First comes love, then comes marriages, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.
So the saying goes. Then it’s happily ever after, right? Right?!
If only life were that simple and linear. I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. It’s full of bumps in the road and U-turns, and even though Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest may tell you otherwise, no couple has the perfect relationship or family – they just show you what they want you to see.
Marriage is hard, and it’s even harder after you have kids.
Nobody really tells you that when you get married or if you take marriage prep classes (and even if they do, you probably don’t listen or believe them at the time). Just like a wedding is one day and marriage is meant for life, birth is one(ish) day and raising a child is for life – and so with that comes a lot of change! Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and part of preparing for your baby’s arrival should involve giving some thought to how this change will affect your marriage and having a conversation with your partner. Here are some thoughts from me and other moms on marriage after kids.
Probably the biggest key to life after a baby (and marriage in general, I suppose!) is communication. Your spouse is not a mind reader, and neither are you, so if you want something, tell them. As one mom says, “If you want sex, say it. Everyone is too tired to guess.” On the flip side, if mom doesn’t feel like sex right away or physically can’t (which is totally normal postpartum), find other ways to be intimate that make both of you feel loved. Remember that her body went through a huge transformation physically and emotionally, and it may take her a while to be comfortable and confident in her own skin.
Don’t just assume one of you is going to do the housework. Would you like your partner to do some chores you used to typically do? You need to ask him and have a discussion – don’t just assume he will. And dads, don’t just assume because mom is home that she will be able to do all the housework and cooking, because taking care of a baby takes A LOT of time (watch this video to see just how much!).
“I found that discussing expectations for each partner for chores/activities helpful because the parent at home often gets the ‘well, what did you even do today’ talk (well, I kept an infant alive so think I did pretty stellar) but deciding ahead of time or having that discussion if it’s a strain is necessary,” says one mom. “If you can discuss or make strategies ahead of time, that is great.”
If you are both too busy for housework, consider hiring a house cleaner, even if it’s temporary. If it alleviates stress, it is worth it! If you can’t afford someone, ask family or friend for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I always say it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.
Tell your partner you appreciate them. This works both ways. Don’t come home from work and ask a mother what she did all day. And don’t discount how hard dad works at his job and then has to come home and help maintain the home and care for the baby and you (postpartum is hard for dads, too). And if something is bugging you, talk about it and don’t sweep it under the rug: the longer you leave something, the more the little things grow into big things and lead to bigger arguments or resentment.
“Always remember to continue working on your relationship as a couple because one day the kids will move out and it will just be the two of you again,” one mother reminds us.
Put down your screens and actually spend time together. We recently made a pact to put down our phones and computers for at least an hour in the evening so we can either visit or watch a show together that we like. For us, this is sometimes the three of us, but that’s what works for our family. Maybe it works better for you to do this after your baby or toddler goes to bed. Maybe you’re open to doing “date night” or “movie night” with your little snuggled in your arms. There is no right or wrong answer – just that you spend time together.
“I am a firm believer that our marital relationships need a reboot every once in a while, as in you need to do something that is specifically meant to help build your relationship in a good way, whether that’s taking a course or class together, or for us, a week camping with just the family to reconnect without handheld devices is a must,” says one mom.
Taking a class or going away may not be possible when your little is a newborn or infant, plus it will depend what help you have around (do you have a trusted babysitter? Do you have family or friends who can watch the baby while you go out for supper or play volleyball together?). Start small and as your child gets older, it will become easier to do the bigger things (I promise: it does get easier!). Remember, in the scheme of things, this is a small window of time. It’s for now, not forever. Your baby will only be so little for so long, and when that time has passed, part of you will long for when they wanted to be held in your arms. Try to be patient – one of the many parenting lessons our children teach us.
Respect each other’s parenting styles. Just because dad doesn’t do things exactly as you do, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good. Realize that as long as you both have the same values and end goal, you might reach it a bit differently. Then again, if one of you is opposed to spanking and the other thinks this is a good discipline tool, you need to have a discussion.
Remember that your children are watching you, and children model the behaviour they see. So, tell your spouse you love them and what you love about them. Show them affection through words, hugs, and kisses – and of course do the same for your children!
As a married couple and family, do we do all of these all of the time? Nope – we are not perfect! But we are happy and solid, in case anyone is wondering if that’s why I wrote this blog (my mom might wonder!). I wrote this, as always, to help other moms and parents, because we’ve all been there in tough times, and to remind those who are there that they are not alone.
Is the above a fool-proof plan for a perfect marriage? No. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, nor a perfect plan. But as long as you both remember your life will change after a baby and vow to keep working on your relationship, you’re on the right track. It’s a work in progress, and you will have ups and downs, but hopefully you can continue to navigate the journey together.