I’ve written and unwritten this post countless times. It was hard to find the right words, and uncomfortable at times to share personal stuff about my relationship in this space, but in the end, I just wrote from the heart because that’s the only way I know how.
Before kids you just have each other, all the time in the world just for you guys. You can indulge each other, you have the energy to be present with each other, to make each other feel special.
Whilst you don’t stop loving your partner after you have a baby, the love inevitably evolves. Less time lying in bed, more time playing tag team on all the chores. Less time discussing life, dreams, hopes, fears, more time discussing your kids, their wellbeing, whose turn it is to cook… You notice the flaws more in each other. Lack of sleep and a lack of quality time together creates short fuses, which in turn leads to niggles and petty arguments. Sometimes those petty arguments become big rows, sometimes they are unspoken, wafting about the house like a bad smell in the air.
Finances become topical, and there is little money left in the monthly pot to do things together as a couple or to treat each other. Holidays are no longer about lazing semi naked by a pool drinking cold beers and instead about taking it in turns to keep the children from falling into the pool, searching for accommodation with pushchair access, a travel cot and a high chair and uncomfortable flights where dirty looks from passengers whose children flew the nest many moons ago are dished out freely.
Somehow, becoming parents takes the focus away from your status as couple, lovers, friends and puts it onto coparenting, cohabiting, cobudgeting…
It’s easy to find yourselves stuck in rut, to adopt this new rhythm as the new normal and to accept this is just how it’s going be. I’ve thought about my own marriage a lot the last few weeks since I’ve been without my partner here and I’ve come to realise we may just have our priorities back to front.
Our kids wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the love we shared. If we spent as much time investing in our relationships with our partners, making them feel special, good, valued and loved, our marriages would be pretty rock solid. If we made the time for each other, prioritised some budget for date nights, created romantic evenings at home that foster intimacy and connection, then we could be untouchable. Think how much love and kindness you show your best friend, and if you did the same for your partner and he for you, think how good it would feel.
Having children should/could inspire us to bond more than ever as couples. Putting our relationships before anything else will not only create lasting and loving partnerships, but will also teach our children one of the greatest lessons there is; giving love, showing kindness, making someone feel important is all that really matters in life. It feels good to make someone you love feel good. It’s rewarding both in the feel good sense and in the fact you reap the benefits – more connection, more intimacy, more love received.
I think nowadays it’s too easy to use time and money as an excuse for our lack of perspective and priorities. There is always time to sit together and eat a meal, to chat about stuff other than your children. There are ways to create a space to be truly present with each other if you really want to, you just have be more creative, adapt your expectations and keep an open mind. That and some bloody determination. You’d fight tooth and nail to protect your children’s happiness and wellbeing, so why not your partner’s. Should it not matter to you as much?
Whilst we aren’t the social animals we were in our twenties, our Thursdays are no longer thirsty and our Sundays are no longer spent taking long walks and eating lazy pub lunches whilst reading the papers, we can still create a lifestyle that nurtures who we are as a couple as much as who we are as a family.
So here are a few things I wanted to note down, to remember about marriage after kids, (and these apply to both the guys and the girls!):
- You’re not the only one who is tired, or who was up in the night. Be gentle with each other
- A strong cup of coffee delivered to the bedside is as good as your previous life’s bunch of flowers or fancy meal out
- Kiss each other each morning when you wake, hold each other. That first hug of the day could be for you both, not for your children, they’ll get a hundred hugs before bedtime anyway
- If the kids wake up before the sun, pop cartoons on and creep back into bed together for a bit more shut eye
- Too often our texts are about logistics or picking up pints of milk on the way home, why not send a text soley to let them know how much you value them
- Whilst Netflix is light hearted entertainment and we all need that sometimes, it can be more fulfilling to switch it off and cook together. Have a beer, put on some music, talk about your hopes, dreams, and one day goals
- Encourage each other to see friends, to have nights off and away from each other and your kids
- Ask for help from friends or grandparents to ensure you get kid free nights and kid free days once in a while
- Team up and support each other when it comes to disciplining the children – never undermine each other in front of them
- Accept that it is now going to take 2 hours to get all your shit together and leave the house for a family day. Once you accept this, there will be no more rowing about how long it is taking to leave the house for a family day
- Back each other up, believe in each other’s dreams, support each other to realise them, you don’t stop dreaming just because you’ve had kids
- Spend less time nitpicking on who did what or who didn’t do what and more time doing what your should be doing and not what you shouldn’t be doing
- Holding a grudge is futile if you want the relationship to work
- Have faith that one day, you will have spontaneous sex in the afternoon again
- Go out with your friends as a couple, don’t just go out together alone, it’s important to experience that social side as a unit as well as an individual
- Work out what your strengths are and play to them. You might be great at bath time, he might be great at breakfast. Divide and conquer!
- If you can, book a babysitter once a month. 12 nights off a year is hardly a luxury – do whatever it takes to set aside this time for you two. If you can’t afford one, take it in turns with a friend who has kids to babysit for each other’s little ones
- Hold hands, it feels nice
- Listen to each other. Put your phones and laptops away. Be present
- Talk about the future – the future beyond kids. What do you both want from it. Share that vision and plan your own adventures. My husband and I will be 50 when our kids are grown up – that could mean 40 more years together on earth, don’t forget that time will come!
- One day you may just be the couple dishing out the dirty looks on the plane. For now, savour being the couple who made your amazing children. Enjoy them together, time flies…