It’s 6pm, our eyes meet across the living room, we give each other “the look”. The eye roll to show we know what type of night lies ahead and to reassure one another that we’re in it together. Crying, frequent waking, a general sense of being unsettled – and that’s just us…
When you have children, the dynamics in your relationship change massively. You go from binge-watching Game of Thrones together, to complaining about how many times you’ve seen a particular episode of Peppa Pig. All attention is now on this tiny person who needs protecting around the clock. They demand every ounce of your energy. You wave goodbye to everything you knew about your life before they arrived, for they are now at the centre of your world.
Before you identified as Mummy and Daddy, you were two people with interests, hobbies and ambitions that drew you together in the first place. If you already had a good bond before having children, you’re already halfway there in building it back up. You may feel like the spark will never return, for some it may not, for others it takes work. It’s about reconnecting with each other again and finding common ground with each other and sharing in the things that define you as people, rather than what defines you as parents.
My partner and I are like two mentally exhausted zombies who run on autopilot.
We move from task to task, nappy change to outfit change, meal time to snack time. We are in charge of these two tiny humans, and when the clock ticks a second closer to bedtime, the quality time we should have as a couple just isn’t there.
We long to talk to each other, and I mean REALLY talk, an actual deep conversation, but when we do it’s all about the kids. We want to eat together but we are taking turns to try and settle the boys. Our kids don’t sleep well and we are learning to adjust and look at the parts of each other we miss, the parts that we need to get back. To realise that behind being mummy and daddy, are a couple who love each other very much, a couple who long to have time like they used to, a couple who miss the intimacy and spending our free time doing pretty much mediocre things that we took for granted. We used to love late night drives with our favourite music blaring, talking as we went.
Simple things that were amazing, looking back
We chose to have our children close together, and for the next however many years, they will always be at the forefront of our priorities, we would not change it. We have learned to appreciate the little things that were previously irrelevant. Doing a pile of laundry, washing the plates in the sink, cooking dinner. Those once minor things are now the big things that you have to learn to appreciate, as they are the day to day issues that can invite conflict.
I think one of the main things to keep a relationship strong between two parents, is having a good degree of self awareness. What emotion is inside of you at that moment- is it frustration that your kids are acting out of control? Is it exhaustion from another sleepless night? Or is it joy and pride because they have achieved something new? We need to be aware of the emotions that these situations give us, so that we can decide whether to share that positive emotion, or avoid displacing negative ones onto the nearest adult, which more often than not, happens to be your partner. You need pretty thick skin, and learning not to take things personally when your partner is having a really crap day is imperative.
I’m yelling at you, but it’s not YOU.
My partner works full time, and I get so jealous of his time away from the home and the kids. I resent it at times, when i’ve had a particularly challenging day. That builds up so much tension for me and when he comes home I want to scream because he has had 30 minutes of a quiet drive home, he has had a lunch break, he has been able to pee without being mauled by two kids. I know that how I feel is normal, but I also know that it’s not his fault my day has been rubbish. Without him, we could not afford to live, and I have to remind myself to thank him for that, not resent him.
Grab any opportunity for each other. Even half an hour makes a lot of difference. Use this time to bring back the intimacy or have a quick chat about something that does not include your kids. As you and your significant other cross paths at home whilst preparing lunch, cleaning the kitchen – whatever it may be, look into their eyes and tell them that you love them, or just say anything that springs to mind (not about the kids!). It goes a really long way. It’s a gentle reminder that you see them, you appreciate them and you are there.
Look beyond the spit-up stained shirt and tired eyes and see the person you fell in love with. Remember why you fell in love with them. Always remember that these long, tough days are temporary. After the hurricane settles, it will be the little things you did together to support each other that you remember. Hold onto that, and hold onto each other.
He cooks some food, I try and have a shower, kids awake again, we stare at each other with a sly smile and know we’ll do it all again tomorrow.
It works if you work it.