Children are one of the miraculous products of your love in marriage. But they can easily and quickly become the focus of your entire life. When they’re babies, you play the role of father/mother 24/7 - even when you’re working, your mind is with them (even if subconsciously). Your whole life becomes diapers, feedings, bath time, reading books, play time, cleaning up, more cleaning, and then… when all that is done, you have more cleaning up. And then at the end of the day when you’re exhausted and ready to retire, to relax a little, maybe even go to sleep, they work their way into your bed because they’ve already worked their way into your hearts.
They have impeccable timing, don’t they? They ignore you until you’re on the phone or in an important conversation and then suddenly they NEED you. They are fast asleep until it’s sexy time in the bedroom and they conveniently have a nightmare and need you.
Your living room is full of toys. Your car plays children’s music. You know all the Disney characters. Meals are centered around what they like and will tolerate. You scream cuss words as you step on legos, see rubber duckies in the bathtub that used to be your peaceful spa sanctuary, and suddenly find your identity centered around these cute and sweet little beings.
Just after having a baby, it can be hard for women to even take a shower, much less think about her husband, fulfilling his needs, or having sex. And then there’s jealousy - Wives can be jealous of husbands because they can escape to work everyday and husbands can be jealous of the children and the attention they get from mother. Sound familiar?
If you’re not careful, your relationship with your life partner, your best friend, will take a back seat to these precious little beings and your connection with your spouse begins to suffer. With a diminishing connection, communication starts to suffer, you argue more, become easily frustrated, become sensitive to little things, you feel insignificant, can become lonely, and you may even start to question if you’re even a good fit after all.
At the start of marriage (before children), women typically will fall into the arms of her lover at the end of the day - but after having children, women look forward to their husbands coming home so they have help. A new mother will say, “oh, it’s you - great - can you change the baby’s diaper while I go shower? And would you mind starting dinner if I’m not out in time?” Men go from looking forward to returning home at the end of their work day to dreading their homecoming because their wife seems needy and it’s all so overwhelming. In this stage of young family life, women want their husbands to NOT need them at the end of the day because they’re so tired - they need him to be okay on their own. But this leaves men feeling unwanted, insignificant, and unloved.
Wives experience ‘husband guilt’ because they don’t have the capacity to pay attention to their husbands like they did before the children came. And they feel guilt leaving their children to do something for themselves - so women feel guilt on two fronts. Men feel guilty at the feelings of dread when it’s time to go home to experience this new chaos that’s called family life. Both partners feel pulled in many directions.
People joke about men having selective hearing, but women do too when they become mothers. Women are so in-tune with baby sounds and all things baby, they're on high alert all the time. This easily and quickly turns into one very bad habit - and we don’t do it on purpose - but women can only handle so much stimuli in one day, so they tune out insignificant things and are in alignment with things necessary for survival. And unfortunately for men, that means a husband’s voice and conversations can quickly be turned out. This leaves men feeling insignificant, unwanted and not needed. But really this is a biological, innate trait in women.
Husbands and wives have their own daily struggles and in an ideal world, they should lean on each other for strength and support - but it’s difficult when both feel depleted or stressed.
Most marriages begin to really suffer when children enter the picture because of all the reasons I’ve just listed. This is the time in relationship when you have to buckle up and work harder than ever before. This is the time to make the most effort to keep your connection strong. With a little effort up front, you can not just survive being married with children, but you can THRIVE. Your relationship isn’t the only thing that will benefit from your effort - your children will be happier, more secure, healthier, display better behavior, and grow up with more self confidence and a healthy self worth.
The main components necessary to THRIVE while being married with children are:
#1 - Maintain Your Connection
#2 - practice Self Care
#3 - have a Social Life
#4 - Exercise Daily
#5 - maintain Healthy Nutrition
#6 - get Quality Sleep
#7 - Learn How to Fight Right (so all the rest is harmonious) Let’s dive into each one.
#8 Maintain Sexual Intimacy
#9 Run your home with order, discipline and routine.
Alright, let’s dive into each one, starting with Connection…
To maintain your connection, you’ll want to spend 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time together daily (before the children wake or after they go to bed) - this means put away your phones, computers, turn off the tv - no distractions. But it’s crucial to make alone time together daily.
Give each other a warm greeting each time you see each other (even if you smell of baby vomit and dirty diapers).
Have regular date nights - some alone and some with other couples
Have a weekend away at least twice a year
Celebrate your anniversary (sans children!!!) and other special occasions like birthdays, job promotions, and any other kind of ‘win’.
Resist the urge to become 'too busy' or allow your children to become 'too busy’ - this will help you have quality time (alone as a couple and all together as a family).
Have family nights once a week - try to make it the same night each week so everyone knows not to schedule other activities that night and it gives everyone something special and fun to look forward to.
If you have a religious affiliation and pray, be sure to pray alone (sans children). Some things that are prayed about don’t need to fall on innocent ears, plus praying alone will deepen and strengthen your connection.
Self care is SUPER important in marriage, but especially after children enter your lives. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You are more than just a parent or spouse - so allow yourself to take a break from parenting and exercise a little ‘me time’ - AND allow it to be guilt-free. When you are refreshed, you’ll be a better parent and your children will be happier. Daily exercise, quality sleep, and proper nutrition are obvious, but there are a few other practices I recommend to help you take care of YOU.
One way to practice self care is Friend Time. You must have time with your friends - away from children and away from your spouse. It could be something as quick as a coffee, golf, time at the spa or a lunch date. But friend time is crucial.
Obtaining quality sleep is another self care practice. It’s crucial for maintaining a happy and successful marriage with children. Have a family member come in once a week or hire someone to help with the children one night a week so you are guaranteed at least one night of sound sleep.
I also recommend meditation. It does wonders for every area of your health and will help keep you sane. Just 20 minutes a day before the children wake or just before you sleep can make all the difference in the world. You can meditate while you are breast feeding - so no excuses not to.
Massage is another form of self care I highly recommend. It helps relax the muscles that can get tight from carrying a heavy baby or toddler, aids breastfeeding, helps you sleep better, and is just plain enjoyable.
Maintain your social life (outside of your own date nights) by doing things with other couples, families and friends. Take turns with other families hosting dinner parties while the children play, host neighborhood BBQ's or picnics, do anything where you socialize with other like-minded couples and families.
Daily exercise is a must - not just for your physical health, but for your emotional health and the health of your marriage. Our vision and mindset are the most important priorities we have when it comes to our health. Some people see exercise as fun and easy and others see it as hard and excruciating - why such a drastic difference? Mindset (belief).
If you don't have time for organized exercise (gym time or yoga class) create an at-home routine - they can be just as effective. But make time daily to stretch and strengthen your body, and take a 15 minute walk. Fresh air oxygenates your body (on a cellular level), calms your mind, and promotes healthier circulation.
If you aren’t sold on the benefits of exercise, check out what it does for you:
keeps you young and more flexible
reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
gives you more energy
boosts immune system
improves sex life
helps eliminate cravings
you start to eat better
have better mental focus
releases endorphins (acts as a happy pill)
To make exercise easier and more pleasant for those of you who detest or are resistant to it, here are a few tricks to make it better:
keep the eye on the prize (instead of concentrating on the immediate pain or inconvenience, focus on what your health will be like in 3, 6, and 12 months)
find something you think is fun and that you enjoy
work out with a friend(s), group exercise can greatly help with this
exercise from a place of love for yourself and your body (not with shame, disgust, fear of illness, or fear of weight gain)
use music - it can be powerfully motivating and help with stamina
If you’re like most parents, especially those with young children, you’re probably tired, sleep deprived, and under-nurished. If your diet isn’t on-point then you may not have the energy you want. If you eat sugar, you’ll experience blood sugar spikes and crashes which also contribute to exhaustion.
Have protein for breakfast, and large healthy lunch, and a smaller dinner at least 3 hours before bed. This will increase your energy levels.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’ll want to increase your caloric intake to not only sustain your milk supply but your energy as well. Also, drink at least a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated and ward off low energy, headaches and toxicity.
For everyone listening, lots of fresh fruit and veggies provide steady and energy throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks in your fridge so when you’re in a hurry, you have something you can grab and run with so you won’t make bad decisions and eat unhealthy things that suck your energy from you.
Hire someone, have family member come once a week. Without quality sleep your relationship will suffer, your parenting will suffer, your children will suffer, and so will your work performance. Hiring help will keep you sane, healthy, and your marriage much stronger.
Learn How To Fight Right / Conflict Resolution
I have a podcast episode and another blog article dedicated to this very subject, so please search for that episode to learn in-depth. But to sum this up quickly now, understand that all couples have conflict but few know how to successfully resolve it. Learning successful conflict resolution is crucial for a healthy marriage, but especially one with young children. With some tried and true conflict resolution skills, you and your spouse will be able to work through your past and current conflicts and gain the necessary tools for successful conflict resolution.
Maintain Sexual Intimacy
When children are young, parents are often exhausted, but it’s important to maintain your sexual relationship during this time. Women experience hormonal shifts after having a baby and libido can be at an all time low. For many men, witnessing the birth of a child can foster deep feelings of love for their wives so their desire for sex can be at an all time high. What’s important during this time is to clearly communicate your needs and desires. Ask for exactly what you want and need from your partner. This helps many people, especially women, be more open to intimacy during this time.
When children are young, couples often find that sexual spontaneity decreases or even disappears. If this is you, intentionally set aside time for intimacy, even if you have to schedule it on your calendar. Sounds silly, but planned sex is better than no sex.
Mothers of babies often don’t feel sexy when their body has changed, breasts are milk machines, and they smell of baby spit up all day. Allowing a woman time at the spa for nails or a massage is a great gift to a new mother. Also, allowing a woman time to take a hot bath or a steam shower can greatly help here. Find some decadent body scrubs and then oil your body as you step out of the shower for skin hydration. This will help more than you know.
Last tip for maintaining sexual intimacy is to kiss at least once a day for a few minutes, even if it is the first thing you do in the morning or last thing before you fall asleep. This will help maintain connection, releases oxytocin (the love hormone) and slowly helps build the arousal for each other again.
Run Your Home with Order, Discipline, and Routine
Have structure to your daily routine. Children (and most adults) thrive (are happy and healthy) when they maintain a fairly strict schedule: wake at the same time, have the same (relaxed) morning routine, eat meals at the same time, have a nightly routine, and go to bed at the same time. This allows for a more peaceful home environment because children know what’s expected of them and when, they aren’t let guessing, and it teaches the important rule in life of having self discipline, self control, and responsibility.
also… Consider hiring someone to clean your home - freeing you up to spend your time where you’d like. Grocery delivery is also a beautiful time saver. With Amazon Prime, you can enjoy the benefit of grocery shopping online with free to-your-door delivery.
For Parents with Babies
Nap while the baby naps. If you can’t sleep during the day, lay down and meditate, do breathing exercises or read to give your body some physical rest. This will greatly decrease exhaustion and you’ll feel refreshed the rest of the day. Consider co-sleeping during the nursing phase.
Spend a few minutes daily in gratitude for every blessing in your life - including your spouse. Show gratitude to each other and point out things you appreciate about each another. When parents focus so much on children, they tend to feel less significant to their partner. I recommend Tony Robbins’ Priming exercise. You can find it on YouTube. A little gratitude will go a long way with each other.
If you need help thriving while married with children… If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, please set up a consult with me at www.jenniferprice.com/apply
Until next time, love one another!