Parenthood can be a rocky time for a relationship. As wonderful as children are, they can put a damper on your sex life, date nights, and everything else you’ve come to associate with a good relationship. There may not be much time left over to remember why you married in the first place. Fortunately, parenthood doesn’t have to be the end of these things.
If you’re finding those first weeks (and let’s face it, years) of parenthood a little tough, here are four tips to help in strengthening marriage after kids.
1. Enforce ‘Adult Only’ time
Kids love attention, and when they are used to being in the limelight 100% of the time. It can be difficult to make a change. Your children will be healthier and happier in the long term if you start enforcing boundaries now. Sure they may whine and beg for that extra 15 minutes after bedtime. But that is 15 minutes you won’t be able to reconnect and have a discussion that doesn’t involve chicken nuggets.
This is also important when your kids become teenagers. They may not see the problem with being part of every single second of your waking life. But you will if you never have the chance to reconnect with your spouse and strengthening marriage after the kids. Tell older kids they don’t have to sleep, but they do have to be quiet in their rooms after curfew. This will give you those much needed hours of downtime. Also, will help you to be better parents when you’re ‘on duty’ besides that.
2. Realize that it is still okay to have some ‘me time’ too
It is always challenging for any married couple to maintain a strong relationship with their spouse after kids. Before kids, you probably had a hobby or two you enjoyed outside of the house. Whether that was simply enjoying a cup of coffee at a cafe and people watching or running 5ks, chances are your favorite activities have been put on hold since the little ones have come around.
As much as we love our kids, a cup of coffee is not the same when you are trying to keep a rambunctious toddler in one place. Many of our favorite sports require complete focus—you can’t parent and compete at the same time. Even when babysitting can be arranged, it often feels like you must spend that free time as a couple instead of doing the things you used to love. While continuing to do things together is important for strengthening marriage after kids. But, it is also equally important to enjoying things that used to be important to you.
It’s fine to go your separate ways on a free day and spend that time doing the things that are important to you as an individual as well. At the end of the day, you’ll have something to talk about when the kids are tucked in bed.
3. Divide the household chores appropriately
Just because one parent works and the other stays at home, does not mean the stay at home person must be on duty 24 hours a day. When mom parenting the entire day, uses the evenings to clean up the disaster zone kids tend to create. Also, cooks dinner, cleans up and then spends the entire night up with a colicky baby. This is not a fair trade off because dad worked 9-5 so she could do so.
Allowing one parent to work 24 hours a day, especially when you call into question the quality of their work, can breed resentment. No one wants to struggle through all this and then hear, “What a mess! What did you even do all day?”
For the stay at home dads, this might be an especially sensitive topic. Men already have social stigmas in place about not being full-time parents, and undermining their efforts can be more painful than you mean for it to be.
If you come home from work and the house looks like a disaster zone, it’s probably best to assume you’re not the only one who had a rough day at the office. Letting your partner tell you about their day while you help clean up the mess (or take the colicky baby so they can do it themselves) can be a healing balm on a sensitive subject.
Even if one parent works and the other doesn’t, there should be time for the stay at home parent to relax as well, and some chores given to the working parent as well. Both work? It should be divided 50/50. If it feels like you end up doing 90% of the work, you might want to discuss this with your partner when both of you are in a receptive mood. They may not notice all the things you are doing or clean things to a standard that doesn’t meet yours. Communication here is key which ultimately will strengthening marriage.
4. Spoil your spouse
It is a really important tip if you want to strengthening marriage after kids. We’ve all heard of spoiled children, but how much do we typically indulge our spouse? Waking them up with a fresh pot of coffee, making their favorite foods, and surprising them with that handy new tool they wanted or a DVD of that movie you know they love. (Brownie points if it isn’t your favorite and they know it.)
Parenting is a high-stress job, no matter how old your kids are. Spoiling your spouse will help your bond, help you both survive parenthood, and even help your kids. Studies show that when kids know that their parents love each other, they tend to do better themselves. Now that’s a great way to help your kids be successful!
No matter how much you may want or love them, kids can take a toll on even the strongest of relationships. Today’s society insists that once we have kids, we must live only for them. But the truth is you need to take care of each other in order to best provide for them. Help your kids blossom in the security of parents who love each other very much. This will strengthen your marriage as well as the whole family in love rather than have a strain put on it.