by Finola I am the mom of two beautiful daughters aged six and eight. I am also the wife to Tony for almost 15 years now. Guess who has gotten most of my attention for the last eight years?
You always hear that you need to take time as a couple once you have kids, or else you can grow apart. Blah, blah, blah. I never really paid too much attention to that advice. I allowed the small people in our house to absorb me, fully and completely. I didn’t adjust well to being a working parent, so when I wasn’t at work, I was at home with my daughters. I felt guilty if I went out to get my haircut. I felt guilty if I went shopping. I felt guilty if I met a friend for a coffee. I felt guilty if Tony and I went out for an evening. This meant that most of my time was spent either at work or at home. I did very little to nurture myself, and I did even less to nurture my marriage. It was working well enough for a long time.
So I would only see a movie in a theatre once a year. So I would only eat out at a restaurant with Tony one or twice a year. So I was hesitant to get a babysitter. So Tony and I weren’t laughing together very often anymore. There was tension and aggravation and sighing. I was feeling tired lonely and sad, and I didn’t feel like I could talk to Tony about it. It wasn’t drastic, and it wasn’t all bad, but we were disengaging from each other and our connection was gradually diminishing.
I think those first few years of having children are much harder and more stressful than we realize when we are in the midst of diapers, feedings and sleepless nights, because we are just so busy getting through each day. It isn’t until the children grow a little and become more self sufficient that we step back and realize just how freaking hard those early years were, and just how much of an effect it all has on yourself and your relationship with your partner.
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that Tony and I are taking some positive steps now to reconnect as a couple. I personally am working to change the way I react when Tony doesn’t do things like they should be done as I would do them. I am taking a breath and laughing at his absent-minded professor moments rather than getting angry. Is it really the end of the world when I find the ice cream in the fridge instead of the freezer? Or if he consistently mixes up which of our children likes to drink milk with dinner and which one likes water? I could even laugh the other morning when I found the coffee pot empty, the chamber filled with water, but the basket open and still containing yesterday’s coffee grounds. AT 5:30 IN THE MORNING WHEN I WAS EXPECTING TO FIND MY HOT COFFEE READY AND WAITING FOR ME. See? Progress.
Tony and I have also started having date nights - so far we have gone to a wedding, we went Christmas shopping, we have had coffee and lunch dates, and we spent a whole day at the Nordic spa together. When I leave for work in the morning, I have started kissing him good-bye again. When I walk past him in the kitchen, I reach to touch.
It is not magic but these small things make a big difference. We are laughing more. We are talking more. We are more connected and more present. We need to keep doing these positive things; these generous things. We need to take care of our children and take care of ourselves and our relationship too.
Last week I had a meeting at the end of the day in another part of the city. I had to take a bus and then walk a short way to get there. I had Googled the directions earlier, but hadn’t bothered to print them out because they were so simple. This is a big mistake when you are directionally challenged like I am. I got lost. I pulled out my cell phone, called Tony, and he was there to pick me up within five minutes and drive me to my meeting. He didn‘t roll his eyes or complain about me being lost, yet again. He was just there for me, like he always is. It really hit home that day just how lucky I am.
It may be almost impossible for partnerships to come out of those early years with kids completely unscathed, but keeping the connection going is worth spending time on and thinking about while the children are still young. This stuff is hard and I can only imagine that it gets an awful lot harder if you wait until your children are all grown up.
I wanted to post this on Kids in the Capital because I know that many of the contributors and readers here have really young children and are in the middle of those really hard years. If you can remember to take just a little bit of time each day, each week or each month for each other, it really will go a long way.
Finola is married to Tony and together they have two girls who are 6 and 8. You can read her blog at www.finolablog.com or find her on Twitter @Finola.