The old saying is first comes love and then comes marriage, right? That is true if you’re lucky when you find a partner but is also true when making the giant leap into parenthood. First you fall in love hard with this human. Miraculous, helpless, sweet baby and then life starts happening again and you almost have to completely reinvent what it means to be married (over and over again). Here are a few things we’ve learned (mostly the hard way) that have helped us live much more of our time together as parents as a team rather than at odds. Hope some of them help!
- Keep the lines of communications open. If they are closed get some help re-opening them (christian counseling, shared devotional, trusted friends input, renewed commitment to date night). Talk through the good, bad and ugly. This is the only way to stay on the same team- talk it out my friends.
- Don’t compare. You are in this together but your roles, struggles, strengths and sacrifices are going to be so different in this journey. It does no good to say “ I have it so much worse than you do” (unless you are 9 months pregnant and then you ABSOLUTELY have it worse and are allowed to complain as much as you’d like) but in your day to day life- comparison leads to jealousy or pride which brings division. That doesn’t mean don’t share your struggles but in a honest open way not a “I have it so much worse than you” kinda way. I spent a long time being jealous of Brent (and sometimes still am) but when I feel that nagging voice in my head I have to remind myself that we are different. He supports me in the challenges I face the best he can and I also have to be there to support him. If I only let him know how much better he has it than me then I end his ability to be vulnerable with me. If we want to be on the same team we have to stop trying to play the same positions. Teams only work when each person does the best in the position they have been given. If third base starts pitching things won’t go well and the same is true in family life. We all benefit when we each have a unique and special place in our homes that are cherished individually.
- Make friends in your same life stage. Community makes a difference! You can’t do this parenting thing alone. You need a tribe to support you when you go through the sleepless months or celebrate sweet new beginnings. Having people around you in the similar life stage will help you see how your struggles are so normal too! I’ve called my closest friends crying and complaining after another nasty fight. Their sympathy, listening ear and gentle reminders that my husband does in fact love me even if right now it doesn’t seem like it have made all the difference too!
- Research together. We have the privilege of so much great parenting, marriage, life information right at our fingertips. If you are struggling in an area of parenting pick a book to read together on the topic. Or choose some blogs to read up on and go over the highlights together. No matter how you get your information review some ideas on how to tackle a particular issue together to start the conversation. Then talk through ways you want to use or maybe things you’d like to disregard from what you’ve learned. On issues I’ve been confused on how to deal with or wanted to talk to Brent about without sounding like I’ve shoving my way down his throat, adding a neutral opinion to the conversation has helped.
- Treat each other with love and respect. This goes both ways. I don’t think just men need respect and woman need love. We both need both! The times I’ve got the most furious with Brent is when he has called me out for a “parenting fail” in front of a group of other people and I felt humiliated. He probably was right is calling me out but I felt so disrespected I could have cared less. All that to say we have to find ways to point out each other’s weaknesses and strengths with love and respect. Using kind words, waiting for the right moments to suggest our spouse takes a different approach and always showing each other how valuable we are to one another when we talk through difference. This keeps the lines of communication open and sets a great example for your children on how we should be treating those we love.
- Have fun together. Plan to have fun as a family and just the two of you. Breaking up the routine of life is a MUST! The thing about kids is there is there is are so many moving pieces in caring for them. Snacks, bags, diapers, later other things like activities, playdates, etc, etc. Just getting out the door in the morning takes a heroic effort! This can wear down even the most positive and free spirited soul. You need days where you change the pace. Sleep in late as a family or better yet let the kids have a sleepover with the grands, get ice-cream on a whim, make time just to have fun. Take a break from the to-do lists and be together.
- Accept Help when you need it. There are times when we need help. I needed help battling postpartum anxiety and depression. I wish I got it sooner— like when Brent told me he thought I was depressed. I waited until I almost couldn’t bear it. There are times in our lives we have to get help and new parenting creates lots of potentially overwhelming life circumstances. Sleep deprivation, tight finances, stretches schedules and parenting challenges are just a few! Sometimes it really is too much and you gotta let your community in and accept help.
- Keep making them babies. Ok, so one of the things that suffers severely is baby-making-time once your add those actual babies. Not to mention ruined bodies, sleep deprivation, lack of privacy and new uses for some of those once sexy body parts. My midwife told me that while you nurse your body actually really doesn’t want any- so ladies don’t feel bad if your libido is down. It’s just nature. Nonetheless staying connected in this manner is a must. It may take a monumental amount of creativity, a strange amount of planning, an acceptance of less than ideal conditions and most likely a good sense of humor yet it key that this is not abandoned. Not long ago I was haunted by the idea that these are actually my prime years if I ever want to be sexy… haha… let’s not let them go to waste. Sex isn’t everything but it’s something. It keeps you close and lets you to slow down and lean in during a time of life where everything around is demanding your instant attention.
Parenting well and loving your spouse well during the intense years with littles is sometimes a nearly impossible feat! More than anything grace upon grace for all the bad days, short tempers and long nights is essential. I pray for God to step in all the places we are not enough. Inviting His love to cover our failure is the most powerful thing we strive to do our best to love our families well!