There are so many things I’ve struggled to adjust to since becoming a parent – managing my frustration, dealing with tiredness, learning some patience (disclaimer: I haven’t cracked any of these yet!) and riding the rollercoaster of extreme emotions. But one of the most difficult factors is accepting the changes in your relationship with your husband or partner.
I don’t think Hubs and I even realised how easy we had it until after we had Caterpillar. I remember the strange feeling of missing him during the first weeks and months – even though he was right there with me – simply because our quality time alone together had all but disappeared.
Of course, you adjust and things become easier as your child grows. You find your new dynamic as a family but I don’t think your relationship is ever quite the same. In some ways it suffers and it’s a struggle but in other ways it becomes stronger and more beautiful.
Before having a baby you slept peacefully and blissfully in each others arms almost every night. Nowadays, to quote my favourite Michael McIntyre moment, you don’t say ‘goodnight’ anymore you say ‘good luck’! As you have no idea how rough your sleep is going to be and how many times you’ll be disturbed in any given night.
Sleep deprivation is so incredibly difficult and it can really make you snappy and irritable, and the person you’re most likely to take this out on is your other half. Hubs and I have had many a night where we have snapped at each other in the early hours but I think the best way to deal with this is to have a what-goes-at-night-stays-at-night attitude. Frankly, we’re usually too exhausted to even remember the bickering by morning!
Also, if possible, couples need to share the workload at night – if one partner is dealing with all the feeds, toilet trips, sickness and general nighttime crying-for-no-apparent-reason this will clearly lead to resentment.
Hubs and I have had a joint account since we began living together 10 years ago for household bills and the like, however we still had separate accounts, used to buy personal stuff and treats for ourselves. When I switched to working part-time after having Caterpillar it made more sense to just consolidate everything into one pot. This is hard. Not having your own money to spend as you like can be a tricky adjustment. Unlike previous generations, we women are used to being completely financially independent so the sudden shift can knock you sideways.
Be as fair as possible and discuss any big purchases with each other first. If you can afford it, maybe agree a certain amount each month that you can simply go and spend on yourselves, on whatever you please, no questions asked. Hubs is much more sensible with money than I am so this is something I still really have to work on.
I feel like I have no right to even talk about this since I am so lazy with cleaning and always have been. I’m ashamed to admit that Hubs does the lion’s share although I like to hope I’m a little better these days than I used to be.
Share out the work as evenly as possible. Accept that you’re simply not going to keep the house as neat as you used to. Tackle it together – we tend to have at least one Sunday a month dedicated to cleaning, not my favourite day I can tell you but a necessary evil, and it does feel like you’ve achieved something by the end of the day. Most importantly, talk about it. Bottling up resentments about housework is not good for either of you, and neither is nagging and nit-picking.
Before baby you were free to do it as and when you pleased, now it has to be a little quicker, a little more organised and your energy levels are bound to be lower! Between sleep deprivation and dealing with parenting an unruly toddler (or more!) it’s unsurprising that lots of couples struggle to find the energy for sex.
Talk to each other. Hubs and I try to be as honest as possible about wanting more or less sex, that way if one party doesn’t feel – ahem – satisfied with the current situation then you’re not quietly seething and building resentment. Make sure you still make time for physical affection and spend some time together without the kids. Leading to…
Quality time together
Losing a large portion of this is easily the hardest thing for me. Hubs and I weren’t exactly party animals for a few years before Caterpillar arrived but we certainly enjoyed plenty of meals, drinks, parties etc most weekends. We’re also huge film lovers and used to go to the cinema most weeks too. We miss those frequent dinners and cinema dates a lot.
Use babysitters wherever you can. We are so lucky to have plenty of family nearby and we take advantage of date nights every couple of months and try to have one weekend away a year for special occasions too. Now that Caterpillar is that little bit older he can stay at Nanny and Grandad’s overnight which helps for the occasions when heavy drinking may be involved!
We used the crèche on holiday last year, just for two 2-hour sessions, but it helped loads as reminded us of our holidays from the old days.
When you are at home try to make time to have fun as a couple, keep laughing, and talk about stuff not related to the kids. We definitely need to get better at this as we tend to be too tired of an evening for much decent conversation but we try!
I suppose the biggest shift in our marriage is that we have gone from being a couple to being a team, and we have a pretty good parenting system going (until the next phase means we’re all thrown off again but anyway!) Most importantly, just keep talking; communication is so key to keeping that team working and fun.