Marriage shift after children - HELP!
Q: Help, I feel like I’ve lost my husband! Our relationship was perfect before becoming parents, we would laugh, go out, he was my best friend but with the strain of a 4 year old and a 2 yr. old, I feel we just aren’t spending enough time together. We have started fighting and he just looks unhappy all the time. How would you recommend I reconnect with my husband and have "me time" so I’m not a "mum - ALL THE TIME!!!!!!
A: I personally blame Barbie for this unrealistic view of motherhood and relationships. Growing up we all saw how she swung from fantastic career to fantastic career, looking amazing, keeping a palatial home, ensuring her perfect little blonde child looked as incredible as she did and holding on to that hottie Ken. Because let’s be honest, motherhood and relationships post baby aren’t like a Barbie playset AT ALL! In fact, the truth is more painful than standing barefoot on a Lego at 1am.
It all starts when you’re pregnant. Everyone asks how the baby is. No one asks how you are. You’re merely the vessel carrying this little miracle. Unfortunately, that continues on after the baby arrives. It’s all about bub. You stop feeling like a saucy minx and more like a sauce covered kitchenhand. You run around after your babies, making lunches, doing laundry, going to work, cleaning up, making dinner and eventually after everything is done and dusted, you fall asleep, mouth open, snoring, still holding onto your half full glass of wine while hubby watches the same segment of Fox Sports for the third time. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
No. It really doesn’t.
Now. Cast your mind back to the pre-child days where you and your man lived life LOUD. The most important questions were things like where to eat that night or where to take your latest mini-break. You were a sexier than Margot Robbie in the Wolf of Wall Street and your hubby’s efforts in the romantic stakes made Ed Sheeran look like a pitiful amateur.
Fast forward to today. A minibreak is being able to go to the toilet by yourself. Sex is a statement of gender. Romance is your husband asking if you want a hand to put the kids to bed. Where you go to eat, is entirely dependent on whether or not they have a kids menu, close onsite parking and close to home so you can drive your tired, screaming children home with minimal fuss.
Doesn’t really paint a romantic, rose tinted picture.
Let’s break it down into pieces. First and foremost, let’s start with you. No one feels sexy when you’re dressed in leggings and a t-shirt that’s covered in this afternoon’s apricot and banana. You don’t have time to do your hair. Your leg hair has probably gotten so long that people are now describing it as “lush”. And you’re tired. Oh my, the fatigue. All of this is not conducive to an electric love life. Or, let’s be honest, it’s not even conducive to open communication. Mothers have the tendency to put everything and everyone before themselves. It’s an evolutionary little thing that we’ve picked up along the way. And while mothers these days seem to pride themselves on just how much they put their family before themselves, it’s really not doing any of us any favours at all. An unhappy mother is an ineffective mother. Kids pick up on emotion. You need to have some time to focus on YOU. What do YOU need to be happy? Forget about hubby for the minute. Let’s just talk about YOU. What made you happy before the kids were born? Is this still within the realms of possibility? I mean, sure, backpacking across the wilds of Peru would make most people happy, but we have to work on what is possible. For me, I am a beach bum from way back. My escape is the ocean. When I had my twins, when I needed to reconnect with who I used to be, I hit the beach for the day. Remembered what it felt like to be kid free. Felt the underrated freedom of only carrying a beach bag as opposed to a nappy bag, lunch bags, spare clothes, a double pram… the list goes on. So think about what YOU need to reconnect to the old you. What makes you, YOU. Whatever it is, do it. Call a family member, a friend, put the kids in day-care for a day, organise a babysitter if you absolutely have to and go out and enjoy the peace and freedom of being you the woman. Not you the wife and mother. Do it once a week. Once a fortnight. Once a month. Whatever your budget and schedule will allow. Feel human again. Feel sexy. Dress up. Dress down. Do whatever. The trick is to strike a nice balance between the old you and the new you. And remember: you deserve to feel gorgeous.
Now. Hubby. Despite what the Twilight movies taught us, all men aren’t brooding, deep thinking, morose individuals. Men are SO far from that. Men are generally pretty easy to keep happy. They want a full belly, a woman who loves them, 24 hour access to Fox Sports and the reassurance that everything is good in their world. Also, the whole fact that your lives have changed forever takes a little while to hit the dads. As mothers spending 24 hours a day with our babies, we have that light bulb epiphany fairly early on. Generally speaking, dads return to work and their lives aren’t as disrupted as ours tend to be. So they don’t click that the responsibility free fun is over until your babies are well and truly out of nappies.
So your husband is, in essence, grieving for the life you both had. He is missing that saucy minx, missing the great times you had together. He’s missing the freedom you both had. And that’s the thing to remember here: he’s not wanting his freedom back, he’s wanting the wild times that you BOTH had. He’s having to share you with two little people who are what I’d like to refer to as time vampires.
As you’re both tired, both focusing on the other parts to your lives (work, kids, house, mortgage, etc.) you’ve stopped focusing on the most important part of your life: the love between the two of you that created all these other things around you.
Here’s your plan of attack:
Get gorgeous. This doesn’t mean doing anything to your appearance, it means doing things that make you feel gorgeous. Go for a walk every night. Dye your hair. Go to the beach. Start looking after yourself. Get in touch with the naturally radiant you.
Step outside your mothering role. Once you feel gorgeous, you’ll start exuding that innate sex appeal and confidence. You’ll feel great. Look great. One thing I enjoyed doing as a new mum was joining my husband on the couch, wearing only nice underwear. Men are visual creatures. I give you my word your hubby will respond favourably.
Give hubby attention. Show him that he is still important to you. He’s your man! He is the family you CHOSE. Let him know you still choose him.
Go for dates. It doesn’t have to be a night out. It can be a breakfast, lunch or coffee. Whatever. Anything is a date as long as you treat it like one. You don’t even have to leave the house.
Talk to him. Ask him how he’s feeling. It might not be related to you at all. It could be work. It could be something else. Do not, I repeat, do not ask him to tell you what’s “really wrong”. Men aren’t like women. If they say “work is driving me crazy and I’m really tired”, they mean exactly that. However, respect what he says and if possible, agree to work on it together.
Rediscover the love you have for each other. For me, it was my husband’s mind that really hooked me. After we had the kids, I made sure we sat and talked – about anything – for at least an hour after we’d put the terrors to bed. His mind was still sharp as a tack, he was still as fascinating as he ever was. What made you fall in love with hubby? What made him fall in love with you?
Having a family does change the dynamics of a relationship. Anyone who says otherwise should be burned at the stake for heresy. It’s not easy juggling this new gig that you have going on but it’s not impossible.
The key is to look after YOU. You are a better mother, better wife, better person when your needs are met. You will be calmer, happier, less stressed and more involved. Your husband will see the difference in you, he will feel that his job as a husband is complete because you’re happy again and boom! All is good in the world again,
Being a mother isn’t the end of your old world. But it is the start of a massive new adventure.