The news of a coming child generally is a joyous occasion. Plans ramp up, dreams expand, and families rejoice. Even in the instances where the news isn’t received joyously, plans change, dreams shift.
The responsibility of raising a child will do things to you. Mindsets adjusts quickly. It’s more than just a baby shower and getting gifts. It’s a life change that can’t be compared. Life is being handed to you to be accountable for and responsible for.
Not everyone knows how to handle that awesome responsibility.
The children are joining our lives… not the other way around
Once the celebrations have past and the hardcore sleepless routine has become the new normal, many parents find themselves unprepared for the transition phases that child rearing bring.
For starters, in the beginning, children eat up all of your time. They sleep, eat, poop. When not doing those three things, they pee, laugh, cry, stare, and depend on you to do everything. All the focus is on the child.
Even when these little humans gain autonomy and independence, they still need a steady stream of parental guidance. In this busy modern urban lifestyle many people have, most of the free time we once enjoyed is now being devoted to these growing citizens of the world.
This can put a serious damper on the relationship. Add more than one child and one can quickly obliterate personal free time.
How does one deal with the expansion of a family? The truth is simple, it is not easy but it can be done with the right purpose.
But, my partner understands…
Before diving into the realities, let’s just acknowledge one thing. No matter how much we try to simplify things along gender, roles are far too complex to fit neatly into a stereotypical bucket. Everyone has to pitch in to get the job done. Parents are parents… no matter which gender they came from.
Some relationships follow ancestral roles, others follow modern roles, and some have no defined roles either. Not all relationships have opposite gender partners and not all parental situations have the presence of a partner. Some even do not have the biological parents present.
The parent(s) of the child have to understand one basic thing… the presence of a child(ren) changes a lot of the dynamics in a relationship. The pressures of time and responsibilities throws a relationship into a different mode.
Priorities or Priority
The competition for our time is intense. We have many choices to make. What does one do during a child’s nap? What does one do when the child is sick? Who should do what chores and when? The list goes on and on.
When working with competing priorities, it’s easy to get stressed over how much time to allocate to what project and when. The temptation is to try and do multiple priority items at the same time.
The multi-tasking bit only works when it comes to… things we do without thinking. Example would be walking and listening to an audio book… or doing the dishes while listening to the child recite a poem. Those things require some level of focus but not top line level focus.
People get into trouble when they try to do high level focus items together. This would be something akin to writing a book proposal while trying to teach the child algebra. That just doesn’t work well. Something will get done poorly, if not both.
Yet, we approach child rearing and maintaining a relationship the same way. We think we can do both at the same time with the same level of effectiveness.
Reality is a bit different than ideology. You can have a great relationship and be a great parent. However, the activities that make this possible doesn’t always happen simultaneously.
That’s where this blog recommends priority over priorities. What is today’s number one priority? Then, figure how to get that done. Of course, once done, we should be moving onto the next item on the list that is of lesser priority.
How does that look in the context of this post?
If the child is not feeling well… clearly… priority one is the wellness of the child. This is not the time to have long romantic strolls in the park to work on the relationship while the child is facing a fever alone at home.
While the above example makes sense, many seem to forget the principle when the child is healthy and doing great. Many do not put enough time to work on their relationship during any given week. They hold off the work of romance until they can both plan a vacation together. Which usually means planning for the child(ren) more than the couple.
We know intellectually we need to work on our romance, but in practice, not enough people actually work on their romance.
But… they know I love them…
We like to assume that our partner understands we love them. We expect them to tell us we are loved but forget to tell them because they should give the benefit of the doubt.
Worse, we expect our partners to prioritize the welfare of the children over the relationship and get mad when they actually do.
Sure, a balance has to be reached, but let’s also remember… the child(ren) learn about romance and how that works from watching us. If we can’t model a solid relationship, how can we expect them to understand how one works?
A child, depending on age, needs to feel loved daily. Most mature relationship can go a week without the reminder and not suffer any loss. However, month after month of neglect will result in a diminished quality of romance… no to mention extinction.
We’re not advocating massive resource intense activities either. A note or a text will go a long way. A hug, a pat on the rear, a blown kiss, a wink, a smile. The little things that communicate that you treasure your partner goes very far.
Never assume your partner is on-board the same way you are. You may have started so, but things constantly change in life. The upkeep of a relationship is easy when it’s done regularly. It becomes hard when you have to restore before you can maintain.
The children are coming into your life and joining your world. Not the other way around. They learn from us what is love and how it works. We, therefore, can’t afford to skip out on working on our relationship. It’s priority one.
Within the subcategory of priority one is the wellness and welfare of the children. There will be days when you’re completely exhausted and want nothing more than to sleep. Taking 90 seconds to pause long enough to smile at your partner a heartfelt half smile is worth the effort. They feel connected to you. They feel understood by you.
That 90 seconds sure beats sitting for an hour on a counselors couch trying to explain why you couldn’t muster the effort to show you cared.
In time, the children will grow up and move on out. If you’ve not done the work, you’ll want to move out too. Had you done the work, you’d have a relationship to fall back on with joy. You’d be off to a new chapter of your romance.
If you’ve got children in the home, make it a priority to let your partner know that you still love them and care for them. Don’t just shove a “honey-do” list and assume that’s showing you care. Put in a little effort to connect emotionally once a month if once a week is too much.
The health benefits to you, your children, and your sanity is well worth the effort. Not to negate the fact it is good for your partner, your relationship, and life in general.
Keep working on your romance and keep your perspectives open and fresh by modeling a great example to the children how real love works.
a companion blog post on this topic lives here