Kids will rock a marriage. Babies specifically. I once had a friend tell me that she would often wish harm on her husband as he lay next to her sleeping soundly as their newborn wailed not more than 4 feet away from them. And I got it. I mean, I’ve been there. And you can’t say you haven’t wanted to ring your partner’s neck at some point within the 6-8 weeks postpartum. Marriage is hard on its own. Everyone says it takes work, and it does. Add to it a tiny human who relies on you for survival, sleepless nights, no free time, no sexy time, financial stress, and jobs/careers and you’ve got yourself a rocked marriage. Even the happiest of couples can find it hard to get used to the new normal. Funnily enough – or maybe not so funny – you’re not alone. A girlfriend and I were just exchanging war stories, and came to find out that our husbands do the same exact things. We also have to remember that we are the moms, and our children are hardwired to us. We are going to feel like it is all on us because IT IS, biologically. I didn’t know any better the first time around (I have two kids), so my husband and I fought a lot. We were tired, stressed, and scared, quite frankly. We didn’t know if we were doing anything right, and were too tired to really talk it through rationally with each other. We knew better the second time around, so I want to share a few marriage survival tips for parents of newborns that we found helpful:
- Assign aligned on responsibilities to one another so that it is clear FROM THE BEGINNING who does what. The first time around we fought about who walks the dog and who empties the diaper pail and who handles dinner and on and on. Second time around, we tried to make it clear who handled what so there were no questions or unmet expectations.
- Take turns. As moms, we do the heavy lifting naturally, and there will be a moment when you resent that. Especially when you’re up at 1AM, 3AM and 5AM, and your partner has gotten a solid 8 hours of sleep without even flinching. So, take turns. Alternate feedings or assign a regular feeding. My husband always took the 11pm or midnight so that I could sleep from 8PM – 1AM when our daughter woke up next. And if your partner works, weeknights will be rough for them, but have them help on weekends a bit more so that you at least get one/two full nights of sleep a week to recharge.
- Over communicate. You are so fucking tired for like three months, which means you’ll eliminate small talk, details, and for the most part, full sentences. But talking about how you’re feeling, your emotions, any challenges you’re having with the baby, when you think you’ll have sex again (I’m serious—they need to know this), etc. all help your marriage. Your partner doesn’t know what you’re thinking. They sure as hell don’t know how you’re feeling. And if you don’t share, they will assume you’re okay and it’s biz as normal. So, over communicate so that you two are on the same page as much as possible.
- Think before you speak. You’ll be inclined to bark and snap at one another. Sleep deprivation will turn angels into demons. So, try to catch yourself when you can. Also, remind your partner why you might be a bit more irritable and less patient than usual. And if you are, apologize.
- Ask for help. It takes a village, so build one around you. If the two of you have help, then you have more “we” time to reconnect.
- Kiss. It’s that simple. Doesn’t need to be a full on make-out session. You likely won’t want to be touched, but just remind them they are loved. They should do the same for you, too.
- Say thank you. This goes both ways. What can easily happen is a lot of resentment building up due to a perception of lack of appreciation of the things each person is doing. You feel like your partner should be washing dishes, doing laundry, and walking the dog because you’re keeping a human alive at the expense of your mental health while many wounds are healing and others are forming. They feel like you’re doing your job as mom, so you shouldn’t complain that you’re up all night or feel like an over-milked cow with sore utters. Truth is, each one of you is pulling your weight, and a thank you every now and then can make all the difference and often diffuse an oncoming argument. That is unless your partner is not pulling their weight, in which case, you need to lay down the law!
- Date nights are everything. I should practice what I preach, as my husband and I have gone on as many date nights as there are fingers on one hand, but when we have, the reconnecting feels so good and so comforting. You’re spending time with the person you love who you made a life (or lives) with. That one-on-one time is really healing and you start to find yourselves again, individually and as a couple.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach to sustaining your marriage while raising kids. You can only hope that the journey of parenthood will bring you closer—that you’ll work together as a team to score more touch downs despite the amount of times you’d rather just tackle them to the ground.