In lieu of my four-year anniversary, I thought I'd share a word or two on married life with a new baby.
A few years ago, before I was pregnant or even thinking of taking the dive, a co-worker told me that having a baby "definitely" puts a strain on your marriage. That scared me. I had a happy marriage and did not want to compromise that. I asked my sister, who had a 1-year-old boy at the time, if she felt like having him put a strain on her marriage. She said "No. If anything, it's made us closer and made our marriage stronger." So I realized, as with many "facts" people tell you about marriage and parenthood, it is what you make it. If you expect marriage to be hard, it will be. If you expect a baby to put a strain on your marriage, it will. But it doesn't have to be that way if you choose to make it otherwise.
I'm no authority on perfect post-baby marriages. In fact, I have been guilty of putting my baby's needs before my husband's a little too often, and I can count the number of times we've been out as a couple over the past five months on one hand. But once I realized that my marriage was taking a backseat to my motherhood all too often, I discovered some tips that have helped make my relationship with my husband my first priority. Maybe they'll help you too.
1. Have date night every week. At least. I'm not talking about a full-blown four-hour festivity every time. If all you can do is get out for half an hour to take a walk, get a treat or go for a drive, that's great. The important thing is having one-on-one time, sans baby, to connect as a couple. Oh, and try to keep talk about your baby to a minimum and use this time to focus on you and your hub.
2. Don't Skimp on Affection.
When you have a newborn baby depending on you for everything, snuggling with you and looking lovingly into your eyes, your need for affection and attention is filled very nicely. That along with the changes your body has been through, the hormones of breastfeeding, and lack of sleep creates a recipe for disaster when it comes to being affectionate with your man. But remember, he still needs that affection — possibly more than ever. Even if you have to designate 15 minutes of "snuggle time" every day — especially during your recovery time — do it. (For more on this, click here.)
3. Keep it in Perspective. I recently interviewed a "happy couple" for a magazine feature and asked them how they kept their marriage so strong over the years. The husband said he knew a lot of people who put their marriages on the backburner while they focused on their kids. "But if you just focus on your kids," he said, "What about when your kids are gone? Is the flame in your marriage gone too?"
That's a scary thought. There are a lot of empty-nesters getting divorced these days — a phenomenon called "Gray Divorce." I wonder how many of those divorces could be avoided if couples put more time and effort into their marriages while they are raising kids instead of letting that flame die.
What are some things you do to keep your marriage happy?