Although this post is titled “How Marriage Changes After Children” it should really be called “How My Marriage HasChanged After Children” because I completely acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different. But I want to share my experience (and have touched on it a little in the past) because I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about marriage after childen or conversely conversations that seem to be filtered through rose colored glasses, and I believe for many of us the reality lies somewhere in between. Here are some of the most significant ways that my relationship with my partner has changed since the birth of our sons:
Positive Communication and Affection Become More Important Than Ever-
After the birth of my oldest son Mason, I found myself in a hormonal, sleep-deprived haze for months. This meant that anything my husband did that would normally drive me a little crazy, really drove me crazy. Its easy to take things out on your partner when you’re going through extreme physical and emotional changes as well as adjusting to a complete overhaul of your normal schedule. Of course there were lots of sweet “look at our son” moments too, but it took a while for me to feel 100% like my old self in our relationship (basically once I started getting a full night’s sleep again). It required a lot of positive communication and coordinating a new routine that worked for us so that I didn’t feel resentment to get through it.
Thankfully I had an easier time after the birth of my second son Myles. Taking care of a newborn was still tough, but I knew what to expect and got more sleep the second time around. I felt like we were even more united and things flowed more smoothly in the postpartum period. I realized I needed to prioritize “acting like a couple” to feel like a strong couple- being affectionate, speaking kindly to one another, and continuing to date each other. Which brings me to my second point-
Time Spent Together Without Children Becomes Vital Too-
My hubby and I are both homebodies most of the time, and with me being a stay at home mom its easy to let our kids take over our entire schedule. But having time alone together is important for a healthy relationship. And quality time is an important love language for both of us. Almost every night after our kids go to sleep we spend time watching tv (or occasionally reading) together. I look foward to that time to decompress from my day, and we bond during that time. But since we don’t have much family around currently, we also use a sitter from care.com to go out on dates sometimes, and my goal is to increase our number of date nights after I get through my next postpartum period. Time alone together does a lot for making me feel like myself outside of my role as a mom.
Time By Yourself Requires Extra Coordination-
Before having kids, we slept in most weekends, and then if we wanted to do a separate activity we could just let each other know and go about our day. Now most days our kids are up by 7:30 (even on the weekends, and we actually have it pretty good, I’ve heard others complain of consistent 5 or 6am wakeup times). If one of us wants to do an activity without the other that means the other person is the default babysitter. That requires careful coordination for fairness in our marriage. We started alternating “sleep in” days on the weekends so that we could both enjoy a morning in bed without the kids, and alternating time away in the afternoons. That gives me an opportunity for some self-care or a movie even if I don’t have plans with friends. And even though it requires extra coordination now, being off on my own helps me miss my household and has a positive effect on my mood.
Those are some of the ways that my marriage changed after children, and how we’ve responded to get positive results. What are your thoughts on how children affect a relationship? What changes have you made to promote a healthy relationship? Let me know in the comments.