So. I am a busy mother. My husband is an active father. We are a duet with two developing backup singers.
Amongst the basic tasks of motherhood for me include meal planning, bathing maintenance, entertainment procurement, schedule policing, clothing upkeep, emotional tending, and academic assurance, as well as most delegation procedures to others. (Notice I said “basic tasks.”) My husband is the CFO of the family, overseeing all financial transactions and economic journaling. He also creates, on occasion, a mean rack of ribs and a fine baked mac and cheese. He’s also one hell of an interior decorator and tent pitcher.
We try to sustain a semblance of “before-kids” closeness in our marriage of almost eight years when we are not, in tandem, the human resources department of a small business in our city. It is hard, simply not just because we have young children and are raising them with 98% of our families living 500+ miles north of us, but because relationships of any caliber worth holding onto takes some superhuman hard work. Even when there are two individuals who know more about one another than anyone on the planet, who work together and live together and who are generally congenial, kind-hearted, God-fearing “xennials.”
It is still SO HARD.
For the most part, dynamic, twenty-first century parenthood collides with our ability to speak one another’s love languages daily. Oftentimes, we become one another’s sacrifice because we are dedicated to encouraging our children to become truly decent human beings—a feat that takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources, sometimes more than we have in one day.
I “speak” the primary languages of quality time and words of affirmation equally. My husband is about physical touch. It could be deduced that these languages go hand-in-hand; in fact, quality time is usually in direct, cyclical correlation, by nature, to some suggestive touching. For us, it’s not a difficult cause-and-effect because we remain quite attracted to each other’s presence.
However, with a lack of consistent childcare, and my husband being “on-call” 24 hours a day, as well as a strict eye set towards our budgeting, regular dating can involve some complicated configurations. Stress does not help. Which eat away at my love language. Which eats away at my husband’s love language. When I’m mentally exhausted, I don’t care. When he’s tired, he sleeps on the couch.
He gets grouchy. Frankly, I become Joffrey Baratheon.
“Evil kid tyrant” is not a close enough description of me.
It is well-documented that intimacy in marriage changes once children are in the picture. “Whether it’s your first or fourth child, your relationship still sees a jolt,” says Margarita Tartakovsky for PsychCentral. “. . .Take this surprising statistic: Within three years of their child’s birth, about 70 percent of couples experience a significant slump in their relationship quality, according to the Gottman Relationship Institute.” (Tartakovsky, “3 Relationship Pitfalls When Entering Parenthood & Pointers to Help”)
The article’s writer quotes sleep deprivation, emotional and physical intimacy decline, and a lack of division of labor as issues that crop up, or increase, once a couple has a baby. (Tartakovsky, “3 Relationship Pitfalls When Entering Parenthood & Pointers to Help”) We have seen these issues over the years peak and valley, as well as the ups and downs of a business at the mercy of clients and money flow and the dictations associated with one round of “Terrible Two’s,” “Terrible Three’s,” and “Bossy Four’s,” with another set of lessons coming right up.
Life waits for no one.
The way through the rough times, we have discovered, is with augmented communication, which ebbs and flows like anything else. When we are “on” and vibing, we are lit like Christmas trees, replete with the satisfaction of knowing what we want and how to get there today. We can pour from glass-half-full. It’s easy to say we try harder after talking with complete candor, and we do. Over time, though, efforts wane because life photobombs our peaceful portrait.
We are mature and compromise. Sitting and plotting our tweaks and adjustments becomes a form of intimacy. Knowing that we can seek professional assistance, as needed, is an honest advocacy towards a healthy, nurturing, loving relationship that our children will respect and seek out when older.
Every now and then, we have to fund a babysitter, dinner, and a movie. Every now and then, I have to slip on the heels in the bedroom. That kind of promised quality time and physicality is what will keep the both of us happy and favored.
Even when the kids knock on the door.
Tartakovsky, Margarita. “3 Relationship Pitfalls When Entering Parenthood & Pointers to Help.” PsychCentral, n.d., https://psychcentral.com/lib/3-relationship-pitfalls-when-entering-parenthood-pointers-to-help/. Accessed Feb. 11, 2018.