Your little bundle of joy is finally here and you couldn’t be more…tired. And cranky. And tired.
Having a kid is an amazing experience, but it’s more brutal than you might have bet on going into it. Sure, it’s all fun and games making the kiddo but when it comes to life after baby, the everyday can feel a little less awesome than you’d expected.
When Ruben and I were organizing all the to-dos before Inés arrived, I found myself worrying about what our marriage would look like after the inevitable monotony of a baby schedule set in. While we had some rough times initially after our little girl joined our team, – everyone does, you’re not alone! – there are a few things that helped us avoid dysfunctional behaviors that can spoil an otherwise happy partnership.
- Sweat the Small Stuff: Many couples get into the habit of ignoring annoying “little” things that end up creating a situation where mom chills with the kiddo while dad vegs out on the couch. Every night. Like I mention in my post The No-Guilt Academic Mommy Code, speak up about the things that are causing you to lose your zen. Don’t shove it down and push, push, push until you pop because there’s just “no time” to have a one-on-one convo with your best friend/life partner. Your baby is a welcome addition to your family unit, not the other way around, so make sure to take the time to reconnect and speak your mind. While hormones and sleep deprivation can make any couple feel like they’re on Defcon 5, remember that you’ll make it safely out of this tough phase unscathed – but only if you lovingly remind each other that this is just a phase.
- Stop Blaming Each Other: If there’s one thing I remember clearly about the emotional rollercoaster of a month after we brought Inés home, it was the stress involved in figuring out how to manage all the responsibilities of parenthood. It can be incredibly easy to blame each other for not taking care of this or not doing that “correctly” but remember that you’re both new to this stuff. Before, you washed a plate when there weren’t any plates left in the cupboard. Now, if you don’t wash those bottles, your tiny person will loudly speak their mind about not being fed on time. The point is, it’s no one’s fault that the bottles didn’t get washed. Having a new baby is a time consuming, frustrating way of life and that’s that. What makes a difference is learning how to help one another and trade off responsibilities because you care so much about your partner’s sanity that you actually want to do those chores.
- Joke Around: I can’t stress this one enough. Laugh. I don’t care if it’s getting out to see a comedy show or just taking a second to giggle at that one stupid Geico commercial. Laughing and joking around together will help you reconnect in ways that go beyond the positive results of having serious and meaningful “talks.” When you’re fighting, remember that you’re not enemies – you love each other – and find a way to laugh after the argument. It can be so easy to get caught up in parent mode where everything is about the baby and you forget how to share fun moments the way you used to. And don’t just laugh at the silly things your kiddo does. Laugh at things that bring you together as a couple and make you remember why you fell for each other in the first place.
- Be Spontaneous: Let me be honest: I hate the concept of “date night.” Actually, there are few parenthood clichés that depress me more than setting a specific time and day to hurry up and be romantic. Spontaneity is the spice of life, but there’s no denying that getting out and about whenever you feel like it with a kiddo in tow is enough to make anyone break out in a flop sweat. When it comes to maintaining a healthy balance between your love life and family time, it’s important to remember that your little bundle of joy shouldn’t define your every waking moment, even if their screaming fits try to convince you otherwise. What we’ve found helpful is heading out to a nice shopping area that has outside restaurants where there are plenty of fun distractions for baby and a refreshing glass of Pinot for you. For nights out together, hand the kiddo off to grandma or a sitter for the night and go out on a Tuesday! While I’m fully aware how tough it can be to get in the habit of finding spontaneous moments to reconnect, trust me when I say that taking weekday “dates” does wonders to cure the monotony of the everyday grind.
I’d love to hear your tips on keeping it real after kiddos!