As a mother to twins, I often find myself trying to find more hours in the day when they simply do not exist. When you have a baby (or in my case, babies), a tricky thing happens; you need to learn how to balance your pre-baby life and relationships with your new day to day life, one that’s filled with spit up and nap schedules. For some, this balance is not really a priority. However, as someone who greatly values social interactions, I knew I needed to figure out a way to keep my relationships in my life, despite a total lack of time. Friendships matter greatly, but an even more important relationship for me is the one at home because, let’s face it, if that relationship is going to sh*t, everything else becomes infinitely more difficult — especially when babies are involved.
Bringing two babies home was the start of a marathon. The first year was the hardest. Truly, it was one hell of a year — one filled with totally incredible moments, milestones and laughter; but as a family, we also faced our share of challenges. The toughest time was the first three months. We were literally in survival mode. I don’t know what it is like to have one baby at a time, but I gather it is also a ton of hard work. My first piece of advice (because I have lived this experience and wish someone had said this to me) is to just cut yourselves some serious slack as a couple during this time. It is going to be messy, you will get little to no sleep, and you will be running on empty frequently. You might be cranky as hell.
A good friend once shared a piece of advice she got from her father. He told her that his motto in life was to always date his partner. I would agree; it’s always a fun idea to date your spouse! Life is just more fun when you have fun with the person you share your life with. In theory, if you are happy and having a good time, then your children see that and it’s a positive influence on them. But when you are working your tooshie off to take care of babies and can hardly find time to take a shower, this sort of goes by the wayside.
After we’d made to about the six-month mark as parents, things started to relent. It was such a relief! More sleep! Happier babies! We were on the upswing, so we decided to prioritize our relationship with each other — we needed to reconnect. We wanted this for ourselves but also for our kids.
Here are some ways to keep the relationship on somewhat solid ground as you figure out this parenting gig.
PS: I get it..it’s hard to even think about your relationship during this first year because you have little to no time. However, with a bit of effort, it is worth it.
If it is possible for you, find a family member, friend, or a babysitter for those early days. (I find that references from friends are the best way to find a reliable/trustworthy babysitter if you are going that route). You will find you have more time for your other half when you are not obsessing about the laundry or dishes that are not done. Do not feel guilty wanting help with that. You also need to get out of your element once in a while. Without your baby/babies. If you think you don’t deserve time to yourself, rethink that notion. You’re in the midst of doing something so epic: You’re raising a human being! You certainly deserve some time for yourself. Once you establish some time for yourself, you will have more of yourself to give to others, including in your relationship. I understand it is not always possible to have help, but if anyone in your life offers to help…take it!
The Middle of the Night Doesn’t Count
This may sound so trivial, but when you are already sleep-deprived and have to get up at all hours of the night to take care of a crying baby, arguments in the middle of the night can feel so serious. My husband and I have said things in our sleep-deprived states that we would never say in the light of day (and with a cup of coffee or two in our system). Please do yourself a favor and get in agreement with your spouse on this one— whatever happens in the middle of the night with your arguments does not count in the morning. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to apologize in the morning if you were wrong (I think those apologies help lessen the burn of any middle of the night insults). It also doesn’t give you the freedom to act like a total asshole, either. Just remind yourselves that sometimes we say things when we are sleep deprived that we may end up regretting.
Tell Your Partner What You Need & What You Don’t
This is a big one. Be clear about what helps you navigate your new life. Also, communicate when you see something going on that does not help. Sometimes we think we are doing something nice for someone when in reality, it’s not what the person needs in that moment. Clearly communicate what you do and do not need, and understand that this can change. Clear communication will make both your lives more smooth, and it will allow you to spend quality time with each other, rather than bickering about something that wasn’t done quite to your liking.
Decompress and Tell Each Other About Your Day
It’s so easy to forget that before your baby arrived, you had conversations with your spouse about your day! With the copious amount of housework and the constant feedings, having a nice conversation with your other half feels nearly impossible in the early days. I find the best time to do this is at the end of the day. Even five minutes helps. Don’t forget to talk to each other about non-baby related topics.
Take Time For Yourself — Without Guilt
Sound familiar? When you have some help with the baby, you can find more moments to take a step away and have a moment to yourself. If you are unable to find any help, use the quiet moments when your baby is asleep to your benefit. If doing dishes and folding laundry makes you feel better, do that. If taking a nap makes you feel better, do that. If just sitting your butt on the couch and watching an episode of House Hunters makes you feel better, do that! Whatever it is that gives you a moment of peace…do it. When you can squeeze in moments to yourself, it is so much easier to be present in the time that you do have with your spouse.
It is important to be on the same page about making your relationship an important aspect of your lives. You are, after all, teammates on this new journey.