Nothing says romance like two sleep-deprived new parents trying desperately just to make it through the day without killing each other. Let me paint the scene for you shall I?
Sleep divided up into two-three hour increments does crazy things to your psyche. The patient, loving, and considerate spouse you once fell in love with is now basically a raging hormonal being that will rip your head off in one bite if you ask her what she did all day with “all her free time” before she breaks down into uncontrollable sobs. Ah- love.
I am not aware of anyone yet who would say that their relationship didn’t change rather dramatically after they had kids. Children are one of those monumental shifts that take place in your life that force you to re-evaluate almost everything else that existed before them. Adding a baby to the mix presents some significant challenges to your relationship going forward, much to the same effect as turning a blender on without a lid. Here are a few reasons I can pinpoint:
Priority Shift – All of a sudden you have another person in the house that takes priority over your spouse. As a wise person once said, it’s not who wears the ‘pants’ in the relationship, it’s who wears the diapers! Their needs are constant and never-ending and sometimes this can lead to your significant other feeling as if they aren’t number one in your world any longer, which could very well be true.
Lack of Sleep – You both aren’t getting any. Sleep is the key to proper perspective. When one or both of you aren’t sleeping it’s hard to see things as they really are and much easier to grow increasingly irritated or angry by even minor infractions by your partner.
Minimal ‘Me’ Time –The day begins innocently enough, but somewhere around 4 pm I always think to myself where did the day go? The life of a mom revolves around naps, errands, cooking, cleaning, playing, crying, tantrums and trying to maintain a routine (or something like it…). It’s exhausting, repetitive, demanding and can really take a toll on your emotional well-being. It’s easy to get lost in it all and forget about ourselves. My husband innocently enough once asked me, “How can you just forget to eat?” Then after leaving him alone with our son for a day remarked, “Hmm…I actually didn’t eat lunch today…” To which I barely resisted screaming SEE!!??
So how does one cope? How can you move beyond these trying times in your relationship and come out the other side? I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Each relationship is unique and each couple needs to decide how to move forward with a “new normal” after having kids. Here are a few ideas that I’ve learned along the way that I have found helpful:
Married With Kids: The Ultimate Survival Guide
First, remember that your relationship will never be the same – and that’s okay. Those tough times you vaguely made reference to in your marital vows are never more prevalent that right after you have kids. You may feel like at times you are just going through the motions. It’s okay. The first year of your child’s life is about survival. It’s ok to just be putting one foot in front of the other some days and just choosing to stick by your commitment because that is what you promised you would do – in good times and in bad.
I also read recently that you need to choose to love in the times when it is the thing you feel least like giving. Giving your spouse a hug and a passionate kiss when you’ve both had an exhausting day is maybe not your first inclination, however, these actions actually train your brain to feel the love you crave. And the more times you choose love, the more often you will feel loved in return.
What you may find along the way, is that what you sacrifice in spontaneity, personal freedoms, and sleep, you may make up for in newfound, shared purpose – together. If you can make it through the tough times, when you come out the other side you’ll be a much stronger team than you ever would have been otherwise. You created that little being tearing apart your house and eating all your food. There is nothing in this world that will bond two people together better than that fact. They may be the only person that will love your child just as much as you do. They may be the only one who wants to hear silly stories about your child over and over. It’s an adventure together, and nothing worth doing is ever promised to be easy.
So this week, take time to remember your spouse’s best qualities. Cherish the few moments you have together after the kids are in bed and curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and remember why you fell in love. An investment in your marriage is worth it. Most of all, your kids will thank you for it.