Words by Shereen Jupp
Photographed by Daytona Lamade
Marriage will envitably change. I am going to be blunt and transparent: It will not be the same romance as prior to parenthood.
Not all changes are negative but it’s definitely not an easy transition. When my husband and I found out we were going to be parents it was 3 days before our wedding (you read that correctly, 3 days before our wedding day). Our doctor said it was such special timing. I, on the other hand, sat beside my fiancé in tears not sure how to feel.
I remember the emotional rollercoaster I went through those days leading up to our wedding. It still feels like it was yesterday when I found out. I was at work and remember walking in when a co-worker held the door open for me. She suggested I was pregnant; that she just knew. During my lunch break that day in a bathroom stall I found out I was indeed, positively pregnant. I texted my soon-to-be-husband a photo with a positive pregnancy test because he was at work and failed to answer my frantic call. At the time I was only 22 and definitely was not thinking about having a baby until at least a year away. But here we are, two children later, in the span of 3 years.
Our marriage began to feel overwhelming.
We both love being parents. It’s made us both better people in every aspect of our lives. But the hardest part of parenthood is finding the time for yourself. Let alone each other. We are both still learning to respect each other’s space without comparing our roles and using that against each other. I think it will be a constant never-ending journey; learning our strength as partners, because every chapter is different as your children grow. I believe this is simply the beginning.
From what I have learned thus far, I want to give some advice that I wish I had known. Advice that personally works amazingly for our relationship. I have a curated list further down in this article but I really want to dive into one that I found to be the most beneficial: Giving each other space.
We both deserve time to be alone. In fact, although we aren’t spending time together, we are actually learning to love each other more because we will in return become happier. Being alone provides us the ability to clear our minds.
It took me a long time to accept the concept of allowing my husband to have “me time”. It’s selfish to admit, but I felt like he had more freedom than I did. I work from home and balance being a full-time mother and career woman. In comparison, I don’t get to be around adults as often or get a ‘break’ in the car by driving to and from work. I can’t listen to my choice of podcast with innocent ears so near by, etc. So whenever the conversation came up, I would hold so much resentment towards him. Like, how dare you ask for space when I don’t get a break? However, the words I ignored from him were, “you deserve it too.” I would deflect that by saying, “well I can’t have that time because I always have work.”
He and I went back and forth for quite some time, until I realized it only led me to burn out. I was depriving myself, as well as my husband, of the space we both deserved. The time of just doing whatever. We truly needed to relax and clear our minds from the stress that comes along with parenthood.
Our relationship has gotten so much better since this simple yet much needed break. On weekends we often take turns sleeping in. Though this may not always be consistent, we communicate what we need and when we need it. We support each other emotionally in order to be well mentally.
This leads me to communication. Just like the advice you’ve been given before getting into a serious relationship, this rule needs to be followed even more so into parenthood. It goes hand-in-hand with the space apart you’ll two need.
Sometimes a marriage is not about spending every minute together in order to fix it. Sometimes fixing a marriage is spending time alone to be happy with ourselves; love ourselves; take care of our mental health; so when we are together we fall back into a healthy pattern of supporting each other.
Below is a breakdown of steps you can try for your relationship that helped me in mine. I know every relationship is different and not always fixable which is okay to accept. Sometimes it’s better for the entire family to separate and co-parent. But if you have an average marriage like mine that has average ups and downs, these can help.
Prioritize a sleep schedule
I know. This step sounds ridiculous and easier said than done. But trust me: Sleep deprivation might be the hardest transition into parenthood. If you both don’t find a healthy schedule for rest you will be irritable and it will cause a lot of mood swings. I for one am still learning to prioritize sleep —it’s hard to even introduce it into your life after you become a parent, but you can try. My method is for once a week (if possible) you and your partner take turns sleeping in. One parent gets an hour to sleep in, shower etc and then switch. This extra hour has made a huge difference in our day. If you’re unable to give yourself time during the day, at least lay down to rest when you can and do not take technology with you. Turn your phone off. Put it on airplane mode. Sleep.
Talk to your partner about whether there are ways to balance the night-wakes so that you can both get a bit of consolidated sleep.
The bottom line: Everything is easier and better if you’re more well rested. You’ll have more control over your emotions.
Give each other space
Again, I know easier said than done. But trust me: Allowing each other to have time away from each other is a gentle reminder you love each other and have appreciation and respect for your partner. Remember you are in it together. So don’t compare roles when one person communicates they need time to be alone. It might help you feel better about your relationship if you both walk away from it for a couple of hours.
If you know that your partner is tired and wishes more than anything that he or she could run away to a deserted tropical island, that’s your cue that “me time” needs to be scheduled in.
And it’s not that you and your partner don’t care about each other, it’s that it’s healthy to have time alone to do whatever we want. Like watch a movie, eat snacks, go on a hike, go on a coffee date with friends etc. It makes you feel ‘normal’ again.
A lot of couples struggle with post-baby sex. Honestly, it’s not something I am saying jump into. You need to explore this new intimacy together because your lives have changed. Start simple by finding a way to dedicate a date night (if feasible) once a month. I mean, to be transparent, my husband and I don’t have a date night once a month unfortunately. But we do try to carve in the time when we can. If we can’t we have a movie night at home when the kids are in bed. It’s the same idea but different strategy. But hey- it works for us.
In spite of all these challenges, you can figure out how to stay close physically. Keep being affectionate. Nonsexual touching over time can help you and your partner get back on track with your sex lives. That continued physical affection can pave the way for post-baby romance and is an important part of keeping the flame alive.
Talk about it. Importantly, make sure you and your partner are on the same page so you can meet each other’s needs. Then once you’re able to start being physically intimate again, make sure you carve out time to meet those needs.
For the first few weeks after baby is born, it’s perfectly healthy and normal to allow the chores to be left undone. Your priority is to pour time and energy into tending to the needs of your child – and yourself. Vacuuming can wait. Sleep cannot.
As you figure out how to share the influx of responsibilities, it’s also crucial to be generous and to communicate. I can guarantee that sharing housework together will make for a happier marriage.
For example: Rather than keeping a tally of how many dirty diapers you versus your partner have changed that day, choose to be the first to offer if you can sense the other is feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter how you and your partner split work as long as you BOTH are content with the arrangement.
Schedule a time to sit with your partner to list all the daily, weekly and monthly household tasks. Outline the expected frequency and standards. For example: Specify that a daily vacuuming includes cleaning under, not just around, the table.
You have to realize that children need to know that their parents love not only them but each other. Simple.
Unite as a family and teach the importance of tradition and doing things together. Whether that means going on long walks in your neighbourhood, cooking & baking together, swimming, movie nights, bedtime stories, go on hikes or day road trips – the options are endless. Teach each other that family time is important time.
I honestly hope this helps. It’s a very in-depth topic that I know can be dived into much deeper layers depending on your uniqueness in your relationship. But, trying these light suggestions can help and hopefully make a difference. As mentioned, I am still learning and I don’t think it that will ever stop. Communication and personal space is so important and I can guarantee those two commitments will help pave a healthy path to your new relationship as partners and parents.