I’ll never forget being told by a midwife to make my marriage a priority after I gave birth to my first child. The midwife was in her 60’s and she was going through a checklist of what I needed to know post pregnancy and caring for my baby. Talking about my relationship with my husband wasn’t on this list, but I appreciated her wisdom nonetheless.
She encouraged my husband and I to connect and work on our marriage during and beyond this new change in our family’s life because one day our daughter would grow up and leave home and all we would have left at home is each other.
I remember contemplating her words and thinking it was so true.
But putting a priority on your marriage post baby is easier said than done, especially when you add siblings to the mix. The more kids you have, the less time is spent with each person and sometimes, our partner is the one who misses out the most once we’ve given the best of ourselves to our children.
Our relationship with our partner should not come second best. While it’s hard in those early years to put time into our marriage there are still ways to keep connected.
Here are 5 tips on how to protect your marriage after having a baby. I’m no professional, but these tips are based on counselling principles and I have found them a great help with my marriage. (although some aren’t practiced enough as they should!)
1. Always communicate with each other. It’s important to talk issues out or let each other know needs that need to be met. Communicating with each other can be hard work when you’re tired, so find a time during the morning or at night where you can talk with each other and you have the energy to really listen. A friend recently told me she rings up her husband during the day at work to let him know different issues or wins during the day so that when her husband comes home at night, she doesn’t bottle everything and explode the moment he walks in the door. For some relationships, this may not work at all. But it’s important to look at your family and work situation and carve time to talk. Find a way that works for you.
2. Have support. Having extended family support around to babysit or help around the home means less stress and more time to spent with each other. Can I say that this is again easier said than done. If you have no family around, then you need to build a support group of friends who can be there to help you as your raise your family. Look for your ‘family support group’ at mothers groups or even at church.
3. Organise a date night each week. This is one tip my husband and I have been hopeless at organizing. But don’t feel guilty if you can’t get to do it each week. Some weeks will be busier than others and routines can often be shaken up by unforeseen circumstances. If you see an opportunity to have a date night then take it. Being spontaneous adds to the fun of a date night. Call on those support group members to help with babysitting. Swap looking after kids with friends so they can go on a date night too. If you have family from interstate staying with you, organize a date night while they stay so you can go out and they can stay home to look after the kids. Most times the kids will be in bed and there will be little effort from your visitors anyway. Date nights don’t need to be extravagant. Be creative by having a picnic by candlelight on the living room floor or bake a cake together or do something random where you are together and can connect.
4. Sex is a way to connect with your partner. Good communication leads to a good sex life so make sure you’re investing in tip 1 to get the most out of tip 4. I’m no sexpert, but I do know that sex can assist with intimacy in a marriage. There will be dry spells because of exhaustion and various other reasons. But don’t let these issues mount so that not having sex becomes a normal part of life. Sex after the birth of a baby may need to be thought out and practiced carefully, especially if mum went through a traumatic birth. Respect the 6 week rule of no sex after birth to give your body adequate time to heal. Some women have no issues whatsoever after birth and can get back into business with their partner fairly soon after. It’s up to each individual couple so tread lightly. Always communicate and don’t feel pressured to get into the sack soon after birth, but don’t make it your excuse not to have sex after extended time either.
5. Value the role each other plays in the family. Don’t assume your role is more important that the other. There have been times when I have greeted my husband bitterly because I haven’t had a great day with the kids and he hasn’t experienced any of it because he’s been at work. Remember his role is important if he is providing for the family and your role is important in looking after the kids during the day or working and doing the dinner routine or whatever is your family scenario. And if family life at home isn’t going so great, it’s time to talk and discuss ways to change or readjust expectations. Mums can be overstretched and very much overworked. Communication again can soften the bitterness and sometimes a healthy dose of perspective can readjust a bitter mindset.
How has your marriage faired after the birth of your baby? Do you have any tips to add that could help other marriages?