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Marriage and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly. Most of us dreamed about having this far back into our own childhoods. Whenever we would think about our futures or what being a “grown-up” would like in our own lives, it usually included marriage and children. These were happy dreams that we had, with happy marriages and happy lives with our spouses and our children. It might have even seemed like it would be easy when we turned our thoughts towards the future. What did we know then?
You found the love of your life, and your goals were similar. You both wanted marriage and a family, and you were so excited to begin the journey into parenthood. It was an exciting time, filled with love and anticipation of what will come. Your lives were focused on each other, making each other happy, and you still had time to make each other priorities in your lives. It was easy. Kids, naturally, seemed like the next step.
We all know that having children and raising a family with the person you love can be exciting, fantastic, and rewarding. It is a beautiful honor to get the privilege of being parents. But, it’s NOT all easy. As a matter of fact, it will likely be the single most difficult thing you ever do in your entire life. It also will probably be the most important.
When starting a family becomes a reality, you quickly realize that EVERYTHING has changed. Your entire life is now dedicated to this tiny human that can do absolutely nothing for himself. You must be present and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And there is SO much to do. It’s truly amazing that one little person add so much to do to your lives. It might seem impossible to keep up, let alone have time for yourselves ever again.
If you both work outside the home, it can be even more difficult. How will you be able to do everything and still have a marriage? It’s a question that many, many couples grapple with. Division of labor and time for yourselves are difficult topics to navigate in a marriage, even when both partners don’t work outside the home, or even when there are no children in the picture. It is just that much harder to figure out when you have children and both partners work outside the home.
The good news is it is not impossible to have a satisfying marriage even with kids and work. If you do this right, children can actually enhance the marriage. While it can be difficult to navigate all of this in a healthy and positive way, there are things you can do to ensure that kids and work don’t ruin your marriage.
- Remember, first and foremost, that this family you are building is the result of the love you share with your partner. Do not ever forget the importance of the relationship with your partner and of the love you share. Always have each other’s best interest at heart. It sounds easy, but in the chaos of raising a family, can be easily forgotten. You start to turn on each other, only caring about how you can be done with your jobs so you can go watch football or that show that’s on tonight. I’ve even heard couples argue about who is more exhausted or whose job is harder. Don’t turn into that couple.
- Remind yourself that if your children’s basic needs are all being met, then you’re already doing a fabulous job. Everything beyond that is just frosting on the cake. Is your child fed? Clothed? Clean? Have a proper home and appropriate place to sleep? These are the things that children actually need. It’s quite easy to confuse needs with wants. Parents often feel obligated to be a perfect parent, or a great parent, and get confused even about what this means. You don’t need to entertain your child every minute of the day. They don’t have to always even be happy. A good enough parent is truly good enough.
- Discuss with each other your beliefs and expectations about the division of labor and who should do which tasks. Many couples still hold on to more traditional values, where the woman does the bulk of the childrearing and housework, but this can be difficult when both partners work outside the home. Some couples believe more in a straight 50/50 division of labor. It’s important to know each other’s views on this, and get on the same page. Many marriages have not occurred or even failed because two people realized that they have really fundamentally different ideas about how things should be.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Figure this out as much ahead of time as you possibly can. Talk about how much there is to do, and divide in whatever way works for you. Some people enjoy grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning or helping with homework. Express what you like best and least, and try to divide things fairly based on desires and needs within the family. Be realistic; this will be an ongoing conversation and you must stay flexible. If one likes doing the shopping, cooking and cleaning, but the other enjoys driving kids to activities and appointments, helping with homework and doing laundry, then a match has been made. If nobody likes any jobs much, then be creative. Draw straws, or rotate daily or weekly, like a chores chart, so that each of you must sometimes do each task at hand.
- Make time for each other. Your marriage must be a priority. Have date nights, make time for intimacy, and never take each other for granted. Express your love and desire for each other frequently. And sometimes, (see #2) it’s just more fun to leave the dirty dishes in the sink in order to go have sex with your partner before you collapse with exhaustion from the day. Don’t worry, the dishes will wait for you…they’ll still be there tomorrow. Intimacy is important for a marriage to survive, both emotionally and physically. If you neglect this aspect of your marriage, you are setting yourself up for disappointment down the road. With a little work, you can maintain this now, as opposed to the nearly impossible task of finding again once it has been lost.