Happily Ever After?
Being married with children myself, I sometime joke that there is a reason a lot of those romantic novels (for instance Pride and Prejudice) stop right after the wedding.
Showing the real trials and bumps in the road of a long-term relationship isn’t necessarily a good read. Add kids to the mix and not everything is necessarily going to be peachy. In fact, it’s often the opposite.
Research has shown that in a lot of cases, people who are married with children actually become more unhappy, faster.
Am I giving you bad news? Not necessarily. In fact, my goal today is to give you the good news: by being aware of the pitfalls, you can change things for the better.
What being married with children really means
This is not something people often talk about. Having kids is supposed to be great.
The myth tells that you’ll love your kids so much that this whole experience is going to be fabulous with only some minor bumps in the road. Saying otherwise can almost feel as if you’re betraying your children. As if you didn’t love them enough.
This is nonsense. Let me be very clear about this: that you love your children to pieces, doesn’t mean you have to like everything about being married with children.
And that’s just the start. When one does think about the drawbacks of having kids, we often think of them being naughty or annoying us. But their impact goes beyond the obvious and may be far deeper than we suspect.
Marriage satisfaction declines
A lot of people think that having children will make their marriage stronger.
They have this romantic idea that adding kids will solidify their marriage.
The truth is, however, that kids can seriously undermine a marriage.
Studies have shown that marital satisfaction declines quite drastically just after the birth of a first child, as opposed to a far more gradual evolution in the relationship of childless couples.
In the thick of things…
In the busy mess that is everyday parenting, people are not only busy but also tired.
You know the signs right? Sitting on your back on the couch staring at the television. Sound familiar? The danger here, is that this is completely understandable.
Parents have good reasons to be tired in the evening and I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you why this is so. I am going to explain the danger of this, though: parents run the risk of no longer doing the so-called small stuff for one another anymore.
…Make some coffee
Beware of this.
Especially because this is so simple to take care of.
Whenever I catch myself being too tired to make coffee for my husband while I’m fetching tea for myself…well, I give myself a little mental kick in the but and make the coffee.
It’s my little gift to him as he won’t have to get up to get his own drink.
If my husband hasn’t made me something to drink in a while? I let him know.
Sometimes I tease him a little about it, sometimes by just asking him to make me tea. This way you can take control in a positive way, with a positive result.
A lot of parents tend to slide into a traditional division of roles, where being married with children means that often moms are impacted more than dads by the arrival of a baby.
On the one hand, women tend to spend more time taking care of the children.
On the other hand, men tend to experience more pressure to make sure the finances are in order. As a consequence, mom’s world shrinks, while dad starts spending more and more time outside of the home.
Don’t fall for this!
My husband’s told me on several occasions that he believes I have more of a knack for handling the kids than he does.
I don’t believe this.
There is nothing special about changing diapers, holding a child when it wakes up crying in the middle of the night, or picking them up on time.
…But sharing is caring!
So we’ve made some agreements that work for us.
One of them is about who pick up the kids from daycare on which days. We’ve divided this task in such a way that we both feel is fair, and that takes the pressure off me to always stop working on time.
Another agreement is that, even though I always wake up with a child cries at night and even though my husband always sleeps through the noice, I can wake him up to sooth one of our boys without feeling guilty about it.
Most nights, that means I get up, because I’m awake anyway.
But if I’m tired, haven’t slept well for a couple of nights, have a cold, or have already been out of bed several times…well, I’m having less and less trouble waking him up 😉
Find out what your pain points are.
When are you most stressful?
If there’s a certain recurring issue, then talk about it!
Most partners are more than willing to improve things. And most fathers are more than willing to do the fathering. They sometimes just need a hint (or two, or three) about what is most helpful around the house.
Isolation sets in…
Because our world tends to shrink once we have children, moms run a serious risk of becoming isolated.
Or, at least, to experience feelings of isolation.
From friends, from colleagues, even from family. Their world starts to evolve more and more around the baby / toddler, while the rest of the world seems to be moving on, doing exiting things.
I tend to get into that flow as well.
Life with kids is often one of rituals, habits, doing the same things at the same time each day. You get into this rhythm and at the end of the week you realize you haven’t really had any adult conversation, or done any adulting at all.
…Until you give a shout
For me, this is one of the most challenging things to steer clear off.
For the simple reason that to get out of this rhythm, I have to plan to breaking that habit.
Our aim is to have the kids spend a weekend at one of the grandparents at least once a month. So that mom and dad have some quality time alone, and instead of being married with children, for a weekend we are married without children again.
Another aim is for me to meet up with my best friend once a month. For some quality girl time. Do I always do this? I’m afraid not, but I’m working on it 😉
Do kids help? Or hurt?
Truthfully, it’s a bit of both.
As the study cited above showed, kids appear to speed up the deterioration of a marriage.
The way I see this is that kids function as a magnifying glass on your marriage.
When you’re married with children, more pressure is put on the relationship, making issues rise to the surface sooner.
And that is only a real serious problem if you don’t do anything with those issues.that you love your children to pieces, doesn't mean you have to like everything about being married with children Click To Tweet
I think the most important lesson is to keep asking myself what needs improvement.
What is really bothering me on a regular basis? And why?
Asking why may seem silly, surely it’s obvious why, you might say. But often the why isn’t that obvious. Not even to yourself, let alone your partner, with whom you’ll want to come to a mutual understanding and agreement.
My husband wants to make my life better, but if I can’t explain to him what exactly I need, then how will he know what to do?
Once I feel like I understand the why, we talk, and we try to find that win-win where we both get to parent and the share of the burden seems fair and life seems good.
What about you?
So, where is your stress? What bothers you about being a (new) mom? And why? What do you feel is missing? Go on, talk about it!
Check out my free printable with 50 ideas for spending quality time together; that is, after you’ve sent the kids to grandma’s for the weekend 😉 Just click the image below!