at the end of the day that we're grateful for with respect to our family - like something our daughter did that we are proud of or impressed by. And we've started thanking each other every night for the work the other put in to keep it all running.
We have also started trying to reserve time to discuss parenting issues or division of labor issues for after bedtime. If something arises during the day, we typically will now try to not fight about it in the moment if we can help it, and table the issue for later when we have had some time to think about it (or simmer down, if needed).
When I first returned to part-time work after my leave was up, I created a spreadsheet with every task it took to run our house and take care of our family, and made a "Matt" column and a "Maya" column. I ticked off the things I was currently doing while on leave (e.g. everything related to breastfeeding and pumping/bottle management, the baby's laundry, groceries/dinner) and left his column blank - I then shared it with him to decide what he wanted to fill in so that the columns would appear even. He did so and also added some tasks that he did behind the scenes that I'd forgotten about (e.g. managing our finances, mortgage and insurance payment, etc). We reached a balance that worked for a while; when I stopped breastfeeding, we re-evaluated; when I got pregnant again this year and my job simultaneously became more demanding and full-time, we re-evaluated again. An iterative and respectful process is key, as well as giving your partner the benefit of the doubt and focusing on seeing the humor in crazy mornings or logistical mix-ups instead of blaming each other. Nothing is permanent and each phase requires a different balance from each of us so flexibility and constantly checking in with each other is really important. I feel SO much better about where we are at in terms of our balance and communication process today than at any other point since my daughter was born. I am definitely worried that number 2 will throw everything off balance again, but at least now we have gained better skills for handling those seismic shifts.
Daniella, mother to one, Brooklyn, NY
When Ness was first born, I felt like I had to really enforce my vision/ rules/ ideals for how to raise our boy. I had done all the research, the pushing and put in the time and I felt entitled to that level of authority. Which was actually ok. But when I started to loosen my grip and allow Dan to bond/ connect/ parent from HIS intuition and heart (albeit with a lot of input from me at first), I fell deeper in love with these boys. And prouder of the family we’re building. I also had more time to sleep and work with less agenda all around. What’s really been important for me (especially as a pregnant toddler-mom) is to accept that the “mental load” as it’s referred to is on me. That’s not going away. But the more I step back and trust my husband’s care (I always talk about trusting our kid’s ability! What about grown ups?!), the more room for the yummy love feelings in my life. Dan takes the mornings with Ness, he’s full-on on weekends and is always always, always there for us when we need him. He’s an amazing father and the more I let go and let him be so- the less I get resentments or hierarchy between us. A new kinda romance!
Leah, mother of two, Brooklyn, NY
Go away without the kids, and not just for a weekend an hour away! After five years of not following this advice, my husband and I went on a real you-need-your-passport, week-long trip to Italy. We rediscovered who we are as a couple who doesn’t speak the language and finds a secret hole in the wall with the very best pasta we’ve ever tried.
What routines, communication strategies, advice on role sharing would you add to this?