Nobody is denying that parenting is a rollercoaster. From sleepless nights to endless diaper changes, our little bundles of joy bring a whole lot into our lives. This usually means that we are doing parenting from sun up to sun down, which does not leave a lot of time or energy leftover for our marriage. In this blog post, I want to dig into the art of balancing being loving parents and nurturing our marriage.
As new parents, we often find ourselves immersed in the world of parenting which comes with its joys and responsibilities. Amidst the chaos of raising little ones, it's easy for our marriage to take a backseat. The transition to parenthood can lead to decreased marital satisfaction and increased stress, which can strain the bond with our partners. Many couples find ourselves juggling parenting responsibilities while yearning for the emotional connection we once had in our marriage. Only about 33% of relationship do not see a decrease in satisfaction with their partners during this time. Which means, we are not alone in thinking, "what the heck happened to my marriage?!"
The Importance of Balancing Parenting and Marriage
If is is so hard to balance parenting and marriage, then why try? If we look at the research that has come out of the Gottman's research on children that grow up in a house with a happy and stable relationship, we can see that sticking this balance is extremely important. Not only is having peace and balance important for you and your partner, but it is important for your children. Children that live in a family that strikes this balance have higher IQ, better emotional and mental wellbeing, a secure attachment not only to their parents but to other adults and peers, less stress, more resilient, better conflict management skills and the list goes on. If we want our children to have the best chance possible, it is worth it to work on this balance between parenting and marriage, especially in the first few years of life. Of course, if there are struggles that seem like they are our of your control, reach out to a mental health professional.
Finding a Balance between Parenting and Marriage
Prioritize Quality Time Together
Carving out dedicated time for each other is vital amidst the hectic schedules of parenting. It could be a weekly date night, a cozy movie evening at home, or a leisurely walk in the park. Quality time does not equal a lot of time. We all know we do not have a lot of time to spare anyways. Be creative, come up with ways to connect on a deeper level that do not take a lot of time or money. This time allows us to reconnect and remember why we fell in love in the first place. Quality time fosters emotional intimacy and helps us rediscover the aspects that drew us together as a couple.
Sometimes, when we are prioritizing quality time, that means holding boundaries elsewhere that we are not used to holding. Maybe that means getting to work and leaving from work on time. Maybe this means saying no to activities with extended family or friends.
Parenting As a Team
The roles and responsibilities that we experience as parents are much different than marriages without children. Open communication and a willingness to divide parenting and household responsibilities are essential for maintaining balance in both parenting and marriage. A collaborative approach fosters a sense of teamwork, reducing stress for both partners. Working together as a cohesive unit in parenting not only eases the burden but also in creases each partners mental health, which has the effect of strengthening the bond between partners.
Understanding Individual Roles and Responsibilities Sometimes the best laid plans for how you want to parent are insufficient once you get into parenting and realize you knew nothing about parenting. Having conversations around what what roles and responsibilities you have now that you are a parent, really helps when it comes to parenting as a team. If we can identify each others currently roles in parenting and marriage, we can have clear and effective communication around if that feels comfortable or not. It leaves room for a changing of roles if the current system is not working.
Sharing Household and Parenting Responsibilities It is important for each partner to feel supported and appreciated. Having an equally distribution of chores and parenting tasks is extremely helpful in this area. Here, equal does not mean the same, it means if feels fair for both partners. One partner might be in charge of all things food, and the other all things pet care. They are not the same thing, but by taking the responsibility of a task, that means it is offloaded from your partners todo list. If we are being honest with our partners about how we are feeling about our workload, it can avoid resentment. We all know that when we hold resentment for our partner, we are not very open to connection. If you have children that are old enough, enlist their help with the household chores as well. It is never too young to start! My son started feeding our dog at 1.5. He loves the dog and would remind me and my husband that the chore had not been done. It helps the entire family. Of course, he needs some assistance and reminding here and there, but getting your children used to being involved in the day to day maintenance of the household will help everyone in the long run.
Collaborating on Parenting
Parenting is difficult and children are really good at getting their needs and wants met. Children will likely ask one parent for something, and if there is a no, will go ask the other parent. Collaborating on parenting decisions before children do this, will help the relationship with your partner greatly. Yes, my son even at 2 does this. Having conversations about what parenting looks like, helps in these moments so that you are not constantly being pitted as the one with all of the rules, or the one who always says no.
Emphasize Emotional Attunement
Being emotionally attuned to our partners is a fundamental aspect of nurturing a healthy marriage and successful parenting. So what does that mean? Being emotionally attuned means you are present, empathetic, and responsive to each other's emotional needs. This can create a deep sense of connection which leads to emotional and physical intimacy. Even when exhausted from parenting duties, taking a moment to ask, "How was your day?" or offering a comforting hug can communicate love and support. This can also look like saying out loud when you see something you appreciate about your partner. Scan our environment for what is going right and making a comment about it. It is usually in the small moments that make a huge impact on how strong our bond it with our partner. These small moments keep the passion and romance alive.
Nurturing effective communication is the backbone of any successful marriage and parenting partnership. When we practice active listening, and listening for understanding not listening to respond, we have a better understanding of our partners world. We can communicate openly about our feelings, concerns, and needs. It can be difficult to find empathy and understanding when we have a lot of negative interactions around parenting with our partner. Encouraging an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability where both partners feel safe sharing their thoughts and emotions can be difficult but so worth it. Avoid bottling up emotions, as it may lead to resentment or misunderstandings. Instead, approach conflict with the same openness and respect that you would give your friends, or even strangers.
Set time aside to communicate about what is going right and wrong in the marriage and parenting. By setting aside a regular time weekly, you can avoid the daily complaining, correcting or reminding which usually do not lead to an actual solution. Instead, reserve your comments and thoughts for a dedicated time to be heard and to problem solve. If you need some help in this area, feel free to reach out for some help.
The demands of parenting can be overwhelming, leaving little time for ourselves and our marriage. However, it's crucial to remember that taking care of ourselves is essential for being better parents and partners. Set aside time, even if it is 1 minute a day for individual self-care activities. Going to the bathroom in peace, taking a shower without kids coming in, taking a deep breath, saying 3 things you are grateful for, actually sitting down for a meal. It is also important to take time regularly (1x a week or so) to do something that takes a little longer, like reading a book, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby. Nurturing our well-being empowers us to bring our best selves to both parenting and our marriage. When we are able to support our partner in getting their self-care, and hold boundaries for ourself for our self-care, we will have more for not only our children, but for our partners too.
Parenting can be challenging, and it's okay to ask for help. Don't hesitate to seek support from family, friends, or even professional counselors if needed. Seeking support can alleviate stress and provide a fresh perspective on challenges in both parenting and marriage. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, and leaning on our support systems can be incredibly beneficial.
Be Patient and Understanding
Parenting is a learning process, and none of us are perfect. Be patient and understanding with each other, and remember that parenting and marriage are journeys of growth and adaptation. Embrace the imperfections and recognize that it's okay to make mistakes. Instead of being overly critical, celebrate the efforts you and your partner make in nurturing your children and your marriage.
Balancing parenting and marriage is undoubtedly a challenge, but with the right tools and mindset, we can navigate this journey successfully. By maintaining connection, nurturing communication, and finding a balance between parenting responsibilities and our marriage, we can strengthen our emotional bond and create a harmonious and fulfilling family life.
As parents, let's embrace this journey with open hearts and minds, knowing that by investing in our relationship, we are building a strong foundation for our children's future and our own happiness. Remember, it's the little efforts and gestures of love that go a long way in nurturing a lasting and loving partnership amidst the beautiful chaos of parenting and marriage.
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate mental health support for moms postpartum. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!