When my husband and I first got married (and while we were dating), we had no idea how much free time we had on our hands. We took for granted going out with friends, taking day trips, and tackling household projects quickly and efficiently. More than anything, we took for granted having the energy for these activities.
In September of 2015, our lives changed forever when we welcomed our first baby boy into the world. They say that having a baby changes things, but it isn’t until you hold your child in your arms that you truly understand just how much. Late-night feedings and diaper blowouts became the norm, and sleeping in became a distant memory. We knew more than we ever wanted to know about baby Tylenol dosages and nose-frida’s. Despite this, we were happier than we had ever been. We were overwhelmed by an all-consuming love for our little guy. Fast forward two and a half years, and we are getting ready to do it all over again with baby #2!
Even though I know that these are the years I will look back on and miss, the honest truth is… the baby years are rough on a marriage. Sleep deprivation combined with the daily responsibilities that come with raising tiny humans makes it incredibly difficult to prioritize your spouse in this phase of life. Knowing that our relationship needs extra love and attention, here are 5 simple ways to keep your marriage strong while raising little ones:
Find a caregiving routine that works for both of you
It is important to find a balance of responsibilities that works for your family’s unique needs. Does it make sense for both of you to take on overnight feedings and diaper changes? Maybe it works better if mom nurses the baby overnight and dad watches the baby during the day so mom can sleep? Perhaps dad tackles bottle feedings and mom takes on diaper changes? Finding a balance that benefits both of you is often a trial and error process. Discuss with your spouse what works best with your schedules, priorities, and personalities. Having a mutually-agreed upon caregiving routine helps ward off exhaustion and keeps couples from resenting each other in the long run.
Be specific about what you need (and attuned to what your spouse needs)
During times of high stress and fatigue, it can be easy to forget that your spouse is not a mind-reader. Passive-aggressive comments and signals can be confusing, so be as transparent as possible when telling your spouse what you need. This can be as simple as saying “I’m extra exhausted today and really need to take a break.” Being honest and straightforward helps keep bigger issues from brewing within a marriage. With this said, being attuned to our spouses needs also goes a long way. Seeing a need and fulfilling it without being asked tells your spouse that you really understand and care deeply for their wellbeing.
Go above and beyond for each other
Do little, unexpected favors for one another. I make my husband’s lunch and he puts gas in my car. On his days off, he puts our son to bed to give me a break. On my days off, I take care of the grocery shopping. These thoughtful actions take a burden off of your spouse and lets them know that you are thinking about them.
Have regular “at home” date nights
It can be tough to leave the house during the baby phase, so scheduling “at home” date nights is very important. Play cards, cook a special dinner together or have food delivered. Watch a favorite movie, build something together, or enjoy a board game. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s something out of norm that you both enjoy! You’d be surprised how easy it is to reconnect with your spouse when you make an effort to have a “date-night in.”
Make parenting decisions together
One of the easiest ways to create a divide in your marriage is by not involving your spouse in important decisions regarding your kids. Both parents need to feel equally part (and equally respected) when it comes to making decisions that affect your child. Make time to discuss topics together when your kids are not around, and set ground rules if it is a “hot-button” issue between the two of you. Being united with your spouse makes your children feel confident and secure when they get older.
The baby years are an exhausting time that requires an extra investment of time and energy to keep a marriage thriving. Open communication, trust, and attunement to the needs of one another helps keep your priorities centered on your spouse.
How do to keep your marriage strong while raising little ones? Leave a note in the comments below!