Marriage is hard and even harder after kids

Marriage is hard and even harder after kids

First comes love, then comes marriages, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

So the saying goes. Then it’s happily ever after, right? Right?!

If only life were that simple and linear. I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. It’s full of bumps in the road and U-turns, and even though Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest may tell you otherwise, no couple has the perfect relationship or family – they just show you what they want you to see.

Marriage is hard, and it’s even harder after you have kids.

Nobody really tells you that when you get married or if you take marriage prep classes (and even if they do, you probably don’t listen or believe them at the time). Just like a wedding is one day and marriage is meant for life, birth is one(ish) day and raising a child is for life – and so with that comes a lot of change! Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and part of preparing for your baby’s arrival should involve giving some thought to how this change will affect your marriage and having a conversation with your partner. Here are some thoughts from me and other moms on marriage after kids.

Probably the biggest key to life after a baby (and marriage in general, I suppose!) is communication. Your spouse is not a mind reader, and neither are you, so if you want something, tell them. As one mom says, “If you want sex, say it. Everyone is too tired to guess.” On the flip side, if mom doesn’t feel like sex right away or physically can’t (which is totally normal postpartum), find other ways to be intimate that make both of you feel loved. Remember that her body went through a huge transformation physically and emotionally, and it may take her a while to be comfortable and confident in her own skin.

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Look how perfect! The photo, not the marriage. No marriage is perfect, don’t be fooled! It takes work, but like anything that does, that makes it rewarding. (We were just babies ourselves here! I think we both have substantially more grey hair now….)

Don’t just assume one of you is going to do the housework. Would you like your partner to do some chores you used to typically do? You need to ask him and have a discussion – don’t just assume he will. And dads, don’t just assume because mom is home that she will be able to do all the housework and cooking, because taking care of a baby takes A LOT of time (watch this video to see just how much!).

“I found that discussing expectations for each partner for chores/activities helpful because the parent at home often gets the ‘well, what did you even do today’ talk (well, I kept an infant alive so think I did pretty stellar) but deciding ahead of time or having that discussion if it’s a strain is necessary,” says one mom. “If you can discuss or make strategies ahead of time, that is great.”

If you are both too busy for housework, consider hiring a house cleaner, even if it’s temporary. If it alleviates stress, it is worth it! If you can’t afford someone, ask family or friend for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I always say it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.

Tell your partner you appreciate them. This works both ways. Don’t come home from work and ask a mother what she did all day. And don’t discount how hard dad works at his job and then has to come home and help maintain the home and care for the baby and you (postpartum is hard for dads, too). And if something is bugging you, talk about it and don’t sweep it under the rug: the longer you leave something, the more the little things grow into big things and lead to bigger arguments or resentment.

“Always remember to continue working on your relationship as a couple because one day the kids will move out and it will just be the two of you again,” one mother reminds us.

Put down your screens and actually spend time together. We recently made a pact to put down our phones and computers for at least an hour in the evening so we can either visit or watch a show together that we like. For us, this is sometimes the three of us, but that’s what works for our family. Maybe it works better for you to do this after your baby or toddler goes to bed. Maybe you’re open to doing “date night” or “movie night” with your little snuggled in your arms. There is no right or wrong answer – just that you spend time together.

“I am a firm believer that our marital relationships need a reboot every once in a while, as in you need to do something that is specifically meant to help build your relationship in a good way, whether that’s taking a course or class together, or for us, a week camping with just the family to reconnect without handheld devices is a must,” says one mom.

Taking a class or going away may not be possible when your little is a newborn or infant, plus it will depend what help you have around (do you have a trusted babysitter? Do you have family or friends who can watch the baby while you go out for supper or play volleyball together?). Start small and as your child gets older, it will become easier to do the bigger things (I promise: it does get easier!). Remember, in the scheme of things, this is a small window of time. It’s for now, not forever. Your baby will only be so little for so long, and when that time has passed, part of you will long for when they wanted to be held in your arms. Try to be patient – one of the many parenting lessons our children teach us. 

Respect each other’s parenting styles. Just because dad doesn’t do things exactly as you do, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good. Realize that as long as you both have the same values and end goal, you might reach it a bit differently. Then again, if one of you is opposed to spanking and the other thinks this is a good discipline tool, you need to have a discussion.

Remember that your children are watching you, and children model the behaviour they see. So, tell your spouse you love them and what you love about them. Show them affection through words, hugs, and kisses – and of course do the same for your children!

As a married couple and family, do we do all of these all of the time? Nope – we are not perfect! But we are happy and solid, in case anyone is wondering if that’s why I wrote this blog (my mom might wonder!). I wrote this, as always, to help other moms and parents, because we’ve all been there in tough times, and to remind those who are there that they are not alone.

Is the above a fool-proof plan for a perfect marriage? No. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, nor a perfect plan. But as long as you both remember your life will change after a baby and vow to keep working on your relationship, you’re on the right track. It’s a work in progress, and you will have ups and downs, but hopefully you can continue to navigate the journey together.

My very own Ryan Gosling

Well. Not quite but he likes to think so.

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Baby Cub is as shocked as you are at APB's language.

“Just sitting here, chilling with your son. Wanted to let you know you’re a great mom so that might warm your vagina.”

Yep. That’s my husband. He qualified this gem by adding, “I’m not trying to seduce you.”

That’s good. Cuz, um, you didn’t.

Joking aside, my husband was trying to be supportive as he could see I was tired from having a fuss bucket baby today. He told me to head upstairs if I wanted alone time. I opted to stay downstairs with them because I wanted to watch curling, which he fully supported, which likely means he *is* trying to seduce me because he HATES watching curling.

He brought home wine, too – another fine way to help out a frazzled mama – which I enjoyed in the tub while he and baby dictator watched Thomas the Train.

APB has always been a big support. He used to receive multiple messages in a day from me about the dogs stressing me out. He’d do what he could to help with them, whether taking one to his previous job or getting us a fence and gate or simply listening. Sometimes a tired, stressed mama just wants to be heard.

He tries to make sure we have lots of good meals to eat because I’m always hungry and have been for the past 18 months of breastfeeding.

These are all great ways to help out a mama, regardless of whether baby is 1or 18 months: time to herself, even if not long; healthy snacks; wine; jokes to make her smile; genuinely telling her she’s a good mom. Maybe leave the vagina part out.

APB later told me he mostly made the vagina comment because I needed to smile. It worked. He’s no Ryan Gosling but he’s my APB and he makes me laugh.

Deck the halls with expectations

I actually really like Christmas. I strangely look forward to the snow, partly because this year it meant I could let the dogs run freely in the backyard (welcome to dog shit hill!), thus making my life easier. But I also find the snow pretty. And I like Christmas music and spending time with friends and family.  It’s always been a happy season for me.

I know for some it’s not. I also know it comes with a lot of stress and expectations because this year I’m feeling those.

Now, it might also be sleep deprivation, but I lost my shit in a bawling, hot mess on the weekend. I was feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of a part-time work-from-home job combined with being a full-time mama. It’s probably a post for another time. Regardless, APB reminded me that while I kept repeating, “I can’t do it,” that I’m in fact doing it every day, and that the pressure is from me and  what I put on myself as a perfectionist (also probably another blog post).

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Cub seems to like Christmas. He's already started opening gifts.

I recently read a good post from another mama’s blog about reframing stress, so instead of allowing work to overwhelm me, being grateful I’m at the point in my career where I can have a job I enjoy and from home, allowing me to spend as much time as possible with my boy. It’s a goal I’ve achieved and should be proud and happy.

However, in addition to reframing, sometimes you need to let shit go. I’ve been trying to practice this since last week’s yoga practice, where we thought the words “let” and “go” in time to our breath. I try this when I find myself getting frustrated as a parent.

So, in the spirit of the season, here is how I’m going to let go this Christmas:

Gifts. APB told me I don’t have to buy him a gift. I feel like a shitty wife, but I’m going to listen. When I find something, whether in January or June, I’ll buy it. Normally I also make sure there are gifts from APB’s kids to their grandparents, even if it’s just new pictures. Not this year. Again, it might make me a shitty stepmom or daughter or daughter-in-law, but I’ve got to let go somewhere. Each grandparent has a gift from us, as do APB’s kids. Good enough.

I’m worried friends are getting us gifts. I haven’t decided if that means I will get them something as well. I have time to decide and shop if need be.

Cards and letters. I love receiving these, so thank you for sending them. Last year, since we moved a month before Christmas, I sent valentines. This year, it will likely be New Year’s. I threw together a quick letter when I met some friends for lunch. It might just be our Christmas letter because it’s not worth stressing over.

Work. Now obviously I have to keep working because colleagues rely on me to get the job done and my family relies on me for the income. But I’m going to really try to stop freaking about it. It gets done. My boss is happy. I’ve been trying to work extra and bank time so as to be off more at Christmas. I’m going to let that go, too. If it works, great. If not, not the end of the world.

Get-togethers. This one is admittedly meant more for next year. But we do a Christian with APB’s daughter and the grandparents before Christmas and then we also celebrate Christmas. It’s a lot and it’s tiring. I think next year we’ll just say, come here, everyone, during such and such time on this day. There’s such a thing as too much Christmas. We’ve always tried to make it work for everyone but moving forward we need to think more about making it work for us.

Further to get-togethers. When people come, they are getting something I threw, albeit lovingly, into a crockpot or pizza. Our meals will taste good but won’t be Pinterest or Instagram worthy. That’s not really what it’s about anyway.

This blog. Did I mention I am my own worst enemy and put pressure on myself? I think of stuff I could write all the time but I ask myself, do people really want to read that?! Do you care that my son is slowly trying to kill me with night wakings? I figure no. I also don’t want to open myself up to advice, well-meaning or otherwise. I started this blog in part to document my parenting journey, so I may just share less posts if they are about my sleep deprivation. But I hope you’ll keep reading if you enjoy them. I’ll be sure to share what I think are the best ones.

Now. I say all this but I have to actually do it. As I said, it’s hard when you’re about perfectionist but I’m going to do my best to let it go. Perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post in January to let you know…or not! Promising that sounds like more pressure, no?!

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By the way….The only reason I have Christmas decorations or beautifully-wrapped gifts under our tree is my mom. She has done 99% of our decorating. Bless her.

Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for reading. It means a lot.

We survived our vacation and even had some fun

When my husband, APB, approached me a couple months ago with the idea of combining a work conference with a trip to interior B.C. to see his grandma, I thought he was crazy. I think I told him so. You see, up until that point, the farthest we’d driven with our boy was to my parents’ house, which is less than an hour and a half away. I couldn’t imagine driving to Calgary, let alone the Kootenays.

However, I loved the idea of a vacation and doing cool things with our bebe. So I worked my butt off (maybe too hard, as you may recall I fell down some stairs the day before we left) to bank hours so I could take an actual vacation and not think about work…and off we went.

We only had one day where it seemed like the worst decision in the world to try this. And it was halfway through the vacation and well into B.C., so there was no turning back. We learned a lot that day. Hindsight is 20/20. If I could go back to that day, I would have:

a) tried to breathe more

b) stopped insisting we needed to pull over to try and nurse

c) just whipped out my boob while we were driving, as that worked well later on

d) insisted we get out at an actual restaurant (even if fast food) in Banff, not just a park

e) not have a 9 hour day. Holy shit. When I realized we’d been travelling (not in the car the whole time, but out and about) for 9 hours, it was no wonder the baby and I were bawling hot messes. Poor guy.

We agreed on the way home that if we had to, one of us would just hold him. It didn’t come to that, thankfully. I totally get it when I hear of parents who have done that, though. No judgement here!

But I digress. This was a small part of an overall awesome vacation. Cub (and Mommy and Daddy) got to have so many cool experiences! Dinosaur museum in Drumheller, zoo and science centre in Calgary, small walks/hikes in the Kootenays, and most importantly, he got to meet his great grandma! Had he been a girl, he would have been named after her….something I think we forgot to tell her. Next time.

But we’ve agreed: no more big trips til he’s older. It was fun but too much. I wouldn’t mind heading back to Calgary, though: the zoo and science centre rock! If you are ever there and have littles, I recommend both. Our favourites were penguins (ok, probably my faves, he liked the yellow birds) and the water table. See below.

I think the overall lesson is to chill. It will all work out. That’s probably the overall lesson every day as a parent, right?! Also, new books and toys are your friends on long trips. Dear friends of ours lent us some of theirs to amuse Cub. We also hit up a Toys ‘R Us armed with gift cards for our last leg of the trip. The steering wheel was a hit, as was the pop-up book with a flashlight!

Let’s do it again! In a couple of years…..

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Dinosaurs!

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Forget the zoo. Toilet paper is where it's at.

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PENGUINS!

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Our zelfies.

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All the cool animals at the zoo and he loved these birds.

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Awesome water table at the science centre.


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Cub looks happy but this was a "Get me the hell out of this carseat!" stop.

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Loved Great Grandma.

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How we survived the drive home from Lethbridge.

Finding my tribe

My heart is so full this week. It’s been a good one and a good note to end on, as you may recall last week felt tough.

However, today I can only smile as my baby stands beside me, pulling tissues out of a box and then eating them. Yum!

You see, I had dates with three lovely women this week (one I even got to see twice as we met at her house and later the park!). Twice I was at a fellow mom’s house over lunch, and both fed me and my baby. I feel like this is bad etiquette on my part to be there at that time, but nap times are so hard to coordinate…today I at least showed up with coffee and Timbits. For the third date, I showed up with lunch in exchange for one of her delicious coffees. Win!

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Great friends who let us use their slide AND feed us on a moment's notice.

As I walked or drove home in the sunshine from these dates (this week it has been SO nice out, I’ve said it so many times, I’m a broken record), I reflected on how I’ve been so focused on finding my tribe that I’ve lost sight of the fact it’s right in front of my nose.

You see, almost a year ago we moved to a bedroom community. While not far from Saskatoon, it’s just far enough to make me want to make all my appointments and do all my shopping out here (plus I’d rather support local business anyway). The move, combined with changing nap time and baby getting older, brought an end to me going to the breastfeeding café. I still keep in touch with some of those moms, some of whom are definitely part of my tribe, but how I looked forward to Thursdays where I would see other moms who faced the same joys and struggles I did. That day was often the highlight of my week and I was sad when it ended.

I thought by moving I needed to meet new moms out here so I joined Facebook groups and plugged group outings into my phone planner, even though I’ve yet to make any. I started going to La Leche League meetings, thinking I’d meet moms there (and to some extent I have, but I wasn’t as alone as I maybe felt).

(If you live in Warman, have babies or young children, and are reading this, don’t get me wrong: I’d still love to meet for a walk or a play date at Cj’s. Message me!)

However, if I would have stopped and taken stock, I’d have realized I’ve had my tribe since before my baby was born, and it has continued to grow and change.

I have my two doulas who are also moms: especially in the early days, I texted them ALL the time for help (How do I get rid of thrush? How do I get rid of mastitis? Is _____ normal?). I have many facebook friends who are now moms who have offered support this past year. In particular, when we suffered through thrush early on in our breastfeeding relationship, at the advice of my doula, I posted that I was struggling. I received many beautiful messages from fellow mamas, some I hadn’t talked to in ages. It meant so much and gave me strength to persevere through the pain and tears.

I have a mommy friend I message every day even if we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. I have friends I can text and say, I’m nearby, want company? And we meet at the park or their house. I have a neighbour I can go for walks with.

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Fed us and hauled up an extra high chair. Friends rock.

I also have friends whose children are either grown or who don’t have children, and they are there to help me in a heartbeat or just hang out. I know if I called in a panic, they would help me any way they could.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my mom, quite possibly the most important member of my tribe. Every week, she drives nearly three hours total so she can spend time with her grandson but also help around the house and walk the dogs so I can work my other job. We are so lucky to have her.

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One of my favourite photos of two of my favourite people.

Perhaps my struggles last week gave me perspective. I have so much for which to be grateful, including the fact that what I’ve been searching for all along is already there: I have my tribe. Thank you, ladies. I love you all so much. Thank you for sharing in the good, not-so-good, the great, and for sharing your booze, food, and coffee. In return, I’m here any time you need me (or any of the above).

 

 

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