While pregnant with my first child, I was constantly “warned” that my relationship with my partner will never be the same after kids. And at first, it did take a drastic turn for the worse. However, with lots of patience, understanding, and communication, we were able to find a new normal in our relationship. Honestly, I would argue we are a better couple now than we were before.
You may worry about how your marriage will fare after kids; you may wonder if it will change at all! Maybe, you’ve already had the kids and are realizing the changes your relationship has endured and want to fix them.
1. Conflict with Adjusting to a New “First”
Whether you and your partner have been together 12 years or 12 months, adjusting to no longer being each other’s first place person can be a little difficult.
One of the biggest transitions Tim and I went through after having our daughter was our nightly greeting. It use to be that Tim would pick me up from work and we were discuss our evening plans together – “What do you want to do? What do you want to eat? Do you want to go anywhere?”. After kids, however, these questions turned into me greeting Tim with – “She needs X. We need to do Y. I need to go to Z.” while Tim only greeted the baby, while barely acknowledging me. We were no longer excited about seeing each other.
Solution: Even After Kids, Don’t Forget to Appreciate Your “Second” Place Person
For Tim and I, we realized our neglect for each other stemmed from not appreciating each other. We were both under the idea that we had it harder than the other one. For Tim, he was working up to 16 hour days in a toxic work environment that made him miserable. For me, I was dealing with the grim realities of post-partum life, excruciating pain when breastfeeding, as well as fun post-partum anxiety, all while trying to manage a house and have dinner cooked on time. Our daughter wasn’t exactly an easy baby, and that’s ok, but it definitely made me try to offload work onto Tim the moment he walked into the door without thinking of what he was going through. And because Tim was dealing with a toxic work environment, he never really came home in the mood to jump into help.
I can’t say I blame either of us for how we acted, but it definitely didn’t help our relationship bloom. We had to learn to appreciate what the other one was doing, what they were going through, and how they were feeling in order to bring our relationship back into the forefront. For us, the biggest things that helped were moving to a home that suited our family better and Tim getting a new job that didn’t require 12 hour days with a boss screaming at you for 14 of those hours.
2. We Didn’t Feel As Connected as Partners
After kids, your titles shift from “Wife and Husband” to “Mom and Dad” (or similar). At first, I loved this change. I still do – I love being “Mom”.
However, the one negative I noticed is that with this title change came a lack of connection with my husband. We were putting all our energy and focus on being “Mom and Dad” that we forgot to put any energy into being “Husband and Wife”. Had we remembered this, the first point above probably wouldn’t have impacted us so heavily.
Solution: Talk Each Night Before Bed
I’m a big advocate for specifically setting time aside to connect with your partner, but when a baby is involved, it’s kind of hard to create a standard time each day to do that. That’s why Tim and I chose the “right-after-the-baby-goes-to-sleep” time. Even if she only slept for 20 minutes, it is at least 20 minutes more than we would have had if we went to do our own thing. Sometimes, these 20 minutes may be done while we catch up on laundry folding or dishes washing, but that’s ok! It’s still 20 minutes to connect.
At one point in our first year of parenthood, we even tried doing journal prompts together and sharing our words. This only lasted about two weeks until we just started asking the questions to each other and avoiding the whole writing process.
3. After Kids, It Was Harder to Find Quality Time
Now, the difficulty in finding quality time I kind of attribute to the fact that we no longer appreciated each other and we didn’t feel connected as partners anymore. We were no longer seeking quality time. We were tired, we were grumpy, and we were living in a state of survival for those first couple months of parenthood. Honestly, you can slightly avoid all of this by being better prepared, but Tim and I were not.
When we had free time, it was almost guaranteed that one of us wanted to either eat or sleep or shower. We were barely ever on the same page. Even after adding in our nightly chats, we still felt like we were lacking true quality time.
Solution: Follow the 2/2/2 Method of Marriage
If you haven’t heard of it before, the 2/2/2 Method of Marriage (or Marriage Rule) is defined as: going out on a date every two weeks, enjoying a weekend together every two months, and taking a holiday every two years. I would say this “rule” is easier said than done, but with effort from BOTH parties, it is key to consistently quality time with your partner.
Some people are quick to pass off the 2/2/2 Method as it looks like it would be costly. I am not going to lie, it definitely can be costly if you make it costly. The beautiful thing about it is that dates are only as expensive as you make them. At-home dates are just as good of an opportunity to have quality time – you just need to put a little more effort and creativity into them to keep the cost level down. Weekends together can be as much as asking a family member to take your kids overnight – free babysitting for you and free bonding time for them! A trip away together requires money, but having two years to save and plan and figure out ways to be frugal really help keep your cost down.
4. The Division of Responsibility After Kids Became More Obvious and Irritating
This part of our transition after kids was very difficult for me. Tim and I went from sharing the majority of the house work to me being responsible for all of it. It’s not that Tim didn’t help – he did! – it’s just that because I was home all the time, I noticed it first and took care of it. (With the exception of dinner, it took me a long time to take on that responsibility because I despise cooking.)
After a while, I felt like all I was ever doing in my spare time during the day was cleaning up after my grown-up husband and it drove me nuts. I never got time for myself because I had became a robot who had to nonstop clean, cook, and care. It was exhausting.
Solution: Delegate Responsibility on Who Does What
Given that I was the one who was home all day, I didn’t mind taking care of the majority of the chores – it only made sense. However, delegating certain task for Tim to do seriously helped my sanity. I’m very lucky that my husband doesn’t believe in the notion of “men only need to earn money and that’s it” – he was completely willing to hear me out and help me out.
We played around with different “chore set-ups” until we settled on one that works perfectly for us. Basically, Tim cleans the bathrooms, handles bath time with the kids, throws in a load of laundry before leaving for work, and washes all the dinner dishes. He sweeps and vacuums when needed (as do I), and really, does what ever he can when he can to help maintain our home, as any roommate should.
5. Our Lack of Sleep Led to Lots of Arguing
Our daughter was allergic to sleep, as we joke. I mean, she’s nearly two and she still hates sleeping. She particularly hates going to sleep when she knows no one else is. She is our FOMO baby through and through.
Due to this, I was a zombie for the first six months of her life. With me having to wake up every three hours to spend an hour feeding and changing my daughter, and then having to spend another hour trying to get her back to sleep – I was beyond sleep deprived. Tim was working 12 hour days at this point so I didn’t really get much help from him due to his own exhaustion.
The lack of sleep really caused irritation in both of us, and spiked my anxiety. I would break down for the silliest of reasons, which often started fights.
Solution: Create “Shifts”
After a couple months of pure sleep deprivation, Tim and I came up with a sort of “shift work”. Saturday mornings were my day to sleep in, and Sunday mornings were his. (However, being the fantastic husband that he is, he usually let me have Sunday’s too.) On the days I was able to sleep in, Tim would wake with our daughter – feed her some pumped milk, change her, and basically take complete care of her until she needed eating again, in which he would wake me up. Usually, I would feed her and then go right back to sleep.
These extra three to six hours of sleep on the weekend really helped me catch up on my lack of sleep and helped my mood be less irritable. Ultimately, they helped me be a better mom to my child and a better wife to my husband.
Honestly, marriage after kids can be tense. However, with a little bit of patience, understanding, and communication, your journey through it can be smooth!
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