Taking Care of Each Other—Some Tips on Relationship Maintenance as Parents
Parents—ever look at your spouse and think, “Hey! It’s nice to see you again!?“
One thing parenting does is keep you busy. On your toes. Running constantly from sun-up to…er…sun-up. And because so much time is devoted to the kids—be it newborns, toddlers, or even school-agers—that time to be a couple of adults can begin to seem fleeting.
Once upon a time, when there was only one child in the picture, my wife and I somehow had the energy to get the picking up and cleaning of the house done so that Sunday was another day of play for all of us. Nowadays, we may not even make it through whatever we’re watching without falling asleep. And all that cleaning and picking-up? There are weekends that it just doesn’t get all done. Between already being tuckered out from the week and then having two rambunctious kiddos keeping us running—let’s just say a certain meme I’ve come across is true: cleaning house with kids is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.
So what about that time together? Allow me to chime in with a few things we’ve found work. First, keep in mind that, due to my wife’s work schedule, most nights she gets home after the kids have eaten dinner and are bathed and getting ready for bed. So, our time together is limited to whatever energy remains after the kids go to bed (which usually includes us needing to eat, ourselves) and time on the weekends.
It can be tempting to turn something on to zone out when the kids have gone to bed and things are a bit calmer and quieter—and some nights we actually do just that. But by having the TV off, we check in with each other about our days, how the kids are, did the older one get any homework done, did the younger one eat any dinner, etc. Sometimes, our talks go all the way until our eyes are closing and it is time to head upstairs, depending on the subject. So be it. That’s what the DVR is for! Communication is crucial.
I kid with my friends: “Yeah, somehow I helped create two kids. I don’t remember how, though.” With postpartum healing, nursing/feeding, and then any other possible issues such as needing to share your bedroom with a little one due to space or whatnot, time to connect can be little and far between. And not just sexual connection, either; snuggles and cuddles before and after sleep can be limited, too! But touch—CONTACT—is so important. It can be as simple as cuddling on the couch watching a movie, putting lotion on her (or his) back before sleep, or holding hands while driving to the grocery store. No, lacing fingers may not be as exhilarating as “relations,” but it does help keep you and your partner connected.
During a trip this past weekend out-of-town which got us some time without kiddos, we sat in the car but kept the radio off. Instead, using my Smartphone, my wife accessed various Billboard lists and quizzed me. Who sang the top 10 songs on the chart the year I was born? The year I graduated? The year we got married? We laughed, we sang, we groaned at some old tunes we had happily forgotten about. We reminisced. We talked and enjoyed the time together—much more so than had we just listened to the same top-40 over and over.
Most of all, remind each other that you’re still there—trust me, sometimes it may seem like you have been apart for a while.
My dad, who officiated our wedding, ended the ceremony with a very important piece of advice—5 simple words: Take care of each other.
Yes, you have little ones needing to be looked after, cared for, nurtured and nourished. But you and your partner deserve the same care and nurturing—and so does your relationship.
Andy Malinski is a writer and aspiring motivational speaker in Northern Colorado. Inspired by the home birth of his son (which also included a midwife and birth doula), he created The Dadvocate to help dads (and moms) be educated about the many decisions and dynamic changes that come with pregnancy and birth. He uses humor and raw insight to show the birth world and parenthood from a dad’s point of view. His articles have appeared in such online blogs as Macaroni Kid and, here, at Doula Spot. Visit him at www.facebook.com/AndyMalinskiDadvocate