‘A strong marriage requires two people who choose to love each other even on those days when they struggle to like each other’ by Dave Willis
I texted Jonathan this quote one morning last week after a particularly gruelling night.
Maybe the scene sounds familiar:
You're woken up every 1-2 hours by your youngest child. Your bed has become a revolving door of little bodies, an onslaught of bony elbows and knees all night long. Drunk on sleeplessness, you intermittently argue with your husband about your children’s ‘inability’ to sleep, and fiercely compete for who is the most exhausted.
Our nights have been so bad at times we decided to strike a deal - let's not discuss by day what was said to each other by night.
Being parents to young children is all consuming and life changing. Often no aspect of the life you once had is recognizable. After meeting all the needs of our children it’s easy to have nothing left in the tank to fulfill the emotional and physical needs of our partners, or indeed ourselves.
There is little space for spontaneity. Date nights have to be planned weeks in advance. Sex is a matter of endurance (because you’re so bloody exhausted all the time), requiring careful logistical consideration as there are often multiple children wandering the halls.
Communication - prior to children - resembled active listening. But now that’s dissolved into three-word conversations because you’re constantly interrupted. After 9pm you can barely string a sentence together due to complete exhaustion, let alone stimulate each other with something intelligent to say.
Gone are the days of eager anticipation to see each other of an evening. The moment J walks in the door now he’s met head-on with the expectations: what do I need him to do to help me with the kids
I love this picture of J and I in the Congo, working on a Fistula Surgery Campaign (before kids). A young dynamic couple in love, passionate about their work and wanting to change the world.
Four years of marriage later, Jonathan and I have added three children to our family and moved homes and continents multiple times. From the sweltering heat of city life in Delhi, India, to the polar ice vortex of a Canadian Winter. And in doing so, we left we our support structures behind.
It has been exceptionally challenging. When this beautiful picture was taken just before our 3rd baby was born, instead of it being a time of excitement and anticipation our relationship was actually close to breaking point. The busy demands of a young family, Jonathan’s stressful work schedule and no doubt my raging pregnancy hormones had taken their toll
It took all the strength and commitment we had (plus a little marriage counselling) to get us back on track. But we made it. Now 18 months on, and on the brink of another big transition/adventure, we are actually stronger than ever.
I was inspired to write this post to share our experiences and the strategies we now use to help nurture our relationship. And also because - if you’re struggling at the moment - it does help to know you’re not alone.
7 ways to help you to survive the early parenting years with your sanity and your marriage intact (when sleep, sex and quality time together can be distant memories.
We all need time and space to re-energise so we can function as people and be good parents and partners. Treat each other to a lie-in when possible (you know how amazing it feels when it's your turn) or better still, a few hours off.
To be a good lover we need to feel good about ourselves. Motivating and encouraging each other to eat better and exercise more. Feeling good from the inside out for ourselves and each other.
2.Keep things simple
Work on making your lives simpler. Less stress benefits everyone. Use the weekends to rest and regroup rather than overdoing it socialising
Choose a moment during each day when you reconnect, sit down, and enjoy an uninterrupted conversation, a glass of wine, a time to touch base.
- Appreciating each other more
Being more appreciative and thankful. You both work hard, be it in the home or office. Recognise each other’s efforts. Find small ways to be appreciative.
- Spending quality time together
Set aside one night a week as date night. Banish all the electronic devices and do something you both love. For us it's cooking. Pick a new recipe plus a good bottle of wine, cook up a storm, date night perfection and no baby sitter required.
- Work as a team
Parenting requires teamwork. Laugh in the face of it TOGETHER. Have each other’s backs. Consistency is the key. Continue to communicate, rather than retreat.
- Get a babysitter
Enjoy a date outside the home. It feels so good to head out for an evening or on a sunny weekend afternoon. We splurge, it’s a survival tactic. For three hours every Sunday afternoon.
The key to surviving the early parenting years is to nurture (and invest in) a strong, happy, healthy relationship. (because being together forever is everything).
Love to hear your thoughts about the early parenting years - what tips can you share for keeping things on track?
Thanks for popping in