I’m sure there are couples out there who have children and those children provide them with bountiful and endless hours of loving tender couple-to-couple moments of synchronized oohs and aahs over gently executed bedtimes and healthfully imbibed dinners.
That’s not us.
We have 3 kids, five, three, and one. We have 24 hours in one day. We have 12 hours apart. We have 6-7 hours sleeping. And many days I want to lose my temper with everyone because I want to and want to and really want to. Husband, kids, dog, cat, my air conditioner unit in the window that was installed upside-down (don’t ask) and leaks.
My six steps to saving my marriage from the wearing & tearing of small children:
1) Close eyes and bite tongue.
Today we said goodbye to the last of our family in town for almost the past two weeks. It was hard to see them leave, and harder still to face the prospects of the cousin-provided entertainment and sibling-provided conversations go with them. Yet to relax, all I wanted in life was to watch White Collar online and work on my crocheting and finally get over this lingering flu bug.
I did NOT want the kids to ruin it. I just wanted my husband to put them to bed so I could soak in solitude and air-conditioning. As things unfurled, this didn’t happen.
Instead of yelping at him to somehow keep them away from me and in their beds, and why does your back have to be sore when I want you to rock the baby back down, I closed my eyes when all hell broke loose. I knew he was trying. I didn’t say mean complaints. I thought them really loudly and shut my mouth.
2) Don’t blame your spouse for the kids’ unwanted behaviors.
As fate would have it, the kids flailed and struggled to get to sleep. Replete with the chorus “I JUST CAN’T SLEEP” they alternated telling they also might, just might have to go to the bathroom to be sick. Clever bluffing. AA tended to their incoherent and insatiable requests for a while as I lounged until// you guessed it: the baby woke up with a fever.
Ping pong ping.
I want desperately to make this his fault. If only he would give them the bedtime instructions I do, then they’d stay down. If only he’d rock the baby the right way, I would have to foist my bones outta bed and go tend to him. And somehow maybe I can pin that fever on him too.
Stop. Kids are nonstop timesuckers. They’re going to get sick, evade bedtime, and whine for hours. It’s not his fault.
3) Try, desperately, to talk about something other than the kids.
Yes, we have kids. If you took my click bate and snapped over here for my unfulfilled promises of wisdom on this topic, you probably do too. And maybe being an at-home mom exacerbates this tendency we all have to talk talk talk about the kids. Meaning also gripe gripe gripe.
Did I ever have a coherent conversation with my husband? Oh, yeah, before the pregnancy//baby years. And sometimes sprinkled in between there. What did we talk about? Dig deep here.
Creative outlets and color blindness (his, partially, not mine).
4) Do something together that’s not a dinner date.
I haven’t mastered this. But I try to do something at least once a month with him that’s not a mere opportunity to bare my blogging heart or rehash photos of the kids from the day over a delicious prepared-by-someone-other-than-me meal. Remember all the great advice you gave me when I first realized we needed more than a mere date?
The other week it was going out on a jet ski at a friend’s on the 4th. He did capsize it, but the attempts to swim it back across a broad lake actually made for a better bonding experience than merely zipping (who are we kidding? Me? zipping on a jet ski? more like puttering) around with my eyes clamped shut and my finger talons clutching his abused life vest. Okay maybe it was my insistence on our slow pace that capsized it while turning.
We laughed and kicked and spluttered and laughed some more before someone noticed us and came out with the pontoon to rescue our flabby non-swimmer selves.
5) Give up being in charge.
You heard it. I need to hear it.
When your spouse is an extension of your kids in your mind and you begrudge having to “take care” of him too, I just can’t even. I can’t even relax and enjoy our minutes together before the baby rolls over and kicks or bites me at night. I can’t be kind and forgiving when he forgets to do something I pride myself in imagining I never would (bug spray for kids) but probably have. I can’t let go of all my secret-desires-for-starbucks-unknownst-and-unfulfilled-by-him.
This also means for me to let him fail. Let him take a chance with all three kids at the parl. Let him be the dad. Stop micromanaging his relationship and his authority. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Sing it, Aretha. They routinely have more fun with him, ask for him, beg for him, and it never ends up being a failure to just let go and let him parent.
6) Leave the kids periodically.
Either on your own for a recharge, or with your spouse.
I jaunted off to a close family friend’s wedding the other weekend. Literally, 24-hours there & back. I took my breast pump. I left one sad almost 14 month old nursling for the very first time overnight. AA virtually kicked me out the door and onto the airplane. Go have fun he told me and if that meant dance until 2 am and have uninterrupted conversations and hang with my brother & sis-in-law and two adorable nephews at my in-law-in-law’s house on my nephew/Godson’s birthday, I sure did.
I came back bearing the stomach flu but still loved every minute of the quiet plane ride, opportunity to focus on other adults, and delight and joy of the newlyweds as we all wept for the absence of the bride’s deceased mother (a light in my life!) and rocked the barn floor with wild Ukrainian dance moves.
So whether you got to go to something like the Edel Gathering, or a girls’ night away, or a couple’s trip to somewhere tropical with mojitos, it’s a must. Go go go somewhere. Cheap or expensive. Motel or Australia. Just reconnect with that person you love.
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