First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.
And then all hell breaks loose.
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As JJ and I did our morning walk one day this week, I listened to a podcast of a woman interviewing her pregnant friend. The interviewer asked said friend, what scares you the most about becoming a mother. She thought about it, and then the pregnant friend answered that she was nervous to lose the amazing relationship she had with her husband. Inwardly I scoffed (probably outwardly too), because this was a similar fear of mine during our pregnancy, one that TJ and I discussed regularly. We would make intimacy a priority, of course. We would keep our regular date night, obviously. We would not let this tiny little bundle that we made together take over the relationship that preceded it, definitely not.
Scoff, scoff again.
Tyler and I have been together for 4 very short years. It’s certainly not a long time, but we’ve packed a lot into 4 years. (To hear a little more of our story, check out this post.) We’ve dated long distance, we’ve gotten engaged and planned a wedding (very quickly), we’ve lived in a TINY (400 square foot) apartment and happily too, we’ve bought a vehicle and house together, we’ve had a pet together, we’ve lost a pet together, we’ve dealt with our own personal issues and baggage in some very difficult situations, we’ve brought a child into the world together (against the odds), and we’ve navigated the early stages of parenthood together.
We’re still together, we’re still in love, but that love has definitely changed over the last 4 years.
When we dated (again) at the young ages of 22 and 24, we could not have been more in love – and more annoying. We were blind to the world, having eyes only for each other. And I have no regrets. We spent every waking minute together, being in love with how in love we were, totally blind to how that love would ebb and flow over time.
Even in our pre-marriage counseling (as in, counseling to prepare you for marriage) we were told we were naive and altruistic – not in those terms exactly, but basically the guy who married us told us that we had a highly optimistic view of our relationship and that it might cause us to be disappointed down the road. (Scoff, scoff scoff)
We were so optimistic. We wouldn’t yell and scream and say awful things and make the other person sleep on the couch or fight with each other in front of our beloved child. No no, not us. We wouldn’t have the problems that other married couples had, because we knew what it took to make a relationship work, and we were willing. And, for the most part, those things are both still true. But guess what? We have had those issues. And mostly, we’ve had those issues after having a child.
If you have kids already, you’re rolling your eyes and also inwardly laughing at yourself, because you were likely as hopeful as we were before having children! It’s easy to imagine yourselves as parents and still blissful and still so in love with each BEFORE YOU EVEN BECOME PARENTS. Duh. And it’s not like we ALL suck at our relationships, it’s just that having a kid puts a massive strain on a relationship.
And here’s why:
- Having a kid makes you TIRED. And when you’re tired, you say things you shouldn’t. And you throw things you shouldn’t (kidding). When you’re tired, you go into survival mode, where there is no energy or time for romance, sex, flirting, hand holding, or Netflix and Chill. There is time for sleep, or wishing you were asleep while you rock a baby to sleep. And that takes it’s toll on a marriage.
- Having a kid makes you BUSY. There is no longer ‘me’ time, or ‘us’ time, at least not right now. We are still in the thick of being new parents, so hopefully we will find a better balance at some point, but right now there is no date night or weekend getaways planned. (The husband also finds it very hard to find time for himself, between working a full time job, and wanting to spend his ‘extra’ time with his kid, there is very little time for hobbies (at least not without feeling really guilty).
- Having a kid makes you DISTRACTED. When they’re awake, you’re busy taking care of and playing with the baby. When they’re asleep you’re talking / fighting / discussing how to take care of and play with the baby. Everything is suddenly baby centric, which really forces your marriage into the back seat. (I think part of this is probably a first baby / new baby thing, and will switch back with time?) It’s very easy to spend a lot of time together and never really talk to each other, or put any effort into your relationship. Everything is about the baby!
How’s that for an honest snap shot?? We are still friends, lovers, and in love, but this is real life, people. These aren’t exactly the things that a “Fun Date Ideas To Rejuvenate Your Marriage” pin on Pinterest can fix. And frankly, these aren’t all things that need ‘fixing’, as much as they are things that we simply go though on the way to the good stuff: a stronger marriage, a well-loved child, and a family unit that knows what’s important and puts those things first.
On a positive note, here are the way that having a baby has already benefited our marriage/added a new awesome dynamic:
- Having a kid makes you a TEAM. This started during pregnancy and has carried into parenthood – our child has brought us together in a totally new way, and we are more united then ever. We absolutely have to communicate and work well together, otherwise things fall apart. From how we parent JJ, to decisions about sleep training, to actually sleep training, we have to work together, and that feels really good (albeit hard some days).
- Having a kid makes you LAUGH. Everyone thinks their kid is the most hilarious and cutest of all the kids, and we are no exception. The best parts of my day are when we are together as a family and laughing our heads off at something (probably something not actually that funny) that JJ is doing. It is so fun to enjoy and admire the little person we made.
- Having a kid is REWARDING. Just like anything that takes a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears, growing and raising a tiny person has a huge payoff, and when you do all that hard work with someone else who also loves that tiny human as much as you, the payoff is huge – a stronger relationship and so much joy and love.
- Having a kid is FUN. A kid is fun, so we have fun together. (This was my husband’s contribution to this post…Ha.)
Takeaway: having a kid is like, a lot of work, and can really do a number on your marriage 😉 For some practical tips on how to keep the romance alive, this pin is actually helpful.
This is all part of the journey (I hope, or else we have been majorly derailed), and it’s a good journey too.The last 8 months we have been very much in the trenches of early parenthood, and now, as the fog lifts (and we finally sleep train our still-so-newborn-to-me baby) it seems like things are shifting into the ‘new normal’ for our family, with our marriage at the top, and our sweet little JJ nestled right under it, still our highest priority together. Cause let’s not forget, we came first, and then she was born out of our love (or out of our lack of family planning amiright).