The Look of Love: relationship tips for parents with young childrenFebruary 15, 2016, by Shaunacey Bonneville
"they" (whoever 'they' are) say that the hardest time in a relationship is the first few years after your children are born. Since we're in the thick of it right now, I'd tend to agree (although, who knows what the future holds).
Our first is turning 3 in April and our second is almost 7 months old. Life has changed so much since they were born, It's beautiful and crazy and busy and tiring and awesome. Those two sweet littles take up the VAST majority of our time and energy. BUT we're still married. We're still two people who met, fell in love and share this crazy life together.
We're just in the midst of trying to figure out hot to negotiate our relationship now that it's not just us and there's so much other 'stuff' to focus on.
The advice I'm about to give is not from an expert who's on the other side, but from someone who's right there in the midst of it all. My "tips" are things that we've found helpful and/or are striving for.
Schedule time - like anything, if you don't schedule it, it's easy to forget about and push down the list of priorities. Schedule together time - write it in your planner (yes, I still use a planner), put an alarm in your phone, put a sticky on the fridge or a circle on the wall calendar. Wherever you keep track of life's upcoming events, make sure 'couple time' is scheduled on there.
What we do: we've decided that we're going to spend one evening a week, after the kids are in bed, doing something that doesn't involve technology. Cooking/baking, doing a crossword puzzle, playing cards etc.
Do little things - it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of taking care of children, putting their needs first, cleaning, making food blah blah blah. When you're in the middle of a sleep regression or a brutal bout of teething, there literally might not be time together without a child. This is the time where little things are so important (though, I'd argue, their important all of the time). Has your partner been up all night with the baby? Have a cup of coffee ready and waiting.
What we do: I always pick up 'treats' for Brent when I grocery shop. It's small and simple but it shows him I was thinking about him when I was out. I love when Brent texts me from work asking how my day is going. Regardless of my answer, I know he was at work and took a moment to think about me and check-in.
Have time by yourself - this sounds counter-intuitive but remember the old saying 'you can't take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself'. This is true of your relationship as well. It's easy to give yourself when you're feeling somewhat rested/less stressed. Bonus points for encouraging each other's self-care time.
What we do: we both try and support each other in taking the time we need to 'refresh'. This sometimes just means saying "go take a shower by yourself" or agreeing to parent so the other person can go hangout with a friend OR, if your my husband, agreeing to let your wife go to Vegas with her blogging friends (yes, he's getting big points for that one!).
Go on dates - get out of the house WITHOUT children!!! It doesn't need to be fancy or costly, but it needs to be a change of scenery. This can be tricky with really young children and for people who don't have a lot of support, but if you can swing it, DO IT! It's like a reset button gets pressed when you get away together for a little bit.
What we do: truthfully, we JUST went on our first date in 7 months. We got the kids to bed, had nana come over, got dressed up and went out to a nice dinner. I can't even tell you how amazing it was. Warning: once you go once, you're going to want to go regularly!
Touch each other regularly - with energy levels often at an all time low, the last thing on your mind a lot of the time is intimacy. I'm not telling you that you need to be having s-e-x on the daily but that doesn't mean you should stick to a hands-off policy. Quite the opposite, when you're exhausted and sex is the last thing on your mind, it's even more important to maintain some kind of physical intimacy. Hold hands, kiss, hug, put a hand on your partners knee while you watch tv. It's easy and helps maintain a connection.
What we do: Brent always kisses me before he leaves in the morning. The few times he forgot as he rushed out the door, I received a call a few minutes later saying "I forgot to kiss you goodbye" (or I called him saying 'you forget something?').
There you have it... now, off to schedule some time with my man :)