After running into a newly-married friend recently, we got onto the topic of babies, which is not difficult these days when my baby bump if often the first thing to walk into the room. The couple asked how having kids changes a marriage, most importantly they wanted to know how a relationship between two people who are deeply in love could be strained by the newness of parenting.
As I tried to relate how important it is to keep the marriage as first priority, and how necessary it is to integrate your children into the activities you enjoy most as a couple, I knew that my advice was based in the fact that I had failed many times to uphold those two principles, and saw my marriage suffer because of it.
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a new mom was acting like I had everything under control, especially to my husband. When our daughter was born the first few nights he woke up with me when she would wake up to feed or need a diaper change, but I saw how tired it was making him. I, on the other hand, would spend 16 hours a day on the couch (most of the time) and figured since he was the one working, I should step it up and handle the night wakings on my own. Big mistake.
Little did I know that by "letting" him sleep, I began to cut him out of the process entirely. Turns out, those small moments of help during the night reinforced that we were raising the baby as a team. Once I took over, I also began to act like the baby needed me (not him). Our sharp minded newborn quickly got the message and began to prefer me, even when Daddy was ready to help and I desperately needed a break.
Flash forward to now, we have a 3 year old girl, a baby on the way, and I think we finally got the hang of it. We take turns and share parenting responsibilities like bathtime, bedtime, outside time, quality time, and discipline as equally as our schedules allow. We have prioritized our time as a couple by making small changes in our day to day. Things like getting our girl to bed early by not allowing a nap on weekdays, or letting her nap on a weekend so we can have a few uninterrupted hours. We spoke about what things were important to us, and now it seems like we are not only getting our couple time in, but individual time out of the house for events, exercise, or a few hours of being alone.
We owe it to our spouse to always put them first and there are a few reasons why. A dirty diaper can wait a few more minutes if your honey is trying to tell you a story about their day. Laundry can wait. Dinner can wait. Chores can wait. A co-worker can wait.
There have been many times my husband has taken my call at work, even when it is not always the most convenient moment for him. And those 3 minute phone calls often make my day. Similarly, there have been other times when my daughter was requesting our attention is some way or another, and we tell her we are not done having our "talk time"; soon, she understood.
Kids are much more adaptable than we think, and what they need most to feel confident and secure in themselves is to know that they come from a loving, connected, stable home. They find stability in the way we love our spouses. And, we are their first model of a healthy relationship. Though Stephen and I are still a work in progress (aren't we all), we've found ways to put our relationship first and have watched our daughter grow immensely because of it. Funny how that works.