Right now, my kids are seven, five, and three years old. All boys. And they are… loud, messy, sticky. I often refer to our house as a frat house because if I am not careful, it feels like one. You know, dribbles of milk all over the countertop, throw pillows on the floor, slouchy couch cushions, and dirty clothes flung about the house. Not to mention wet dog smell in the summer – except it’s sweaty boy smell. They’re basically the same.
Prior to this reality, I used my spare time to think of ways to make my husband happy – you know, what kind of dinner would HE like, what could we do that would be fun this weekend, and how can I make him feel appreciated. Basically, I took the time to think about that stuff.
Now my home is full of little boys, and I spend my spare time folding laundry, cleaning up spills, cooking dinner that my KIDS like, and putting away Nerf darts on repeat. My spare brain power goes to things like, “How can I get the most food for the least amount of money at Chick-fil-a?” And “When will I fit in a workout?” And “What will we have for dinner?” When my hubby walks in the house, if I am not careful, it can feel like I have nothing left to give him.
Yes, having kids definitely changes the marriage. I don’t believe you can expect to get out without some rough patches here and there (ahem, don’t husbands and wives all shiver at the word “postpartum”), but I do believe you can come out stronger and more in love.
Here is how to make a strong marriage with young kids:
Don’t be fooled – marriage can be very seasonal. There is a season for growing pains. BUT, there is also a season for deep love and appreciation. There are some practices I have surveyed both in my own marriage and in that of really close friends which seem to make marriages really strong, even when you are in the trenches with young kids.
Are you pregnant, postpartum, hormonal? Your emotions are all over the place. If you feel hurt, resentful, or unloved, there is a decent chance that those feelings will pass. Learn to observe your own feelings and also recognize that they can change in a moment.
Find a babysitter and INVEST in your marriage with date nights, and time away. I know, I know, date night is SO expensive because it’s not like you’re paying for ONLY dinner, but also shelling out an arm and a leg for a babysitter. Change your mindset. This is an investment in your marriage. You will go out without the kids and you will feel like actual human beings who have adult conversations and eat adult food, and by the end of the night you’ll remember that you actually LIKE each other. My friends with the best marriage do this, and in fact, we were advised to ALWAYS keep a date night in our premarital counseling.
Have regular (dare I say frequent) sex. Sorry, not sorry. This is the glue, y’all. If I can learn to love running, you can learn to love the S word. Once again, it’s a mindset thing. Make it fun. Buy lingerie.
Think and talk positively about each other. Dwell on the good things, and forgive and forget the negatives. Have you read Liane Moriarty’s book, “What Alice Forgot?” If you haven’t, it’s a fabulous beach read. It’s about a woman who woke up after an injury and forgot the last 10 years of her life. She found to her surprise that she was getting a divorce (even though as far as she could remember, she and her husband were madly in love). The whole book is the journey she takes to figure out how her marriage went south. Main takeaway? The things we choose to remember and the way we frame life can determine how we feel- about pretty much everything. You married your husband for a reason: find it and dwell on it.
You are on the same team. When you persist through the hard seasons, it makes the happy seasons even happier. You will be all the better for loving each other through the young kid phase.