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

The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

Now that I’ve been a Mom of two for over a year (and am getting closer and closer to being a Mom of three!) I’ve realized the key to success in my household is creating routines and sticking to them, and how routines might help others even if you’re a parent (or future parent) of one. My household does the best when we stick to established routines, and when we stray from them for too long chaos usually ensues! Below I’ve listed some of the routines that I use to keep my sanity on weekdays, including the kids’ daily routines, my weekday mealtime routine, and most importantly our bedtime routine (is there anything parents want more than more sleep?) 

The Kids’ Daytime Schedule

We typically follow the same schedule Monday through Friday. When the kids wake up I let them play for about half an hour, make breakfast, then let them watch cartoons while I do some laundry or cleaning (yes, I am pro screen time when I need a distraction).

After that we do an at home preschool program by Susie of the Busy Toddler. It’s meant for kids ages 2.5 and up, but my youngest Myles still participates sometimes. The lessons typically involve a song or two, a book, and 2-3 hands on activities. I get most of the suggested books from the library, and the rest of the books and supplies on Amazon.

After “preschool” and more play time I make lunch and put the boys down for a nap. It took a little while to get both of them on the same nap schedule. This involved doing my best to keep Myles awake until after lunch, until he got used to it. Getting them down for a nap at the same time is so worth it, because it guarantees me an hour or two of free time where I can get some things done or take a nap myself (which has been helpful this pregnancy). If you have two children close in age I recommend getting them on the same nap schedule as early as possible. 

After nap time I take them out in the stroller for a walk or some time at the park or library. Then I just let them play until my husband comes home and he takes over while I make dinner. The rest of the evening typically revolves around whatever my husband and I are doing.

Mealtimes

I love to eat but I am not the type of person who loves to cook. I’ve developed a few hacks to make things easier for myself. The first thing I do to make things easier is never taking my kids grocery shopping. I rarely go to the grocery store at all these days, unless I’m running in for a quick item or two. The rest of the time I order groceries through Amazon Prime Now. They are conveniently delivered to my door and as long as you buy at least $35 worth of groceries the delivery fee is free (although you can add on an optional tip for the driver). This means no more struggling with a crying toddler or two while I schlep down aisle after aisle, and grocery shopping no longer raises my blood pressure like it has in the past. 

For breakfast I usually alternate between whole wheat pancakes, Abe’s amazing vegan muffins (I cannot stress enough how amazing they are), cinnamon raisin toast, or scrambled eggs with fresh fruit for my kids. In the future I’d love to expand to some more healthy recipes but for now these options are quick and always work.

Lunch is usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Dr. Praegar’s spinach, broccoli, sweet potato or kale littles with veggies or fruit. I don’t experiment much with lunch foods because my oldest Mason is so picky.

Dinner is when I do the most experimenting. I recently restarted my Hello Fresh subscription so that I can learn more vegetarian meals, and we go meat free 3 times a week with their veggie plan. I won’t keep the subscription going forever, but for now it’s a great way to learn new recipes and cooking skills, and having a subscription has definitely increased my interest in cooking. The rest of the week I cook with meat from a farm CSA (community supported agriculture) share. This allows us to purchase 15 lbs of pasture raised, hormone-free meat each month. I purchase my share through Liberty Delight Farms. And once a week we order takeout for dinner (my favorite night of the week).

Bedtime

Thankfully both of my children sleep through the night at this stage (I’m getting ready to start over with baby #3 so wish me luck!) but we got there by moving the kids out of our bedroom, establishing a bedtime routine, and using the cry it out method (aka sleep training) for a little while. Moving the kids out of my bedroom was vital for me. I always start off with co-sleeping before moving my kids to a bassinet or pack n play in my room. But there’s something about having me nearby that just causes my kids to wake up looking for my attention (or milk) more often. I was amazed at how much longer they started sleeping when they left my room. This is only recommended when your kids are about 6 months +.

Crying it out is a controversial method, I know some parents can’t stand to hear their little ones’ cries go unanswered and I felt the same way at first. We tried it with my son Mason when he was about 5 months old because I was still getting up multiple times a night and feeling like a zombie at work. The first night of crying it out my husband had to stop me from going to him and I felt so sad. But then when he finally fell asleep, he slept for the rest of the night! On the second night he cried for a much shorter interval before falling asleep. After a few days he barely cried at all. The time it takes to get this method to work can vary but trust me it does work. And both of my kids survived the experience and are happy and very attached to me. 

Some people are amazed at how easily they usually fall asleep at home but it’s because we’ve been doing the same bedtime routine for so long that they’re very used to what comes next. I use Honest Calming Lavender Bubble Bath to help the boys get in a sleepy mood. After bath time I read 1-2 board books that are appropriate for Myles, then take him to his bed and turn on 15 minutes of bedtime music on his Scout dog (I’ve also used a noise machine and night light in the past- the Hatch Baby Rest is amazing, but found that they do fine without it now). I rock him in my arms for 2-3 minutes then lay him down and leave. He’s usually asleep within 10 minutes without any fuss. Then I read 1-2 more advanced books for Mason and repeat the same music/rocking routine with his Scout dog. Sometimes he takes longer to fall asleep but he lays in his crib without crying until he does. Then I give myself a mental pat on the back and relax for about 30 mins before joining my husband for a Netflix show. 

I know a lot of people who co-sleep end up doing so long-term, but once my babies reached the 6 month mark having designated kid-free time every night and sleeping in my bed without them has been so beneficial to my mental health and my marriage.

Those are the most important aspects of my daily routine. I would love to hear your thoughts/tips for establishing a routine 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

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