Reconnecting in the Throes of Parenting
There is nothing that can kill the romance in a relationship faster than being covered in sticky fingers, baby barf and chicken nugget dust all day. As a parent who survived three kids under the age of three, I know how exhausting it is to be touched all day. As much as I wanted nothing more than to be alone with my thoughts each evening, I knew that what was not what was needed in my marriage.
Life after baby can have a big impact on relationships. According to the National Childhood Trust, a community group dedicated to the support of new parents in the UK, lack of sleep, free time and money can have a negative impact on relationships. While this is not news to any seasoned parent, a new perspective could make all the difference.
Your partner is the one person in the world who is with you on this parenting journey. Your children may be the center of your world, but your relationship should be, too. Children in homes with parents who are unhappy can sense the tension and unhappiness and often blame themselves.
So, focusing on your relationship is a huge benefit to your children. While in the throes of parenthood, it’s important to understand your partner’s needs, as well as your own, and work to stay connected and keep the spark alive. Here are nine easy ways to do it…
Stay in touch
One thing that has always benefited my relationship is a good line of communication. My husband and I will stay connected during the day through text or a short call and then make sure to connect after work to discuss our day.
Even though I may not always be interested in his work stories or he in my tales of the schoolyard, it is important that we are each other’s confidants and secret keepers. When something happens, he is the first person I think to tell. We are able to share all the little things as well as the big things.
As important as it is to have good communication, it is also important to keep it spicy. Let your partner know that you are thinking about them and still find them attractive. A simple ‘morning sexy’ text can start the day off on the right foot and lead to a lot more fun. Your days are spent preoccupied with work and/or kids, but you can still make time to let your partner know that you are thinking about them.
Let’s get physical
Body after baby can be a big mental hurdle for some moms. Your body has carried another life for the better part of a year and then gone through the trauma of labour and birth. You are entitled to want to give it a bit of a break. Maybe the thought of your partner seeing your body in a different light has you concerned or you are simply too exhausted to add another task to your day.
I hear you.
One of the activities that saved my sanity when my kids were younger was running. I would meet up with a friend and rehash the frustrations of the day while we sweated and released some endorphins. It was a much needed mental break, but also gave me energy for other tasks.
It turns out I am not alone; a study on the effects of exercise on the female sex drive demonstrated improvements in physiological arousal after acute exercise.
Netflix and chill
While many parents are getting rid of their cable in favour of streaming services such as Netflix to save money, I think it can also have a great impact in the bedroom. When you have cable services, you are often obligating yourself to watch your favourite shows at a specific time. Instead of spending time with your partner once the kids are down for the night, you may feel compelled to watch the latest episode of ‘must-see TV’ instead of reconnecting.
Likewise, your partner could be more interested in the latest episode of a show or ‘the big game’ more than whether or not you would like a backrub. Ditch the cable and stream on your terms.
Ditch the TV
Speaking of screens, consider making your bedroom a screen-free zone. Not only can it improve your quality of sleep, but it will also get you out of the habit of falling asleep to the TV. Many studies have shown that having a TV in the bedroom can cause couples to have less sex. So why not keep your viewing limited to your living room? This means that when you go to bed you are able to cuddle and relax without an unwanted third party taking up your attention.
Speaking of unwanted third parties, my husband and I consider our evenings together sacred and will not budge on regular bedtimes for our three girls.
Since our first was born we had a strict schedule that included an early bedtime and early morning. As much as my husband and I love spending time with our kids, letting them stay awake later only hurts them, as well as taking away from our time as a couple. And while it would be nice to have the kids sleep in, every parent knows that never happens. All you end up with is overtired and cranky kids.
While you may not be in the mood for sex, don’t dismiss the importance of touching your partner. Make sure to kiss and hug each other hello and goodbye. Snuggle up together on the couch or in bed and hold hands.
As much as parents are conscious about making sure their children get enough affection, we can sometimes forget and our partners (and ourselves!) need it too. Don’t push away any affection just because you aren’t in the mood for intimacy. One doesn’t have to lead to the other but both are important for a solid relationship.
I know this one may seem like it’s easier said than done, but my husband and I have done date night on a dime for years. There are always going to be barriers to kid-free nights, but remembering your life before kids and getting that little hint of freedom is completely worth it.
When my kids were little, my husband and I were lucky enough to have my parents live close enough to come by once a week to spend time with the kids. With finances tight, my hubby and I would often turn a trip to the grocery store into an amazing night out by grabbing some coffee and discussing our day while we browsed the aisles without our (often screaming!) children.
My husband’s parents lived about two hours away so they would often take the kids overnight so we could have a weekend to relax at home or complete projects. We would also go up for overnight visits and then slip away for an hour or so to get some alone time at any cost.
Now that my parents have moved away and my kids are a little older I will often hit up my sister or teenage niece and nephew to watch the kids for the night. While we have to pay the kids (boo) we will save up Cineplex Scene points for free movies, buy cheaper movie ticket packages at Costco or use gift cards for special meals out.
We usually rope my nephew into watching the kids for Valentine’s Day so my husband can take me to a rom-com and we can sneak in some snacks. That’s our idea of a romantic evening out.
Sex is not the most important thing in a relationship, but it is important. The most important thing you can do for your sex life is to reframe your thinking.
Sex is not an item on your to-do list, nor
You both have much to gain by keeping the romance alive in your relationship. Setting a high standard for healthy relationships gives your kids a great example for their future and makes your home a happy place to be.
Making changes in your relationship can seem like a daunting task, but small changes can lead to big changes. Take it step-by-step and notice how these changes are impacting how you feel in your relationship.
What do you and your partner do to keep the romance alive? Let us know in the comments!
Melissa Robertson is a journalist with 15 years of experience as a professional writer. She is also a hot mess mom to three very energetic daughters, and loves to DIY, share design and upcycle projects and creating patterns. She shares it all on her blog, Keeping Up With The Robertsons and, luckily, has a husband who is a total softie and is usually willing to go along with her crazy plans!