First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage . . . but that's not all. We spend tons of time and money planning for our kids before and after conception. What they will look like, who they'll be named after, how their nursery will be decorated. Very little effort is spent planning how mommy and daddy's first joint creation—their relationship—will change. Kids bring joy, satisfaction, and a whole mess of other feelings along with stress, frustration, sleep deprivation, and loss of libido. I mean really, who feels like some special attention after they’ve gotten exactly three hours of real sleep, haven’t showered in days, and have finally gotten the little one down for a nap? Relationships suffer, but that doesn't have to happen. Whether you're a newbie welcoming baby number one or have lots of kids already, keep these things in mind if you want to childproof your relationship:
Not just to your partner, but to the relationship, and to the person you want to be within the relationship. This goes for those who are both married and unmarried. My girls' father and I were never married, but I knew I could count on him even after a sleepy hormone-induced rage overtook my senses. We made choices for the good of the relationship, not just because it was the right thing to do, but because it was another way we could show each other that we were in it for the long-haul.
Kiss (a lot)
Whenever you can. Many studies have been done on why we kiss and how it relates to pair bonding. Locking lips releases an armada of nerve impulses and chemicals affecting almost every other major system of the body. Your heart beats faster, your blood stream pumps hormones to your brain, and you almost feel a natural high. All from a kiss! So stay high on your partner. Kiss every chance you get, and keep reminding your brain of the chemical bond you enjoy sharing with your special significant other.
See your partner as your children do
Be silly and enjoy the things that attracted you to them in the first place. View your partner as a playmate. Be grateful for every moment with them. I can't stress how important it is to give your partner a warm welcome at the end of the day.
Fly solo sometimes
Don't feel pressured to spend every brief child-free moment together. Sometimes everyone just needs a little time to decompress and recharge. Maintain old friendships and make new friends individually. There's no need to be a “me too” kind of couple that does everything together. Maybe you aren't into that classic rock band your hubby can't wait to see, and sometimes you just don’t want anything more than a glass of wine and silence . . . and that’s okay!
Be transparent with your needs and feelings
Transparency goes both ways. Let your partner know how you're feeling and what you need to get back on the sanity track. Be honest and forthcoming, and more importantly, be a safe place for your partner to do the same. A little chat can go a long way in building a trusting and supportive relationship even with the stress and work of a growing family.
Having children doesn't have to be the end of being a “couple.” Maintain your special bond and let your relationship be the nucleus of your happy home. Invest and grow the relationship as if it were new. Keep talking, do the work, choose your battles, and watch how your family's emotional health and well-being flourishes. Happy parents equal happy kids.