Before I had kids, I'd look at my friends who were already parents -- tired and run-down, lacking any of that spark they had pre-baby -- and think, "Oh, I would never let that happen to us." It's what we all say before we become parents, as we make googly eyes at each other over a shared cheese plate and shake our heads at those poor, sad saps (the parents of young kids) at the next table.
When I was pregnant, we agreed to still make our relationship a priority. We would get babysitters regularly. And, since we were homebodies anyway, we wouldn't really mind staying in most Saturday nights, right? But what neither of us was really prepared for was the strain that having kids put on our day-to-day. Despite our best intentions, our babies put a damper on our relationship.
Of course, I had a feeling that all of the sleepless nights and exhaustion would take its toll on our sex life. Several studies have pointed to the fact that a couple's relationship and sexual satisfaction plummet after having a baby. It's not such a surprise -- you're not only tired and overwhelmed, but you're still carrying baby weight, you've consistently got spit-up in your hair and you're probably not feeling much like your sexy self. You're not feeling like yourself at all.
It's been 15 months since I had my twin boys, and I'm still waiting to get my mojo back. The good news is that I've lost a lot of the baby weight, I go to the gym regularly, and I finally started wearing jeans instead of yoga pants. But I still feel more like a Mommy than a MILF. And at the end of a long day with twin toddlers, I don't have much energy left for myself, much less my husband.
Yes, I'm a total cliche -- the wife with the headache, who's too tired, who snaps, "Not now!" with annoyance. I've sort of accepted this state of blech, and assumed my husband understood where it was all coming from. He knows I'm exhausted all the time. He knows I'm feeling unattractive. He knows I've probably got some low-grade anxiety going on. He gets it, I kept thinking.
But, he doesn't get it, not really. He feels like I'm pulling away from him, like I don't care about him as much as I used to, like I'm no longer attracted to him. And with all of my nagging and snapping and frustration, how could he not feel that way?
My husband is a loving, sweet and wonderful man, devoted to me and to our babies. I'm so lucky to have a husband who sees past the extra baby weight and my penchant for sweatpants, and actually still thinks I'm pretty. So why am I such an unappreciative bitch? It's not like we fight a lot, we don't. We still love each other and like each other and say as much. Things are just...different. It's like we're too tired for each other. Not tired OF each other. Just tired.
So how did it get to this point? Easy. I allowed for all of the excuses. I decided that being overwhelmed and overweight were reason enough to get lazy about my marriage. I decided that all of the love and devotion and encouragement I was giving to my babies meant that I didn't have to give as much love, devotion and encouragement to my husband. He doesn't need me as much as my little ones do, I rationalized.
Plus, where is the support and encouragement I deserve, huh? I'm taking care of the babies and working and making dinner most nights and running errands and walking the dog. How about some appreciation here? It's a little hard to be all adoring of your husband when you feel like you need a little adoration in return.
The reality is, our lives have changed. In most ways, having our twin boys have absolutely changed our lives for the better. But it's made other things -- like our relationship -- more of a challenge. And we're not alone in that. I've asked myself over the last year, and in conversations with friends, "We hear that having kids is so hard on a relationship and yet, we're so surprised when it happens to us. Why?" I guess it's because we all go into our relationships thinking we're different, better. We think we can beat the odds, that it'll be different for us, that we've learned from our friends' mistakes.
But nothing changes a relationship like adding a new little person (in my case, two at a time) into the mix -- one who needs every ounce of your time and energy and love. No matter how many date nights or nannies you have, your significant other is suddenly number 2. And that takes some getting used to.
For me, what's helped is knowing that I'm not the only new Mom going through it. The more we share our frustrations with each other, the more we realize that this is all normal. It helps us realize that it's not just our own husband who doesn't seem to know how to help, who isn't being appreciative, who seems worn thin and worn out. No, it's not an excuse to just throw up our hands and say, "Well, one day, it'll get better." But it at least helps us realize that having kids is hard on any marriage, period.
So what do new parents do to help their marriages? I wish I knew. Maybe it's just accepting the new dynamic, instead of trying to get back what you once had, or assuming the relationship is broken because it's not what it once was. Maybe it's about trying your best to stay in stride with each other, even when you're both rattled by life's new rhythms.
I do think that some things need to remain constant, that some things, you need to be vigilant about, no matter how tired you are. You need to show each other affection and appreciation, even if it's a twenty-second hello hug or saying "thank you" for the gestures big and small. But I think you also need to remember that the person you fell in love with is still there, even if you have these new roles to play as Mom and Dad. I think most couples do make their way back to each other once their babies get a little older, once life gets a little easier. As long as you're committed to your relationship and to your partner, as long as there is still love there, you're going to be okay.
Did your relationship suffer after having kids? What did you do or do you do to get the spark back?
Going to baseball games
Riding bike rides in the nice weather
Playing outside after work/school
Going for walks outside