I think most moms can agree that once you have children the entire structure of your life changes. Sleep becomes something you hear about but never truly experience. Free time means your drive to pick the kids up at school. Grocery shopping alone becomes a luxury and privacy is a distant memory.
Another thing that changes significantly when you become a parent is your relationship. Marriage is hard work to begin with and when you add children to the mix, things can sometimes get hairy. But, they can also get pretty amazing.
Here are just a few ways that children change the marriage dynamic and some tips for keeping the spark alive!
1. You Need to Present a United Front
Is it just me, or does becoming a parent also mean you adopt the amazing ability to speak to your partner with your eyes? Sometimes, all it takes is a look and an eyebrow raise to send my husband a certain message, whether it’s, “do not say ‘yes’ to that question,” “stop teasing your son,” or “mum’s the word, he doesn’t know about that yet.”
Whether it means using hand signals, eye rolls or a good old swift kick beneath the dinner table (I don’t recommend this), when it comes to raising children, a husband and wife should present a united front.
This means that your children know they will get the same exact answer whether they ask mommy or daddy. This prevents children from “shopping for answers” as my husband would call it, or going behind one parents back when they say “no” to ask the other parent the same exact question.
When parents give conflicting opinions, answers, or advice to their children, kids get confused. They don’t know which parent to listen to or which piece of information is correct. This can lead to confusion about the rules of the household, acceptable behavior, and even how to act outside of the home.
If you disagree with the way your partner handles a specific situation, try not to express your displeasure in front of the children. Wait until the moment has passed or your children leave the room before addressing your concern, though it does need addressing.
It’s almost guaranteed that you and your partner won’t agree on every single aspect of your parenting journey, but it’s important to discuss those disagreements openly and find a common ground. Parenting, just like marriage, is about compromise.
2. Enjoy Even the Little Moments Together
Togetherness as a couple looks very different after kids. Romantic candle-lit dinners after work are replaced with pizza between sports and bathtime. Date nights are booked weeks in advance to ensure you have a babysitter and nightly interruptions can kill even the sexiest of moods.
But that just comes with the parenting territory. It doesn’t mean that you can’t share moments of intimacy or plan romantic moments among the chaos of everyday life.
Find those small moments in your day when the kids are occupied, and turn them into something special. It could be something a silly as your child’s sports practice. While they’re busy kicking around the soccer ball or shooting hoops with friends, sit on the bleachers with your partner and discuss your days. Catch-up on a conversation, hold hands, and just enjoy being together.
Plan date nights out—at least once a month. Schedule a babysitter in advance and even if it means taking just one hour to grab a cocktail, go for ice cream or simply enjoy a leisurely drive or walk in the park, a date night doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s more about the quality time spent together.
For example, my favorite way to spend quality time with my husband is after my son is in bed and early in the morning, before he wakes. Our late night television dates include getting caught up on the news, our favorite fixer upper shows, and whatever is recorded on our DVR that week. We hold hands, laugh, and snuggle.
Even if we both fall asleep before the first show is over, it’s still quality time spent alone. The mornings mean coffee on the front porch, a rundown of the day ahead, and discussion of weekend plans or whatever is stressing us about work. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, it’s still 30 minutes of uninterrupted adult time. For me, that’s more than worth getting up before my alarm sounds.
3. Decisions Are Made With the Entire Family in Mind
That’s right, even something as simple as which type of milk to buy can become a family decision. Okay, that might be a tad extreme, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d chosen the 2 percent milk over the 1 percent because my husband will use either in his coffee, but my son prefers 2 percent. It’s a compromise we make to keep the entire family happy,. But milk decisions aren’t the only ones that need family consideration.
My husband is extremely spontaneous and a risk taker when it comes to business and our finances. He often acts in the moment and figures things out later. That was all well and good when we were a young couple without children.
Sure, let’s buy that camping trailer, take that vacation to Vegas and splurge on those kitchen upgrades. We could always work more and make more money. But now that we have a son, our decisions need to be much more calculated—at least I think so.
My husband is still of the mind that we can figure things out later. I am a firm believer that raising a child means needing stability and security. I don’t do well with spontaneity as it is, but especially not when it comes to our son’s future.
It’s important to note that as parents, the decisions you make both together and as individuals will ultimately impact the entire family dynamic. That’s not to say that the children should rule the roost and never have to adapt to family changes because that’s not realistic. In fact, it’s healthy for children to learn ways of adapting, coping and adjusting to changes in life.
But in the same turn, children need a certain level of stability and security to flourish. So if your family is considering a big move, having another child, or any other life-altering changes, sitting with your partner and discussing the overall impact these decisions will have on the family unit is a great idea.
Work as a Team
You and your partner are a team, as are you and your family. Working together, keeping the lines of communication open and making time for one another are all important components for creating a healthy family dynamic. Don’t forget, teamwork makes the dream work!