Before I had kids, everyone told me that marriage + kids = HARD.
Little naïve me did an internal eye roll each time I heard this and thought to myself: how hard could it really be? I mean, we’d survived a couple of things in our marriage at that point, so why would kids upset the apple cart?
It turns out they were right of course, and having our two boys certainly did have an impact on our relationship.
Now, I am by no means an expert, but with my oldest having just turned seven and marital bliss still (mostly) intact, here are some tips to negotiate the rocky road:
Be prepared to hang on tight
I remember a time when I was convinced my marriage was slowly going down the drain. In between working, raising two boys and a multitude of other life “stuff” that was always going on, it felt as if we were moving further and further apart.
It took an exercise of focusing on all the good, and not the bad, to make me see that we were in fact not edging closer to divorce; this was simply the way our marriage was evolving post-kids.
You have to rearrange your expectations and realise that marriage will look a bit different, especially in that early baby phase. Focus on the little things; look for the small rays of light. Know that the season will pass.
Get a ‘thing’
Something that creates connection. It doesn’t need to be big. For us it’s a simple 15 minutes at night, right after the boys’ bedtime, just sitting and having a coffee together (or a tea every time I try to kick the coffee habit). It’s a ritual I look forward to. A pause and a catch-up, before we each continue again with all the tasks at hand.
Have a dream (or a bucket list!) for your future and remind each other of it
Often when we have kids, in particular small babies, we get so caught up in the mundane survival of every day, that we forget we will have a life without babies one day. We will be able to have a romantic getaway. There will be time again to train for that marathon, do the cooking classes, write the book, and obtain the second degree.
There has been a lot of research on the benefits of skin to skin contact for babies immediately after birth, but we should not forget the benefits for us as adults. Don’t shun the little things like hugs and holding hands. We release the happy hormones – dopamine and serotonin as well as oxytocinin – when we are in physical contact with a loved one, while our cortisol or stress hormones drop. I am a firm believer that hugs make everything better
Talk, talk, talk
We all need a place where we can just talk about the stuff we find hard, perhaps even have a good cry, gather some new perspective, and be encouraged. Your husband needs that place too. Be each other’s safe place where you can be brutally honest and share those frustrations and fears that you are too scared to voice out loud.
Lastly, but most importantly, don’t lose your sense of humour.
If you can manage to laugh in the midst of the chaos that poonami’s and temper tantrums bring, the battle is halfway won.
Above all, remain connected to that person you loved long before you loved your children; it’s the best gift you can give them.
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Magda is a mother, budding entrepreneur and a dabbler in words. She is originally from South Africa, but Perth became home in 2015. Her happy place is spending time with her husband and two boys, all 3 of them redheads! Most of her spare time goes into washing underpants and putting down toilet seats, but if there’s any left, you will find her with her nose in a book. Other passions include coffee and chocolate and sometimes she runs too. She loves encouraging women to be authentic, ignore the opinions of others and to become the best possible version of themselves.