There is a struggle to live and love while parenting. They tell you having children changes everything, but it is hard to understand what that feels like until it happens. We prepare by buying baby items and reading books which helps, but it doesn’t capture the magnitude of the struggle that comes with learning how to live and love while being a parent. Parenting kicks up any and all unresolved fears from your own childhood experience which can make the struggle even harder.
I am so grateful for our daughter.
She is the miracle that I didn’t think we could have. And, our lives are no longer our own. That may seem obvious, but everything we do requires more planning, consideration, patience, timing and understanding (sex included). There is now a 3rd member in our relationship. Her needs often take top priority, however the moment we stop making our individual and marital needs a priority, it all heads downhill. If my husband and I are exhausted, cranky, bickering or not on the same page, it affects all of us.
As parents, we often talk about and fear the guilt of screwing up our children. I have accepted that it is going to happen, however I seek to ward it off any way I can. This means modeling a loving relationship, self-love and acceptance, practicing patience and compassion.
Holy crap that was hard before I became a parent!!!
All of these things I am talking about are relevant issues when I work with couples and families. And, guess what? It doesn’t matter how old the children are… meaning even when working with families that have adult children, parents face the same dilemma of how to live and love.
When I sat down to write this, my cousin Joy popped in my mind. She and her husband faced enormous struggle to live and love while parenting. Their first born came at 27 weeks (barely viable), 2lbs 3oz. and spent over a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. Then 2 years later, pregnant again… with twins and another month in the NNICU.
If anyone knows the challenges of living life, loving your partner, and having children, it is Joy and Jonathan. I asked them to share their thoughts and feelings about maintaining their relationship and having children.
They were gracious enough to find time (don’t ask me how!) and offered this:
“Joy and I have had a rule we learned from a therapist where we must tell each other three unique things about the other’s day. These don’t even have to be important things, in fact sometimes they are quite mundane like “I got stuck in traffic again.” The idea is that you are establishing facts about your day to start a conversation, and it gives the other person a little window into what you have experienced.
It takes some time to become a habit.
Once you get accustomed to it you might actually look forward to asking the other person about what “3 things” happened today. Before children it was very easy to go do things outside the home. Movies, going to a restaurant, taking a day trip to a city a few hours away; all of these and more were common occurrences that became very difficult after we had our first daughter. And even though the total amount of times one can do these things will continue to be less one should really try to make the time to do so. This will mean getting a babysitter, planning it out well in advance, but it will be worth it. Parents need a little time to themselves and unless you make this time, it will not happen. If I had a chance to speak to my former self about parenting, I would simply encourage the old me to trust your instinct when you aren’t sure what to do. There are many sources of information about how to having a baby changes your life out there; books, the internet, not to mention old wives’ tales. But at the end of the day, you and your wife’s peace of mind relies on your understanding of the issue you are facing and taking action to address them.” -Jonathan
Talk, Listen And Be Thankful
“Find 5 minutes a day to have intentional conversation. No children. No devices. No distractions. Just make the time to talk and listen. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the day to day of life and “not see” your spouse. Be thankful for the 5 dishes. When I ask him to load the dishwasher, he loads five dishes and thinks he is finished…I come in and see all the other dishes. Instead of getting mad. I am thankful for the 5 he did put in. (Not all the time of course. There are days I get mad.)
Never, never, never stop laughing. When you lose joy you will lose each other. One of my biggest struggles is he parents differently than I do.
Men and Women see the world differently
He makes different decisions. He has a different view. For instance, I prefer to limit TV. He values just sitting there with them and watching Veggie Tales.I try to make sure they are eating right. He considers them eating at all a win. So I have to reel myself in and remember it’s the combination of us both that makes us succeed. We are both really good about making sure the other one has space; “away time”. We both value that and so we encourage the other to get away and unwind. We try to keep communication open. In our first few years of marriage we went to therapy. The therapist’s advice really resonated with us. He said,
“Every day ask each other to say 3 things that happened to you throughout the day.”
Even if we are crazy busy we will still find time to talk about our respective days. Which keeps the dialogue between us going. The best is yet to come. We have had incredibly dark days in our marriage. Days when we were not sure we were going to make it. But we took it one day at a time. And believed that the best truly is yet to come. Every day we change and learn and grow. I am not the same person that married this man and he is not the same either. But if we strive to grow together and embrace our differences. It might just be a marriage that endures forever. I hope so at least 😉 ” -Joy
This honesty of what Joy and Jonathan shared was touching to me.
They know better than anyone that there are no guarantees in life, children or relationships. They have learned that sometimes rolling with the punches is all we can do. They also mentioned that they have benefited from couples counseling and that it has helped them throughout their journey to living and loving each other while parenting their three beautiful children. If you are ready to have an understanding of the issues you are facing and have the courage to address them, contact me today.
Thank you Joy and Jon for your willingness to share, learn and grow.
You are an example to us all. Not an example of perfection, an example of the humanness we all share.