Finding that special someone and having children – to some people, these two life experiences are the most significant in their lives. You know – the love of your life...your life partner. You find him or her and you have a relationship where you have fun, take trips, fall in love, commit to each other, and decide your love is so strong, you want to build on that love and start a family. Sometimes, it doesn’t always happen in that order…but the result is the same. You, your partner and your children – true happiness.
What people don’t tell you is that to keep that happiness, it takes work! A lot of work for some.
You often hear that having kids affects your marriage – that you will spend less time together, that your sex life will change - basically everything will change, and often it does. A lot of the women I know have admitted they heard these things, but never thought it would be them. Having kids wouldn’t change them, only for the better. No doubt, having children is undeniably one of the greatest gifts in life (for some people), but it is also a huge adjustment. An adjustment for mothers, and an adjustment for the couple as a whole.
A baby needs attention all of the time – there’s the feedings, the changing, the laundry, the late nights, and early mornings. Couples are learning to parent as a team – learning to share their home (and often their bed) with a baby. Of course this is going to have an effect on a relationship. But, there are ways to adjust to these new demands, while still finding a way to commit to nurturing their own bond.
The first step is to admit that things could change once a baby comes along, because holding onto the belief that your relationship is fine when it isn’t, could just prolong the distance between partners. No couple is perfect. Most require a lot of work and attention to thrive, and that’s ok.
I had the pleasure of chatting with some mother friends of mine, and there are three keys things they say you must do to keep a strong relationship going with your partner (no matter the number of children you have!)
1/ More than anything, connection is key. Oftentimes, the most you will do alone with each other during the day is brush your teeth! Honestly, with days full of getting children ready in the mornings, getting them out the door, going to work (if one or more of you work outside the home), maintaining the household, school activities, dinnertime, bedtime, preparing for the next day, doing some more work (if you work at home), and getting off to bed yourselves, there is very little time in the day. To connect; however, only takes a few minutes. Pause the dinner making for 5 minutes and sit on the deck together. Hold hands, put your head on the others shoulder and just talk about the day. It’s ok to hold off on doing something (and turning on a show for your kids to watch before dinner!) just to sit alone and really talk to each other. Show your children parents who are affectionate with each other from a young age - help give them a foundation for building their own strong relationships with people.
2/ Then, there’s the date night (or day, or morning or weekend if you’re lucky!). Always try to set aside at least one day during the week where you and your partner do something and spend quality time together. Make this a habit and it will benefit you both, and your relationship. This may be something small like a quick walk while the baby naps (and the neighbour stays to watch over him or her). Or, when the baby is a little older, pick a time each week and have a sitter come, where you can make the dates a little longer. A friend of mine (who has three children and a husband who works away half the year!), says they take an hour everyday he is home to go to the gym together, and they love it! They don’t do date nights right now because there is too much demand from the baby. So, when the older children are in school, they bring the baby to the gym daycare every morning and that is their time. They both enjoy fitness and they get to talk, laugh and just enjoy being together for a while each day. They also get baby’s nap time at this point of babyhood! That will, no doubt, change as the baby gets older. For now though, it’s what works for them. No matter your situation, finding that quality time is doable – you just need to figure out what works for you both.
3/ Finally, do not lose track of showing affection for each other (physically and emotionally!). Your sex life does not need to go down the drain just because you have children! Of course, when babies are first born, the mother may be physically unable to do a lot for a while (but there’s no reason you can’t still kiss, touch and show affection in other ways until sex is possible!). In fact, research by the Gottman Institute recommends one six second kiss per day. Get away from the quick peck on the cheek as you rush by one another! Dr. Gottman says, “Don’t leave home without a kiss that lasts six seconds. A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential. It’s a kiss worth coming home to.”
I, myself, set a timer once while kissing my boyfriend and man, that six seconds flew by faster than I thought. So, yes, it may sound like an odd request to throw at people, but it’s a good and easy one and that always makes us laugh!
Some mothers don’t feel physically attractive and may feel they need more time before getting physical. For those moms, just so you know, I’ve spoken to both men and women whose physical attraction was still alive for moms after babies came along! So, most partners are ready when you are - there should be nothing holding you back from feeling confident and being together! If you must schedule sexy time in, do it! If there’s a certain time during the day you know you are child free - pencil it in! If you get a few quick minutes while baby is sleeping, sneak off together! There’s no reason to use the “I'm too tired” excuse everyday. If you want to keep that connection with your partner, you should make the effort, simple as that. The minute one or both of you stop caring about getting physical is when problems may arise.
Not only is physical affection important, but emotional as well. One woman I spoke to said she used to leave little notes in her husbands’ lunch almost everyday when they first moved in together. That stopped after baby number one, and for a few years she didn’t do it at all. Then after baby number two, she did it one day and her husband took the time to say how much it meant to him. So, she has gone back to doing it on a regular basis. Something so simple made him so happy, and now he’ll leave little notes for her to find at home. Small acts like this don’t take much effort or time, but they do show that you care and can really bring you both closer together
Make it a priority in your relationship to devote time, effort, compassion, and communication to your life and there’s no doubt that with all the uncertainty that comes with parenthood + marriage, you will find each other at the end of the ride again. You will, in fact, remember the reason you started that ride together in the first place.
Thanks for reading along and much love,