In just two days time, my husband and I will be celebrating our 3rd year of marriage, so I thought it would be good to discuss what our relationship has been like since having Abigail, and how to keep it going strong despite the inevitable changes that happen once your family expands. Now just a quick disclaimer, we are only having one child so I assume things would be a bit more difficult the more you add to your family, but even one kid can shift the dynamics. I’m also not a relationship expert and I do take into account that every family is different. This is just our experience and what has worked for us. Enough rambling, let’s do it!
1.) COMMUNICATE! DUH!
I write ‘duh’ because I know this tip seems really obvious, but you would not believe how many parents forget to communicate with one another once a child comes into the mix. I have always found it difficult to ask for help and so has Francis. I needed more time for myself and so did he. We had a long, honest conversation about it one day and now we accommodate one another’s needs and balance out personal time fairly. For me, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. If I have a hot bath or a walk around the block, I’m recharged. Francis feels better when he gets fresh air or plays a game on the couch. We need to remind ourselves often that we are people outside of being parents. We have hobbies and interests and deserve time for ourselves. By communicating our needs, we are much happier and therefore more loving and content with one another because there is no resentment or overwhelming stress.
2.) SCHEDULE DATES!
Once again, I know this is easier said than done but even if it’s just once a month, get a family or a friend that can babysit for 1-2 hours and just have dinner or lunch together. Don’t feel the pressure to have stimulating conversations, just enjoy the quiet and quality time without your child demanding all your attention. Francis and I try to go on a date once a month. We are going to dinner for our third year wedding anniversary. We try to go to new vegan restaurants which gets us super excited about food. It’s definitely a lot easier now that Abigail is a toddler and no longer breastfeeding but in the beginning, we literally would eat and dash home. Still, it was time for just us and that is so important. You need to be together. Also, don’t talk about your kid. I know it’s tough but this is a chance to make it all about you two.
3.) SNUGGLE EVERY NIGHT!
When you finally get your child/children to bed, snuggle one another and give plenty of affection. You don’t have to have sex. You’re most likely exhausted so remove the pressure and just cuddle. No matter how tired we are, we always snuggle and talk about things before we go to sleep. It’s my favourite time of day and I look forward to it so much. Once you have a child, obviously the sex lessens and you may struggle with body positivity or feeling attractive. Remind your partner that they are still desirable and beautiful to you. It will make all the difference in the world. I feel like my husband is more attractive since becoming a father because nothing is sexier than a good dad. Seeing him so loving and caring towards our daughter has made me appreciate him in a whole new light.
4.) SUPPORT YOUR PARTNER IN THE ADJUSTMENT
One thing I’ll never forget from parenting classes at the hospital where I gave birth was the instructor telling us that men experience postpartum depression too. She gave us links to all these resources just for men. It’s easy for a woman to go ‘ugh why does a man get PPD, I’m the one who carried the child and have all these crazy hormones racing around my body’ but men have just experienced an enormous life change too. Men are told to harden up and that emotions are weak even when they are suffering on the inside. I was very mindful of this in the beginning. We were both exhausted, shell-shocked and overwhelmed. I checked in on Francis’s mental health as much as mine. I suffered from baby blues and so did he (seeing me suffering didn’t help) and I never once put him down for it or discounted his feelings. A good resource in Australia for men is PANDA. Click here to read some recovery stories from the perspective of the father.
5.) REMIND YOURSELVES OFTEN THAT THINGS WILL GET EASIER
When you first have a child, you can feel like your lives are going to be all over the place for years to come but that isn’t true. You do learn to adjust in time and things do become easier. Reminding one another of this fact often provides great relief. Francis and I regularly say things like “remember when Abi wouldn’t nap for longer than 30 minutes and now she naps like a champ?” Or “remember when Abi screamed whenever we did tummy time and now she’s walking?” The truth is, we have lived this every single day. For nearly 16 months, we have raised a child – no breaks, no days off. That is a huge accomplishment. We can look back on what was difficult and appreciate what is much simpler now. Just like we will look back on this moment and see how much they’ve evolved in a year or two. We tell each other how proud we are for doing such a good job and how strong we are. It is such a confidence booster.
6.) EXPRESS YOUR FRUSTRATIONS AND ANXIETY
Don’t ever keep things bottled up. That is a recipe for disaster. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell your partner that you’re struggling. Chances are, they will be on the same page. Sometimes I’ll say to Francis “today is rough, I’m not enjoying motherhood today.” I don’t feel guilty about saying that anymore. I love my child more than anything but I don’t have to love every aspect of parenting. I don’t have to love teething, tantrums and foul poopy nappies. We don’t hold back when it gets tough. Remember that your partner is in this parenthood journey with you. Lean on one another, bounce ideas off each other and complain to each other! Share the burden and you’ll both feel more supported and understood.
7.) ENCOURAGE SELF-CARE
Last tip! Try to encourage self-care from one another. Sometimes parents can get into a rut. The days all look the same and we can forget to look after ourselves. If you want to maintain closeness, go for walks together with your child everyday, watch a movie together when they are asleep and eat foods that fuel and satisfy you both. You are in a partnership and know each other really well, so aim to encourage habits that will keep your spouse feeling mentally and physically healthy. Francis and I get fresh air, we stay on top of shows we love and cook together. We recently purchased a Pressure Cooker/Slow Cooker and it has been such a great investment. We can make all sorts of new recipes in half the time it would normally take to make them. Plus the softness of the meals makes it easier for Abigail to eat too. We both need to keep each other in check.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and that some of these tips help. Again, I don’t claim to have all the answers nor is our relationship perfect (no ones is) but we’ve certainly found a rhythm that works for us and keeps us happy, functioning parents and partners most of the time. Let me know any tips I left out down below. Thanks for reading!
Peace & Love xoxo