By Heather Somaini
Somehow, before these babies of ours, we all had lives. We went to dinners at trendy new restaurants. People sought our advice on where to go and if the food was up to par. We went to the movies when we wanted, sometimes more than once in one weekend. We sounded smart. Sometimes we went to museums. We shopped…in stores. We had more disposable income. We had energy. We even looked good.
And then one day we decided we must have children. We multiplied, often with a good bit of difficulty. We stayed up late with our new, perfect creatures – holding them, rocking them, singing lullabies to them. Soon we were bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, spit-up on, peed at and pooped on. We were tired, out of shape and without knowledge of anything anyone would think was interesting. We were parents.
I remember waking up from the fog (or coma) of having twins. It was 3+ years in. The kids were getting easier. They were in pre-school and almost potty trained. They slept through the night with ease, ate all kinds of regular food and could communicate, with words, most of what they needed and wanted. But then something happened. Tere and I woke up one day wondering who that stranger was in our bed. We had let our relationship falter. We hadn’t taken those date nights that everyone told us to take. We argued over how to parent. The dynamic of our relationship had completely changed. We were distant, cranky and not very loving. We barely liked each other.
There is a great quote by Catherin Aird: “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a terrible warning.” My list today is all about keeping your marriage alive and vital and happy. Tere and I have been taking months and months of working on “us” to try and just remember what we used to be like. It’s getting better, slowly, a little bit at a time. If I can’t be an example of how to have a happy marriage with babies, then I guess I’m going to have to be a terrible warning. Please, please, please do some of the things we didn’t do. I really wish we had. You’ll thank me later for it.
1. Date Night Every 14 Days
You must go on dates with your spouse. We always said we didn’t need to. YOU DO! You need time to unwind and remember what being a grown-up is like without having a baby attached to you demanding all of your attention. Do not feel guilty about this – please!
2. An Unexpected Gift
This goes a long way, trust me. It doesn’t have to be much. Something small you saw at the Starbucks or a card you bought online. Just do something that says you were thinking of her/him.
The last thing you want to do is be romantic on most days, but do it. Grab that hunky man of yours or saddle up to that delicious wife you have and plant a big one on ‘em. Make it happen!
Handle conflicts and parenting disagreements productively. Look for the win-win and if you’re feeling yourself digging in too hard on a particular issue, back off; come back to it when the fire has left your veins.
5. Tell Her You Love Her
I know she’s driving you crazy with her indecisiveness or mood swings but tell her you love her and that you’d marry her all over again. I know his distance is exasperating but tell him you love him and need him.
6.Talk for 20 Minutes Every Day
This one may seem impossible but take 20 minutes every day to talk. I know 20 minutes feels like a long time when you have nothing to say, but do it anyway. Talk about things that you used to talk about before kids. Talk about something. Just talk.
Yes, you have to have it. Do it. I don’t care if you think you’re fat or unattractive or tired. Do it. Don’t let this die!
8. Your Spouse is Most Important
Remember to make your spouse the most important person in your family. Your kids need you but your wife or husband WANTS you. Make sure her/his needs are being met too. Maybe your wife needs an hour at the spa to herself? Maybe your husband needs to mow the lawn in peace and then take a nap on the couch with the remote in his hand. Be generous and give her/him something s/he needs.
9. Get Away
Try and get away for a weekend (one overnight is enough) twice a year. Someone can watch those kids for one night!
Did I tell you to have sex? Right. Just thought you needed a reminder. I certainly do!