Remember when you spent the workweek anxiously awaiting your weekend plans? When the biggest challenge of Saturday night was picking where to eat? Now you spend Friday night trying to figure out what to do with your little noisemakers so you can go out to eat somewhere other than the kid-friendly chain restaurant you always go to. Somewhere in all the chaos, you forget to think about your marriage. It’s easy to do, unbelievably common, and luckily, easy to remedy. Maintaining a healthy marriage should not be put on the backburner! I’m fortunate to have a husband who is too stubborn to ever let that happen. He’s taught me a lot about what it takes to keep us afloat, and I think it’s time I share these tips with all of you!
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How to Maintain a Healthy Marriage After Kids
In case you don’t already know this, I’m an only child. I love my alone time, value my privacy (that’s an understatement), and I really don’t like anyone touching my stuff. When it comes to marriage, let’s just say, it was a tough adjustment. Fortunately, my husband, the stubborn Italian/Polish man, is quick to let me know when I’m being unreasonable. Over the past 3 years, there are a few things he’s been right about, I’ll admit, and it’s made us stronger than ever.
Mix it up
I love routines. I am absolutely a creature of habit and having a baby only amplified that for me. My aim is always to create the perfect routine, and then perfectly execute it each day. I can’t stand when someone or something gets in the way of this and will be the first to admit I have literally been informed by a doctor that, while I don’t officially have an obsessive-compulsive disorder, I do have “OCD Tendencies”.
My husband, on the other hand, can’t even let the furniture stay in the same place for more than a few weeks. He needs variety and change often, and his compulsion to update the living room arrangement is just as severe as my compulsion to get my son down for his nap at the precise minute on the schedule every.single.day. So which one of us is right? Variety vs. routine – who wins?
Well, we both do. My love for routine has proven to be helpful for my son, though I do need to occasionally let go of the details a bit. On the other hand, my husband’s desire to mix things up has been key in helping us to maintain a healthy marriage. He reminds me that we need to go new places and try new things. He lets me know when we fall into monotony – a place I find myself far too comfortable.
Take care of yourself
It’s amazing how different the reaction to becoming a parent is for a father and a mother. Of course, they both love their child more than they ever thought they could love anyone or anything, but there’s something about motherhood that puts new moms instantly into full-on sacrifice-mode. You sacrifice sleep to make sure your little one is content throughout the night. You sacrifice your sanity for their peace of mind. And, more often than not, you sacrifice your own self-care to ensure that your new baby has everything they could ever want or need at all times.
Here’s the thing, your baby needs you to be at the top of your game. And your spouse, well, they need you to still be you. While there is always an adjustment period to motherhood and you’ll probably be an unshowered Zombie for a bit, in the beginning, there comes a time when you need to remember that you are human. My husband reminded me that I needed to take care of me, for me and for him! I need to shower, I need to give my body fuel, and I need to get some sleep.
If you want to avoid the all too common disconnect that happens with couples shortly after having a baby (and often continues for far too long), take care of yourself. You don’t have to get dolled up every day or care any less about that sweet little bundle of joy, but you need to meet your basic human needs. A healthy marriage is one where both parties are taken care of.
Get alone time
When my son was born, I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from him for one minute. Even when my husband would take over for a bit, I felt this insane urge to return to my sweet little boy as soon as humanly possible. Don’t worry, it gets easier, especially around the time they start throwing tantrums over everything.
My husband was always adamant that we continue to spend time together, one-on-one, and I am forever grateful for that. Even if it’s just watching a movie together after the little one goes to bed, you have to continue to find moments of alone time.
Remember how I said I’m an only child and love my alone time? Well, when life is hard, I crave it more than ever. All I want is for everyone to go away and let me process my struggles by myself. The problem with that is that it drives people away, people who want to help. My husband insisted that we do things together even when I pushed back, and it brought us closer together. Looks like that stubbornness was finally put to good use!
Show off your healthy marriage
Babies pick up on everything, and toddlers even more so. It’s important to show your little one(s) that you and your spouse love the heck out of each other. My parents were rockstars at this. Never for one moment did I doubt their love for each other and I want our son to feel the same way.
With so much divorce in the world today, setting a good example of what a healthy marriage really is, is more important than ever. Don’t wait until you’re behind closed doors to show your affection. Give each other a kiss before you leave, say I love you to each other often and make it known that mommy and daddy’s healthy marriage is a priority.
For me, this meant making my husband a priority even when I was overwhelmed with the pressure to make my son a priority over everything. I went into extreme mom-mode and couldn’t stand even the slightest chance that my little man was anything less than ecstatic. It’s a tough balance to find, but over time, I have learned to accept that it’s okay for my son to cry for a minute so I can focus on another high priority. Babies cry. It may hurt our hearts to hear it, but when you’ve done all you can to comfort them to no avail, it’s time to let them get it out of their system for five minutes and do what you need to do.
Get on the same team
This was a game changer for me, and my hubby was promoting this long before we became parents. Living in Phoenix, we were all too familiar with horrible traffic. At some point, just about every time we left the house, my husband would get mad at another driver. My immediate response, for some reason, was always to defend the other driver. “Well, maybe if you hadn’t pulled out in front of him he wouldn’t be tailgating you.” I would say. It made my husband furious that I didn’t just side with him, regardless of the scenario. He frequently reiterated that a healthy marriage meant being on the same team.
Okay, so we still fight about driving. He’s an impatient driver, and I’ll wait for the biggest opening possible before making a left turn for safety’s sake. I’m not sure that we’ll ever get past that, but we did learn to get on the same team when it comes to parenting.
I don’t think I’m alone in this when I say that, as a mom, it’s hard not to cringe when you watch your baby’s father do something the “wrong” way. I read every baby book on the planet, I subscribe to entirely too many parenting blogs, and of course, I have that “motherly instinct”. So when we brought this little boy into the world. I felt like I knew better than anyone how to take care of him.
After months of making my husband feel inadequate, I finally realized that his methods weren’t so crazy. Sometimes, following every tip I read online didn’t work, and his unorthodox way of solving the problem did! As we moved into the toddler years, I really began to see my husband’s strengths as a father. At 18 months, my son not only knew how to pick up and put away all of his toys but started doing it on his own when he knew it was bedtime!
This is 100% because my husband insisted he should understand how to do it. While I sat and judged as my husband enforced discipline on a one-year-old (nothing crazy, just a little firm talk), my husband taught my son something so valuable. Now, when he picks up his toys, he comes to us for his high-five and delights in his success, and when my husband decides to try out a parenting tactic I disagree with, I support him and give it a fair shot before I judge.
Play your role
Society has given us some pretty unrealistic definitions of what it means to be a mother, or a father, or a husband or a wife. Traditionally, the man took on the financial burden but wasn’t expected to be emotionally supportive. The woman was meant to care for the children and the home and provide all emotional support for everyone in the household.
Even today, when a healthy marriage is no longer defined by gender and women are more empowered than ever, these societal norms still seem to be engrained in us. My husband is a very traditional man and he grew up in a traditional home. When we got married, I found myself wanting the same thing. After my son was born, we decided I would stay home and be the primary caregiver and homemaker.
What were we thinking?!
As it turns out, I’m a horrible homemaker! I will say, I can deep clean a home like it’s nobody’s business, but when it comes to the day-to-day maintenance, I have a hard time staying on track. I am hilariously bad at cooking unless I manage to find an easy recipe where it’s incredibly hard to over or undercook anything. Not long after becoming a stay at home mom, I started a blog because I longed for work. I didn’t want to leave my son’s side, but I couldn’t help but feel the need to contribute to the world in a way other than mopping the floor.
My husband, on the other hand, loathed his job. He also loves cooking and maintaining the home. I’m not sure how we missed this when we were mapping out our future, but it looks like we got it backward! We’re not sure exactly how our new future will turn out, but we’ve recently decided to switch things up. My husband is going to stay home with my son and I am going to bring in the income. If I can continue working from home so I can be near my little guy, you bet I will, but either way, this seems to be the best fit for our family.
How do you maintain a healthy marriage with little ones running around? Let me know in the comments below!
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