How Marriage Changes After Children

How Marriage Changes After Children

Although this post is titled “How Marriage Changes After Children” it should really be called “How My Marriage Has Changed 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.

Xo,

Courtney

Our New Arrival + How to Get Professional Photography for Less

Our New Arrival + How to Get Professional Photography for Less


We took the above photo during the Cherry Blossom festival in DC. I love this photo despite my windswept hair. This was a very special shoot for our family because it’s the first time I’ve taken a family photo with both of my sons while pregnant. Yes, we’re expecting baby #3 (already!)

This pregnancy came as a bit of a shock to both me and my husband. We were planning to try for another baby next year to (probably) finish off our family. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Once the initial shock wore off we were both filled with a sense of calm. We’ve experienced the joy of adding a new family member twice now, and all of the love that the experience brings along with all of the work. Plus there’s not much to do now except prepare ourselves. We both want at least three children and we’re grateful for our family size. So we quickly got accustomed to the idea of another arrival happening earlier than planned.

That being said I’m still nervous. What kind of personality will this new baby have? Myles is probably the easiest baby in the world, but my oldest Mason is *ahem* a bit more challenging. How will I juggle three? Will I ever sleep again? There are a million questions running through my mind. But there’s also a feeling of happiness because my family is growing again. We can’t wait to find out if we’re finally having a girl (fingers crossed) or another little boy (and I can’t complain if its the latter, my boys are the sweetest). Most importantly I’m hoping for a happy, healthy baby. Now that I’m in my second trimester and sharing this news publicly, I’m sure I’ll be chronicling my pregnancy and my experience with three under three on the blog.

Shifting gears back to my cherry blossom photoshoot, I’ve had a few people ask me details about my family photos (we’ve taken Christmas and fall photos in the past). So I thought this might be a good time to discuss how I save on professional photography. When I first started looking into newborn and family photographers in the DMV area I was astounded by the prices. For many professionals, the cost of a session and prints can easily add up to over a thousand dollars, and sometimes as much as two or three thousand. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but that was way more than I wanted to spend. I learned to get around this by taking advantage of mini sessions.

Some photographers offer mini sessions at peak times during the year (usually once a season plus Christmas time). The photographer books multiple clients back to back at one location. These mini sessions are usually 20-30 minutes long, taken at a fantastic location, and only a fraction of the price. I usually pay $150-$200. This gets us an album of 7-12 professionally retouched images that I can download and print myself through CVS or whatever inexpensive photo printing service I want. Because I usually only need a few good images for framing, holiday cards and social media, mini sessions are perfect.

Our photographer for this shoot and our fall family photo shoot was Danielle Hunter. She shares upcoming mini sessions on her facebook page. If you want to find photographers that offer mini sessions in your area, google is your best friend. Try searching by season or holiday, like “spring mini sessions” in your area. You can also search hashtags on Instagram based on your location (#dcminisessions etc). Make sure you vet the photographer’s website or social media pages to make sure their work is in line with what you want.

And there are other ways to save. If you have a friend or acquaintance that practices photography, try talking to them about a rate for a short session. You can also take your own photos that look professional with the right camera and staging. Here are some tips for taking newborn photos at home.

If you have any other tips for saving on photography or or going the DIY route let me know in the comments.

Xo,
Courtney

Relationship Goals

Relationship Goals

One of my goals for 2019 is to actively prioritize my marriage and be more thoughtful about it. I started dating my husband 8 years ago and we’ve been living together since 2012. Every now and then I think it’s important to refocus and recalibrate, especially when life gets hectic (for example when you start having children). I recently read an article written by a married man with teenage children that really stuck with me. He described how his kids are sent upstairs every night at 9pm so that he and his wife can have alone time. They don’t have to go to bed, but they can’t come downstairs unless it’s an emergency. His reasoning was that his relationship with his wife is the most important relationship in the house. If that crumbles everyone else is affected. And even though his rules sounded a little extreme to me, he went on to talk about how it used to be common for parents to prioritize themselves in that way, but a shift happened where people now tend to be more focused on their children’s happiness than their own.

Thinking of my marriage as the foundation of my family isn’t a radical concept, but the extent to which I can and should prioritize it is something that I’ve been exploring lately. Thankfully I can’t say I’m lacking in alone time with my husband. Both of my sons are on a bedtime schedule and they are both in bed by 9pm every night. Most nights we spend time together talking and watching netflix before bed. And we’re starting a more frequent date night schedule. But the fatigue and occasional stress that comes along with having a baby and a toddler means that our frustration can sometimes come out in how we talk to each other.

One of the ways that we’re working on maintaining a happy marriage this year is embracing constant open communication. This means opening up about how we feel or what we need from each other at any time. This also means we have to actively listen to each other at those times.

Another thing that I want to do is embrace each other’s love languages. If you haven’t heard of love languages the idea is that people express love and want to receive love in different ways that generally fall into 5 categories: quality time, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and verbal affirmations. The importance of each of these categories varies from person to person. You can take a quiz here to find out which love languages are most important to you.

Last night my husband and I both took the quiz. I was surprised to find that our results were VERY similar and that quality time was the most important love language for both of us. Acts of service were also very important to both of us so I know that we have to continue to find ways to help each other out. And I was surprised to see that gifts ranked a little higher on his list than I expected. Now I need to come up with ways to give small meaningful gifts in between holidays and celebrations.

So those are the main things I’m doing to meet my relationship goals this year. What do you like to do (or have done in the past) to maintain a happy marriage or relationship? Let me know in the comments.

Xo,

Courtney

The Biggest Lessons of My 20s

The Biggest Lessons of My 20s

My 20s are coming to an end in a week. The past decade has given me some of my toughest moments and greatest triumphs. I wanted to recount some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 20s. What were some of the biggest lessons of your 20s?

Success is Not Always Automatic- I went to college at UVA and did well as an English major. I enjoyed my time there, made some friends, and even met the boyfriend who would eventually become my husband. I imagined that when I graduated I wouldn’t have any trouble starting a successful career. But that didn’t turn out to be my reality. And like many people around the country who graduated with liberal arts degrees around that time, I struggled to find a “good” job right after college, and it left me feeling very despondent. It took a long time before I finally ended up on the right career trek in communications. After a few jobs that were either unfulfilling or not the right fit for me, I applied for a position as an editor and finally got to put my English degree to use in an environment that I loved. Sometimes we just have to be patient when things aren’t going our way because a breakthrough may be just around the corner!

And Sometimes You Have to Have the Courage to Walk Away From Things That Aren’t Right For You- I spent a year at home post-college. Feeling eager for a change, I applied to both grad school and law school during that time! I decided to go with law school because it sounded prestigious and like a natural extension of my English degree. I ended up attending Howard law school in DC. But going to law school just made me more despondent because it’s the kind of thing you really have to be committed to and I realized that I really didn’t want to be a lawyer. I decided to leave, and it was one of the toughest decisions I ever made! I don’t have any regrets about dropping out, because I think I know myself very well. There are a lot of amazing lawyers out there, but I’m proud of myself for taking action when I knew it wasn’t right for me, instead of continuing on a safe path. The upside to attending law school was that I ended up moving in with my then boyfriend, getting my first apartment, and having a lot of great experiences in and around DC. And knowing what wasn’t right for me helped propel me into making some of my dreams a reality, including starting a fashion business.

Love (and Grief, which is an extension of Love) Will Shape Who You Are- 2017 was the hardest year of my life so far. My grandfather died after battling pancreatic cancer, and we were very close. They say grief comes in waves, and it’s very true. But my grief made me a more spiritual person, and more eager to try to help others. 2017 was also the year that I became a mother. Nothing anyone says can truly prepare you for how hard motherhood is (the anxiety, the sleepless nights, etc etc) but no one can prepare you for how strong the parent-child bond can be either and it’s amazing to feel so much love for someone.

And because I met my husband at somewhat of a young age, we’ve had the interesting experience of growing up together during our 20s. Our relationship has definitely taught me some things that I appreciate about myself and some things that I’ve had to work on. Love finds us all at different times in our lives, but when it does it helps us to grow as individuals.

Those are a few of the biggest lessons I learned in my 20s. But I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store. There are a lot of question marks in my future. I plan on focusing on Mom life for a while (and *fingers crossed* having one more baby) and starting a women’s group based on my own spiritual practices, but eventually I do want to resume my career or take on something else entrepreneurial.

Again I’d love to hear some of the biggest lessons you learned in your 20s (or that you’ve learned so far). Let me know in the comments!

XO and Self-Care,

Courtney

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married


I wanted to a take a break from talking about life as a mom to tackle another subject- marriage (Side note- My husband promised me a guest post, hopefully we’ll see that soon :). Just to provide a little background for anyone who doesn’t know us- my husband and I met during our last year of college and started dating the second semester. We both graduated and started a super angsty long-distance relationship where we skyped all the time and traveled back and forth between Virginia Beach and New York to see each other for about a year. We both moved to the DC area to resume an in-person relationship in 2012. We got married in 2016. Looking back I can’t believe that I’ve been with my husband since I was 22 and he was just 21! We were babies! And since we’re reflecting on the past, here are 3 things I wish I had known before I got married:

You don’t have to have a big wedding– I had 2 wedding ceremonies- a traditional Nigerian wedding and a regular wedding in Virginia Beach. We invited a lot of people and the whole thing was very expensive. We did get some help from our parents (and were gifted a very generous and amazing honeymoon by family) but we took on the majority of the wedding bill ourselves. While I can always cherish the memories I had with family and friends, I also look back with a bit of regret at the amount of time, stress, and money spent. If big weddings are your thing by all means go for it! But you don’t have to give in to the pressure to have a large event if that’s not what you really want. Small weddings can be very chic. And a lot of couples are choosing to forgo weddings altogether. If you’re footing most (or all) of the bill, there’s nothing wrong with putting that money towards your first house, an investment, a business, etc. instead. Just be true to yourselves as a couple and do what’s truly going to make you happy.

 If you’re already living together, things may not change much after you get married– Sometimes people have an idyllic view of marriage (or on the flip side a very negative perception) and think that everything changes once you get hitched. If you’re living together for the first time when you get married then there will be some big adjustments. But if you’re already living together like I did with my husband, you may find that not much changes, except maybe other people’s perceptions of your relationship. I think there are some advantages and disadvantages to cohabitation. But we experienced a bigger life shift when we had children than when we tied the knot due to our circumstances.

 You may need to adjust your attitudes about money– My husband is very frugal when it comes to most things, and I enjoy shopping and splurging way more often than he does. So naturally finances have been a big topic of conversation in our household. We’re still trying to find a happy medium, but being open and collaborative about your saving and spending habits is vital. I was raised by a strong single mother (who’s now happily married) so the whole concept of discussing my finances with a “partner” was an adjustment for me. It’s more important than ever now that I’m a stay at home mom but I’m sure its all been an adjustment for my husband too. It’s great if both people in a marriage have similar views and spending habits, but if not it probably benefits both people to strengthen communication and planning in this area as early as possible.

 Those are three things I wish I had known before marriage. If you’re married, what do you wish you had known beforehand and what tips do you have for others?

Wishing you lots of self-care,

Courtney

4 Misconceptions About Millennial Motherhood (Part 1)

4 Misconceptions About Millennial Motherhood (Part 1)

 

Hello lovely readers,

If you checked out my inaugural post on the blog- Welcome to the M Life, you got a little bit of an intro on why I think it’s important to address the challenges of millennial motherhood (and motherhood in general) but also why I think millennial motherhood gets a bad rep when it doesn’t need to. I wanted to follow that post by addressing some of the specific things that I think are misconceptions about millennial motherhood and give some of you amazing readers out there who are considering parenthood or currently pregnant a little encouragement, because I know I needed that (and definitely still appreciate it).

If you have kids already I would love to know what you think about these misconceptions and whether or not they apply to you because I certainly don’t speak for everyone, but I’m sure many of you will agree that while a lot of things will absolutely be harder after you have kids, your ability to enjoy life doesn’t end as a parent. The post was on the long side, I had a lot to say! So I split it into two parts, look out for part 2 this weekend. 

Misconception #1: You’ll lose the romantic connection with your partner- I often hear two ideas of marriage after kids floating around. Some people have such an idyllic view of parenthood that they believe it will automatically lead to an amazing bond with their partner and even give them the ability to save an unhealthy relationship in some cases. The other view (which I hear most often) is that all romantic spark automatically goes out the door with intimacy once kids arrive. I believe that both are a little extreme and while the former idea is almost always untrue, the latter is often untrue. There are moments when my husband drives me crazy. I’m sure most wives can say that. And those moments definitely increased when we had our first kid because increased responsibility and decreased sleep will do that to you. But it’s certainly not necessarily true that you lose all romantic spark or connection after you have a child. On some levels I’m able to appreciate my husband more after seeing him embrace fatherhood the way that he has. I love that we have a family unit, and I’m excited to see it evolve over time.

Maintaining our separate relationship with our new role as parents is a tricky balance sometimes. Time alone together (date nights etc), time apart, and really great communication make things easier and  I’m still learning to navigate that balance. But despite having a toddler and a newborn, I spend time alone with my husband almost every night starting at 9pm (this is possible because my oldest son has a consistent bedtime, so if you’re not there yet don’t worry it will get easier) and we still go on dates when my mom or sister is available to watch the kids. Unfortunately they’re moving soon (and so are we)  so my access to free help will be more limited, but I plan on finding a reliable sitter in our new area to keep the date nights going. Any relationship requires effort, and you don’t have to let your role as parents stop you from connecting with each other.

Misconception #2: You’ll never travel/do fun things again– Yes it’s harder to travel after you have kids. You can’t jet set off to Bali at a moment’s notice, but you can still go to Bali (or wherever you have in mind) with some planning and a great support system. Calling on our family for overnight childcare allowed us to do a really relaxing anniversary weekend in Charlottesville the year that my eldest son Mason was born, and a fun, food-filled spa babymoon in Vegas when I was pregnant with my youngest son Myles. My husband and I plan on doing at least one big trip alone together each year. Travel can also be more difficult financially because you have new and competing priorities. But a good savings plan or swapping out a faraway destination for something fun close by can still allow you to scratch the travel itch.

Another thing we as women often deal with (especially in the early years) is Mom guilt when we’re away from our kids. But taking time for yourself to do something that you enjoy can help you de-stress and give you renewed energy to tackle all those Mom tasks when you get back. You’ll also have the added bonus of travel with your kids. Family vacations can have their stressful moments, but there’s also nothing like experiencing the wonder of something new through a child’s eyes. I can’t wait to take my kids to Disneyland when they’re old enough.

That’s it for now, in part 2 I’ll be addressing 2 more common misconceptions about millennial motherhood. Let me know your thoughts!

As always wishing you lots of self-care,

Courtney

Welcome to the M Life!

Welcome to the M Life!

Hello lovely readers,

I wanted to start off with a little bit about myself before we get to the good stuff. My name is Courtney. I’m a 29 year old woman living in Northern Virginia (The DMV area). I have a 17 month old toddler named Mason, and a 3 week old baby boy named Myles (and before you ask, no we didn’t plan it this way, but I think there are some positives about a close age gap and we can get more into that later). I’ve been married for 2 years, although my husband and I have been together since our senior year of college at UVa back in 2011. I was an English major in college and I’m a writer/editor in government communications by day (but please excuse any grammar mishaps and typos here, I want to write more freely), and sell 90s vintage and vintage-inspired clothes with my hubby by night- check out our etsy page here. I’m starting this blog as a way to address a lot of issues surrounding motherhood that are important to me.

The first is that millennial motherhood comes with its challenges. We live in an age where women are told to delay motherhood in favor of their careers and instagram worthy vacations (and there is nothing wrong with that) but as someone who’s slowly building a career and still wants the instagram worthy vacations, I’m juggling how to have it all without going off the deep end, and want to share stories, tips, and resources (and get all of those things from you guys as well!). When I announced my first pregnancy shortly after my wedding, a lot of people told me I was joining the motherhood club too early, that my husband and I would be missing out on valuable time as just the two of us. But I think we both can say that our lives have felt fuller since Mason, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person as a result of having to care about someone more than myself.

I got similar negative reactions when I announced my second pregnancy. So many people, even strangers, said two under two would drive me and my husband crazy. But we’re all surviving so far. And while the newborn stage (and all of the hormone changes and sleep deprivation that come along with it) made me feel isolated the first time, I actually feel more connected to my husband after having Myles. The point is motherhood doesn’t have to have a bad rep as a millennial. It’s hard work but it’s seriously amazing! The second is that because motherhood in general is such hard work (some days it takes all of you and then some) connecting with and supporting other mothers is key to our survival. So is self-care, so I’ll be talking about that a lot.

I also just want to share some tips and products that I think are helpful as I discover them. There will be a lot of content for moms in general, but some just for moms of boys (because I think we get the short end of the stick when it comes to some of the fun stuff like baby clothes). This isn’t my first attempt at blogging- as some of you may know I had a very brief stint in law school, which led to my earlier blog Law Books and Lipstick (and a lot of student loans). I’ve also been a contributing blogger on The Real Chic Life (run by my Mom, who also has an amazing instagram). I’ll repost this in my about me section. I’d love your comments, questions, and suggestions. 

Wishing you lots of coffee and self-care,

Courtney