Becoming parents is straight up life changing. We love our children so hugely, so ferociously, so gloriously... that it threatens to become all-consuming. Everything else seems smaller in comparison to the tremendous responsibility of parenting. My relationship with my husband was one of the things that got pushed to the back burner while I channeled all the energy in my exhausted body into taking care of our little boy. This way of being is not healthy or sustainable. Our children cannot be everything to us, nor should they have to be. If we are not taking care of our marriage or other relationships, they will not have a stable foundation to be raised upon. Seeing a strong, thriving relationship between their parents brings peace and security to their minds and is one of the greatest gifts we can give to them. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned about nurturing my marriage since becoming a mother.
The first weeks of parenthood will probably showcase some of your biggest shortcomings. It can be hard to love each other in the middle of that. The highs and lows of parenting are exacerbated by the hormonal changes happening to the new mom, but the newborn phase is also hard for fathers in a way not often talked about. That’s why my first tip is:
- Check in with each other every day with a “how are you doing?” and then REALLY LISTEN to what they’re saying (and sometimes not saying)
- Don’t criticize your partner’s parenting (unless it’s harmful to your child). Talk about the big things, but don’t let the little things (the proper way to swaddle, do a diaper change, or give a bath) trip you up. As a SAHM who spends quite a bit more time with our children than my husband, it can be hard not to micromanage when my husband does something differently than I would. Just resist the urge. It’s not helpful.
- Be intentional about spending time together... but also be flexible. Find a babysitter once in a while and spend time doing things you really enjoy together, things you used to do together before kids. But remember, in some seasons, date night may not happen very often. It's okay. Quality time is so important, and sometimes that looks like a romantic dinner and a night on the town. Other times it’s 10 minutes of sleepy conversation about life, or your hopes and dreams, or your ingrown toenail, before you both fall asleep. The last thing you need is to feel extra stress and guilt over a missed date night.
- Let your children see you prioritizing one another. For some reason, whenever Mom and Dad start having a conversation, our two-year-old suddenly has an urgent need for our undivided attention. Sometimes he will just say, “Daddy, not talk to Mommy.” You've got to love their transparency... We’re trying to teach him that he can't interrupt us simply for the sake of interrupting us. Asking our children to wait while we finish talking shows our partner, and our children, that this relationship is important to us.
- Realize that to some degree, things will just be different now. I wrestled with the thought of our marriage changing and tried so desperately to hold on to what we had. I shed many tears, I grieved the way things used to be and finally, I accepted the new normal. It hurts to accept that things will never be quite the same again. But it can be good again, and beautiful!
- Finally, give each other lots of grace. Parenting is hard. Be gentle with each other.
Dear reader, I wish you the best in your life and all your relationships. May your days be joyful, your nights be restful, and may you have more conversations about your hopes and dreams, than your ingrown toenails.
Author: Chelsey Weiler