Relationships after a baby arrives
After having a baby there is a recalibration of all of our relationships in relation to our evolved motherhood self.
I found some friendships naturally did not evolve to include the new and beautiful facets of my motherhood identify. It was a necessary part of shedding my old identity. I treasure the fun times we had but moved forward with grace and gratitude.
The biggest relationship change for me has been that with my husband, Sam. We have found it harder after our second daughter, little Margot, arrived in April this year as we are always playing man marking, one covering each of our little charges.
The author of a research paper (Alyson Shapiro) “The Baby and the Marriage..” found there are certain “buffers” against marital disaster after the birth of a child – referred to as the “glue” that holds a marriage together.
”Building fondness and affection for your partner"
"Being aware of what is going on in your spouse's life and being responsive to it"
"Approaching problems as something you and your partner can control and solve together as a couple"
With our first daughter, Estelle, we made her the most important thing in our family life. This necessarily meant we were neglecting each other. We are trying to navigate a slightly different path which values our relationship alongside our relationships with our children.
Since having our kids, we have come to the conclusion that we are not going to have the time together in the way we used to. I find it is a grieving process of sorts as the relationship evolves. We have come to terms with the fact we can't be as attentive (i.e. rarely finish a conversation!) or responsive to one another
Psycologist Eli Finkel said in his book The All or Nothing Marriage that:
“Seeking bliss through our marriage – particularly looking to each other for assistance with personal growth and self expression – just made things worse. So we just stopped trying. We put our heads down and focused on putting one foot in front of the other”
This time round, I have been a full time mum to 2 children and working on my business on an evening. Having a second child has been another process of evolution for our marriage. Last week, when my husband pointed out that we were not spending quality time together, I recognised that I had not found the right balance between my role as a mother, work and my relationship. Do we ever find the balance? It needs constant attention and gentle navigation, I find.
Some keys things we try to focus on to manage our relationship":
Finding time to connect - We still can't go out as I am breastfeeding Margot so we have turned Saturday night into date night. After much research we have found a Netflix series we are enjoying (Better Cal Saul – highly recommend it – we are big fans of Suits but that is not on until January) – phones off, kids in bed – time to reconnect. We don't drink now so we have found a lovely non alcoholic mulled wine to enjoy or a warm hot chocolate with winter spices.
We may not have much time together like this anymore, but once a week (as a minimum) is fine, for now. It is something to look forward to after a busy week. Now our eldest is going to bed earlier, we may manage more nights together like this. At the moment, I am prioritising sleep so often go to bed with the kids.
Talking effectively - It is easy to get to the end of the day having been with kids all day and start a conversation in a way which immediately makes Sam defensive. I try to ask for his help in a positive way or make suggestions in a positive way. Instead of saying ‘I never have any time to myself” I ask if he is willing to support me while I go swimming. It makes for a much more pleasant outcome, rather than both of us getting into our trenches of who works the hardest etc.
Relationship self care practices - we are told so often to have patience, compassion, and forgiveness for ourselves - we think nothing of it for our children and pets. But the same applies to our relationships. I get annoyed with Sam’s lack of patience if I snap at him from time to time. I am usually fairly tolerant but if I have had little sleep and a full day with kids then I expect him to show some patience and forgiveness in the moment. It works both ways, of course. It is hard when we both have had little sleep. I plan to write these key words down on paper and put it on the wall as a family manifesto so we remember when stressed out.
I also try to recognise that it is hard for both of us in different ways. It is easy to slip into the mindset of “I have the worst time”. I find we get on much better when we try to see it this way.
I would love to hear any tips or comments you have in relation to managing your relationship as a couple after kids.