Tips for Balancing Marriage & Family Life
Inspired by mother-to-be Morgan’s recent post on prioritizing your marriage once children arrive, I started thinking about how my own husband and I prioritize our marriage and the strategies we’ve used to do so over the years. My husband and I were married a little over three years before we welcomed our daughter. We waited that long to have children on purpose. We wanted to enjoy a few years together before adding a child into the mix, plus I was determined to make a trip to Hawaii before we had kids. Best decision ever! I only wish I had also squeezed a trip into Greece too. I kind of knew that after having kids I would be less inclined to travel but truth be told, I didn’t realize HOW much less until we welcomed this precious baby who depended on us for everything…and I mean everything.
My first child was a November baby which meant we were thrown right into Thanksgiving and the holidays before actually being able to just “be” a family. It wasn’t all hearts and flowers like I’d envisioned. TV shows, magazines, everywhere you look, motherhood, fatherhood, and parenthood is made to be this wonderful, happy way of living all the time. Rarely do you see upset babies on TV or tired-beyond-comprehension parents and usually when you do there’s some comedic relief around it.
The reality is this: Parenthood is hard and can be unexpectedly hard on your relationship with your partner. There may be days you’ll resent your husband and days he’ll resent you. You’ll fight about some pretty silly things like which direction your daughter likes the swing to go in. You’ll fight about some pretty stressful things like whether or not to use the “cry it out” method while operating on less than four hours of sleep. You’ll fight about more serious things like when one parent makes a decision that goes against another parent’s thoughts or beliefs. Parenthood always requires you to listen to multiple conversations – the one you have with your spouse and the 100 different stories/questions your kids are trying to tell/ask you at the same time as they are also pulling on every inch of your body. It is a constant balance and a constant struggle.
My husband and I aren’t experts by any means but we certainly have learned a few things along the way. The first year is the hardest, I can honestly say my husband was neglected and that was so hard for him to deal with. I was so busy “surviving” I didn’t even notice how neglected he was, our marriage was, until that first year was over. By the time our second came along, I was much more aware of the strain a baby puts on the family and your marriage. It’s all about balancing family which starts with your spouse. Eight years later, we’re still learning how to do it!
Tips for Balancing Marriage, Children & Family Life
1. Schedule regular dates nights. For several years we had a sitter lined up for the third Thursday of the month. That only ended because our sitter had her own baby. Without a regularly scheduled date night, I find we don’t go out as a couple very much. Schedule it now.
2. Talk every night. After the kids go to sleep, we sit on the couch together. Being in the same space for a couple hours allows us to talk as things come to mind.
3. Check in when apart. It always amazes me how infrequently friends talk to their spouses. For us, it’s important to check in even when apart with a text or phone call – either way works.
4. Share responsibility and rewards. It’s not one parent’s responsibility to help with homework, do laundry, make dinner, transport kids to sports/activities, etc. Both parents need to be willing to step in and help out to avoid creating resentment. When it comes to rewards (like sleeping in!) every parent deserves a break – make sure you both get one.
5. Find a method for keeping it all organized. My husband and I happen to put just about everything on our family calendar and then share family-related activities/appointments with one another. That helps us share responsibility as well and know what the other person has on their plate.
6. Try to make decisions together. Inevitably, if the kids don’t get the answer they want from one parent, they will ask the other. Before answering, remember to say “Did you ask mom/dad?” first. In the heat of the moment sometimes I forget to do this and it just creates unnecessary frustration from the other parent. Make decisions together whenever possible.
Being a parent is all about teamwork, working together, being together. Family is your priority as is your relationship with your spouse. What are your tips for having a balanced, happy marriage?
Resource Related to Balancing Marriage and Family:
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Connect with other families to discuss parenting, family life and education topics
- E-family news: Parent Arguments – How Do They Affect Our Children?
- Read more posts about family life from the Family Room bloggers