In my experience as a marriage and family therapist, few things rock a relationship like having a child together. All of a sudden, you're no longer free to do as you please, when you please, and how you please. For many couples, one or both parents start to prioritize the children over the marriage. This can lead to the marriage becoming an afterthought and spouses feeling marginalized. Therefore, do kids kill marriages? Absolutely not, but parents often do. But they don't have to!I firmly believe, and plenty of research supports this position, that the best gift you can give a child is a healthy parental relationship. Children from intact homes, especially those containing healthy marriages, benefit financially, educationally, emotionally, and relationally. However, many first-time parents are often [understandably] so worried and focused on the child's well-being that their romantic relationship suffers. For lots of couples, this is a short term issue and the relationship bounces back by taking on a new but healthy form. However, for many parents the problem lingers and creates a rift for the couple over many years.Many couples will argue that the child depends on them for survival, so they have to make the child priority #1. I wholeheartedly agree. If you are neglecting your child's primary needs in order to focus on your relationship, then you are doing it wrong. I would never suggest you make plans for your marriage that would neglect your children. However, I would adamantly suggest you find ways to continue to make your marriage a priority and, at times, the priority. If your child is sick, hungry, tired, dirty, etc, you take the time and energy to make sure they are cared for and healthy, right? I'm only suggesting that you do the same for your relationship.As a father of twins, I can appreciate the lack of time and energy parents have when babies first arrive in the home. Therefore I'm not suggesting you go on date nights every night or have long walks on the beach every weekend. I'm suggesting you both figure out ways to make sure you are continuing to invest in the person with whom you chose to procreate. This can be as simple as eating dinner together each night, finding time to ask about each other's day at the end of the day, and asking for help watching the child so you two can spend some quality time together, even if just around the house or neighborhood. Grand gestures are nice, but they pale in comparison to small, consistent gestures on a daily basis. Dads ask Mom how you can be of help. Moms ask Dad how he's adjusting to fatherhood. Most importantly, be patient with each other as you figure out this process!Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help! Whether you've recently had a child, you're expecting, or you are years into this process, don't hesitate to reach out. Our team is well versed in walking couples through creating and maintaining a healthy relationship through life's challenges, including parenthood. There are plenty of excellent resources out there. You are not alone unless you choose to be. Children can be such a blessing for any couple and household, it just takes intentionality and help from others.
Our job as parents is to love and nurture our child(ren). This love can manifest itself in so many ways. One of the most important ways to love your child is by taking care of you! Are you making sure your child is eating healthy while you're surviving on whatever is available or convenient, neglecting the proper nutrition? What about taking time out to exercise or to meditate? How are you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taking care of yourself while caring for your child(ren)?It is a juggling act to attend to child, work, partner, house responsibilities, and then yourself! While the balance is challenging, it is vital that your child sees you caring for yourself and nurturing your relationship with your partner. Here are some ways to take yourself off of the back burner and create an equal space for yourself beside your family rather than behind it:(1) Choose to eat healthy today. Take as much care in your food prep as you do with your child's.(2) Go for that walk in the sunshine, take a yoga or dance class, bike ride or hike.(3) Schedule a date lunch or dinner with your partner to reconnect.(4) If you need more support than you're currently getting, seek a therapist who can help you prioritize and/or find a balance to creating that space for you in the midst of all of your responsibilities. You are valuable and worth the time and energy to become a better and healthier you!