I recently wrote about how I didn’t think marital happiness and raising children were, despite what some might say, mutually exclusive. But my husband and I had seen how some of our friends’ marriage suffered after having children, and so we decided to do research and take preventative measures to make sure it wouldn’t happen to us.
This research included interviewing friends with babies and an extensive amount of reading. We even suggested some of the tips we read about to our friends, who not only tried them out, but graciously accepted to keep us posted on how these tips worked for them.
What can I say; my husband and I are very lucky to have such amazing friends.
First Tip: Sleep
Apparently, a lot of parents fight over who gets to sleep. I can totally understand that—sometimes I am so tired that I really, really, REALLY don’t want to get up. And sometimes, I did find myself envious of my husband not having to breastfeed into the night.
But the thing is, my husband is also really tired, and he doesn’t have the intrinsic biological factors that keep me going. He might not be breastfeeding through the night, but he is taking on a lot more of the other chores and responsibilities that usually are mine. Another thing that was very striking to me is that how the support he used to get from me basically got ripped out from his grasp the moment I went into labour: it all became about me, then it became all about the baby and its main source of food and comfort—me. Furthermore, as discussed previously—and not just once, but twice!—he had minimal support for everyone else who was in a hurry to help me out.
The way that seems the best is to see the couple as a team, and sleep as one of the fuels needed to keep going on. Sleeping then becomes strategic: who between the two should get the sleep needed for the couple to best function? For example, if husband has a long day of running errands on behalf of the team, then he should get to sleep.
Thinking like this made of sleep not a competition for us, but rather an opportunity for us, together, to make sure that our family was getting what it needed.
Second Tip: Doing As Many Necessary and Fun Baby Things Together
Let’s be honest here: nothing beats one-on-one time with a spouse. And let’s continue being honest here: that’s out of the window once baby is born. But it doesn’t mean that quality bonding time is over; rather, it means redefining what that means. My husband and I were pleasantly surprised when we put this tip into practice; we have bonded so much over our baby, be it by changing diapers regularly together, by playing together with her, by taking her out together, but watching her play together, etc., etc. We also made sure that some things that are usually done by one spouse were taken on by the two of us. One notable example that just keeps giving is shopping for baby’s clothes together; not only do we have fun on the day we are out shopping, but every time baby wears one of the outfits we picked out together, it becomes a reminder of that day—and of our epic taste LO
Laugh The Tough Stuff Into Oblivion
Mistakes are part of parenting; and sometimes, a small mistake that your spouse made that you wouldn’t make can wreak havoc on the day’s plans. Another great tip we got was to laugh it off together. Baby pooed all over the changing table? Laugh at how clumsy and awkward it is. Baby pulled on the clothes you just carefully folded? Laugh at how you were trying to become tidier and it’s your adorable cherub testing your capacity. Didn’t remember to make dinner or pick it up as you were meant to? Laugh it off and go straight to dessert!
Keep Up The Physical Contact
Many moms told me that, in the first weeks after baby is born, they just can’t let go of their little ones. But some wiser moms said that one of the best things they did for their marriage is to include their husbands in that embrace. They would cuddle their husband while breastfeeding, or burrow themselves into their husband while holding baby. Putting her feet in his lap, having his head on her legs, and him hugging her from the back while she breastfed their baby were the top positions mentioned that promote intimacy postpartum as well as provide an incalculable measure of comfort.
Do Special Things for Each Other and Get Psyched About It
By special things, I don’t mean big things—at least, not things that were big pre-baby. Once there is a baby, simple things that weren’t a big deal pre-baby become sometimes insurmountable tasks. Cooking a meal from scratch; putting a special outfit on her and baby to welcome him home; bringing home a little treat from the corner store; giving a massage while breastfeeding; keeping her up-to-date in world affairs or any other common interest; reading a book out loud while she breastfeeds; all these things seem small and insignificant, but promote a very unique—and very sweet—intimacy that only exhausted parents can understand.
Having a baby is tough, and seeing your spouse as a partner in it with you, rather than someone out there to keep you from much needed sleep, makes you fall in love with them all over again, spit-up stains, poop clean-up, sleep-deprived and all.