Did anyone else think, after they had kids, that it was easier navigating the new baby than it was to manage your marriage? I remember thinking… Holy smokes, what is going on? I feel like I hardly know him anymore. When I look back and think about why that is, it makes sense. And if someone had sat me down beforehand and given me some advice on what to look for, what to watch for, I feel like I would have been better prepared. I mean, they have baby showers to give you all the gifts for the new baby, and many Mamas give you advice on feedings, diapering, labor and delivery, and so on. Maybe we should start adding in a Marriage-Before-Baby shower. And there, the guests can give you gift cards for date nights and advice on how to coexist together once baby arrives. Not a bad idea, right?
I could have read a thousand baby books, blogs, and listened to every piece of advice given from other Mamas about raising tiny humans. But what I never read a lot of, and what I wish I had more of, was what to expect when you have a baby–between you and your spouse. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love my husband oh-so-much and am so very thankful for his role as a Daddy, provider in our family, and as my partner. However, our marriage has taken many twists and turns along the way as we have navigated how to be parents and still be husband and wife. It is hard!
Ross and I have been together for ten years this year and are celebrating our five year wedding anniversary November 27, as well! I remember back to the days when we first started dating… Ahhhh–we were young and flying by the seat of our pants: going to Vegas on a whim, taking beach vacations with friends, exploring new restaurants, and going on dates. Life was so grand.
And it is even more grand now–the love we have for each other has multiplied exponentially since we had Julia & Brooks. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard… A lot of the time. No one ever talks about this before you have kids. People always talked about how marriage was hard, and I remember hearing my Mama say that growing up. But when you have kids, it becomes a different kind of hard. You not only have the same struggles you did before kids, you add in another layer of territory to navigate.
When I think about the logical shift that occurs, it’s something like this in my head:
I met my husband… we fell in love. We spent every waking hour thinking about each other… loving one another…taking care of one another. We built a home together. We lean on each other for everything.
And then we had kids. And suddenly it looks something like this:
My husband and I welcomed children into this world. They spend every waking hour needing us. We love them so much, and they need us to take care of them. They lean on us for everything.
The logical shift has now taken the focus off our marriage and on to the kids. No longer is my attention solely on Ross. Now it’s spread [as equally as possible] across three people. Well, technically four if I include myself. No wonder marriage gets hard. What was always the only priority has now taken a backseat. And no books or pep talks could have prepared me for this shift. I feel like I could have left out the letter F in that word and it still would have made sense 😉
It’s been three years on March 29 since we welcomed Julia into this world. And through those three years, our marriage has had some rocky spots. And it’s been trying because for me, being a Mama came naturally–as I suspect it comes for most. But what didn’t come naturally for me, was not being able to properly communicate what I needed, and in turn, not properly receiving the communication I was getting from my husband. And in the same sense, it was hard because there was no longer this equal distribution of love toward one another–now it was spread in a new directions.
I think at the end of the day, I wish someone would have talked to me beforehand, about how hard it can be on your marriage, once you have kids. Not every relationship is a one size fits all, and I’m certain there are a lot of couples who nail it right on the head the first time. We didn’t nail it on the head right away, and that’s ok with me.
So. What have I learned now that I wish I would have known then?
- It is not impossible to make your marriage a priority. GET OUT of your house and do something together. The kids will be fine–even the brand new baby. You think they need you? They do! But… Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Friends… they all LOVE a good baby fix and will smother that baby and those kids with so much attention that they will forget you’re gone. Make this a priority.
- Plan your date nights in advance. I make sure to do at least two date nights a month. I book out someone to watch the kids–whether it be Grandparents or relatives–we have been lucky in this way, that we don’t have to reach outside our family circle. However, we have high school sitters in our contacts should we need them. I reached out to other couples who have kids our age and we now have a network to use! And branching off that… schedule your first weekend or trip away as soon as possible. Ross and I went to Vegas in October without the kids, and we reconnected immediately. One-on-one time is truly a gift for your marriage!
- Make your kids’ bedtime earlier rather than later. Or, at least early enough so you and your spouse have an hour or so alone every night. You need time to unwind… connect, visit, and be alone. Get into a routine and stick with it. We don’t have bedtime struggles and it’s a breeze [almost] every night. Bath, jammies, snuggles, books, prayers, bed. Shut the door and we’re done. Ross and I are left with time to ourselves to watch a show and talk about things. Or just be silent in the same space. Ahhhh… Zen.
- Mama guilt doesn’t have to weigh you down. I make sure to do things for myself throughout the month. My husband is perfectly capable of managing the kids on his own while I run kid-free errands, get my nails done, or have dinner with the girls. In fact, in he says, in these exact words, I run a tight ship. My point being, don’t doubt your spouse. He will be great! We usually bottle up this feeling that he won’t be able to manage while we’re gone, and that’s just not the case at all. Give him credit–he helped make these kids, too.
- Establish routines and responsibilities between the two of you. And when you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Part of the reason I was so resentful at first was because I would wish things to be done in my head but never verbalize it. I have had to really wrap my head around being verbal about what I want help with. I was afraid of asking for help, and the consequence of that was far more strung out than it would have been had I just gotten it out!
These are just a few of the ideas I found that I wish someone would have told me before we had kids. I know a lot of Mamas within the Band of Mamas who would be happy to share other words of wisdom as well! Ross and I have a long way to go and so many more years of parenting and marriage ahead of us. I know there will be rough times, and I’m hopeful the happy ones will always be close behind. In the meantime, we still need to nurture our marriage just like we nurture the kids. After all, we’re all growing together, so why wouldn’t we 🙂