With another little life joining our family soon I have found myself looking back. Back at all those tender sweet moments that you get to experience when you have a newborn to snuggle. Back at the prideful moment of introducing this new tiny person to people you love. Back at the awe of childbirth (and the pain and straight up terror that we endure as we straddle the line of this world and the next). Back at the exhaustion of those first few months. And back at the way you find yourself in your rawest form, and at the way that adding to your family flips the dynamics on its head.
I’m sure you’ve heard that having children changes things. And it’s true. While it changes your heart, soul, and body… it also shifts the way you relate to the people around you. And if you happen to be part of a duo when you become a parent… well… yeah, things change.
I will say the first time is definitely the hardest, but honestly it’s pretty likely that you will experience these things each time you have a baby. The following is a list of the things you can expect to change, the good, and the bad… and how to deal.
The Bathroom is Now a Hideout
You might as well hear it right out of the gate. Your bathroom will actually become your new sanctuary. If there is no man cave for dad, and no reading nook for mom then congratulations… you both get to share this new found oasis. Bathroom breaks suddenly last a minimum of 20 minutes. That shower you’ve been neglecting for the past 5 days… you may find yourself shedding a couple of tears during the hour you spend in there because it feels so good. Unless you’re hiding or showering while no one else is home… if you do that, you’ll just have anxiety attacks due to what I call “phantom crying” which is basically when you swear your kids are crying, but they end up being totally fine.
How to Deal: Take care of that oasis. Hire help to have it deep cleaned (this is my plan this time around) or clean it yourself as often as needed so that the space is enjoyable… candles, soft towels, and comfy rugs. Treat it like the retreat it is. Got room for a mini fridge in there? I honestly would support having one stocked with some water, mini wine’s, and sweet treats.
Physical Intimacy Is Put on Hold
You may be thinking that people blow this one out of proportion. I hate to say it, but they don’t. When you hear that your friends with kids aren’t hitting the sack as much as they used to, you may feel sorry for them. How can they live like that? Well. There’s a time and place for all things.
Truth is… When you have just added a baby, it takes time for your body to even desire anything other than rest and nutrients. The good new is that eventually, things level out. But during those first few years of growing your family you’ll find that sleep often wins over knockin’ boots. And the times it doesn’t is only because someone is babysitting… or you’re doing it with mild anxiety attacks because AHEM phantom crying happens during this too.
How to Deal: Have patience with yourself… and your partner. This phase shouldn’t last forever, but if it starts to feel like it is lasting longer than you hoped, communication is key. The phantom crying may not fade, but one day you’ll find that you are ready, totally ready, for intimacy again, I promise.
All You Talk About Is the Kids
I’m sure you have noticed the way in which people with children tend to flood your social media feeds with ALL. THINGS. CHILDREN. Myself included. Once you have a child in your life, you tend to find yourself consumed by their every little move. When they’re born, you literally find yourself excited by their bowel movements (this is true, ask any parent). The first year of their little lives is stuffed with “firsts” – actually, every year is filled with firsts. So it’s no surprise that in the same way your social media presence takes a sharp turn in kidsville, so does your relationship. I’ve heard of couples having to actually make a rule saying that when they have date nights, they cannot bring up their children. If you don’t have kids you’re probably scoffing right now at the entire premise of it… but seriously, kids have a way of eating up all of your extra brain space.
How to Deal: Think back to the old you. What were you into? Try to find those common interests that you shared with your partner and bring them back to life. If those things truly do not peak your interest anymore, start watching Game of Thrones together (or Grey’s Anatomy if that’s more your style), and voila – you have something that ISN’T your kid to talk about. You’re welcome.
You Turn Into a Rude Version of Yourself
We all know manners are viewed as one of the most important things we teach our children and yet… you can still end up not having a firm grasp on yours. This is because while those first few months after adding a new member to your family are filled with a few very excruciatingly simple things (feed the kids, wash the kids, potty the kids) – you still might find yourself in a bit of a fog. And with that, you might find yourself a bit snappy. The question “how was your day?” may suddenly send you over the edge. You’ll have moments where even the voice inside of your head asks you why you’re being such a brat.
How to Deal: Most of the times I have found myself being sassy or even down right rude, what I really needed was to ask for help. When it comes to parenting we often think that we know best, and we may start to feel that way toward our partner too. It’s wrong, and it’s limiting. You need to be able to depend on each other and speaking up when you need help is the best way to foster that.
You Will See Your Partner in a New Light
This could go either way. You’ll either see your partner (or the co parent) level up… or not. If they rise to the occasion there is a good chance you will actually find yourself falling deeper in love with them, or at least finding a deeper sense of respect that you may not have had before. Parenting is one of those things that does tend to bring out the best and worst parts of us (some of us find that we are a little more selfish than we expected, or maybe we don’t handle stress as easily as we thought)… and so sometimes a person doesn’t rise to the occasion the way we hope. This can be emotionally shattering, to say the least. But realizing this can be a great way for you to step into your own power, and many times people find themselves able to finally walk away from a toxic situation, inspired to find a partner able to provide consistency and love to not only themselves but also their children.
How to Deal: If you find yourself looking at your partner with big ol heart eyes, you better say it! That moment when your partner is rocking your baby to sleep, or teaching your big kid a new skill… those are the moments that need to be spoken on, because just like you, your partner could be feeling so many different emotions, and what appears easy could be anything but. So let them know how much joy seeing them be a good parent brings you!
If you happen to find that you are underwhelmed by what you’re seeing… I think it’s important to say something in those moments too. No one is a mind reader. It’s not your job to parent your children AND your children’s other parent… but it is your job to advocate for your child. Find a way to have the conversation in as civilized of a manner as possible, state your expectations and your boundaries. If they can’t meet them, it may be time to consider other alternatives (like counseling, or legal advice).
You Think More About the Future
When you have a child placed into your arms and life, all of a sudden your future plans start to shift. You both used to live day to day, making sure you had enough for rent, brunch, and booze. You saved your pennies for vacation getaways, and hardly ever thought about how good your medical insurance actually was. But now you’re consumed by thoughts of “what if’s.” The things that could happen in the future keep you awake. Things like living wills, life insurance, and college tuition start to be real factors.
How to Deal: Stay calm and save on! Truthfully, I come from the school of thought that the kids will be alright and that what it boils down to is teaching them what you can while you’re still around to do it. But life insurance is always a good idea.
You Experience True Joy
I bet you both thought you were happy, just the two of you, right? You were! You totally were. Another school of thought I totally connect with is that not everyone is meant to be a parent. Some of us have genetic factors to consider, some of us have deeply rooted beliefs about overpopulation, and some of us flat out just don’t have the desire to do it. If that’s you, you’ll receive no judgment from me because I don’t think having kids is the end all be all.
But if you do choose to be a breeder, like me, I can almost guarantee that you will look back and say something like “I can’t believe I ever lived without this level of happiness.” Parenting is so hard, even harder if you have a child that isn’t “perfect” – but still their smiles, their innocence, and the laughter they bring you both is on another level. Before kids I couldn’t imagine actually laying my life down on the line for anyone, but now I would gladly do it, for a child (not just my own!) You’ll find that the love you have for your little ones is greater than the love you have for your partner, because it’s different. It’s instinctual. If you asked your partner, they would probably say the same. It’s the kid over you, every time.
How to Deal: This is part of the magic of parenthood, in my opinion. Finding something that brings such a special kind of love into your life is one of the most amazing experiences this world can offer. There’s no need to allow yourself to be consumed with jealousy or resentment. Instead, allow yourself to bask in the truth that your children are well loved by both of you, and that their best interest will be looked after even in your absence.
Seeing Your Partner Makes Your Day
Here is my favorite thing about bringing a child into your dynamic. All of a sudden, what was once a commonplace moment of your day: seeing each other at the end of your day. Is the best part of your day. When the kids are tiny, this is the moment you get to catch a break, take that shower, or just have some much needed conversation where you don’t use your baby voice. When the kids are older you get to revel in this moment, because you will see how excited they are to see your partner, and it’s everything.
How to deal: This is another one of those things that needs to be spoken on. If you know that you’re sitting there watching the clock waiting for your missing puzzle piece, then do your best to make that known, often. And try not to let the excitement of possible alone time turn you into that rude person we talked about before!
So there you have it! These are the things that I have found change since my husband and I started bringing children into our little world. Although, there’s probably way more… what did I miss?