I spent almost every Friday and Saturday night babysitting from the time I turned 11 until I moved away to college. Kids are fun. Kids are easy. I don’t know why people say this parenting gig is so challenging. You give them food, play a game, and tuck them into bed. Easy peasy. Then, my husband and I got pregnant.
9 months of bliss
I spent the 9 months leading up to the day our son arrived thinking and planning about how amazing our new life as parents was going to be. We went to classes, we read books, and we talked for hours about our future. We crafted the cutest Hungry Caterpillar themed nursery where I imagined our son peacefully sleeping in his crib.
I am a teacher who has spent my life around kids of all ages. My husband is a registered nurse working with children and adolescents. What could go wrong?
Then, reality hit.
We faced a few obstacles those first few weeks after our son was born. He was jaundiced. This meant heading up to the Baldwin building every day for over a week for blood draws. Then, I quickly discovered his latch was not correct. I was too proud to contact a lactation consultant for help. So I worked through the pain until I finally called it quits and pumped exclusively for the next seven months.
Sleep? What is that?! We slept whenever we could. As they say, sleep when baby sleeps. Since I started exclusively pumping, my husband was a champ and stayed up with me for those middle of the night feedings. He would bottle feed, while I would pump. We had a system. For this type-A mama, it worked.
But what about us?
When I say it worked, I mean, we were functioning and getting by. Our son was happy, healthy and well cared for. We were sleeping whenever we could, and we were enjoying our time with our beautiful boy. But, what about us? What about those dinners out together or late night movies? What about those impromptu day trips we used to take? What about staying up all night talking about anything and everything?
Our relationship had changed. Instead of deciding which new restaurant we were going to try, we were deciding if we should change diaper creams or diaper brands.
Don’t get me wrong, we LOVED what our life had become. But something needed to change.
Right around three months old, we were blessed with a little boy who enjoyed sleeping. He would take a little cat nap after dinner, go to his crib around 9 p.m., and then sleep until 6 a.m. We decided to make his official bedtime at 7 p.m., when he would normally take his after dinner nap. We’d follow a soothing bedtime routine, place him in his crib, and head downstairs.
Now it was our turn to reclaim “us.” We used this extra couple of hours each night to spend some quality time together reconnecting. We would play games some evenings (cribbage, King of Tokyo, and Yahtzee among our favorites), pop popcorn, and watch a movie on other evenings. Some nights, we would cuddle on the couch watching our favorite shows on Netflix (Bones, Psych, and NCIS), and others we’d read books and just be present together. We bought the book Love Dare, and really enjoyed surprising each other with simple little changes that expressed our love each day or week.
This changed everything. We began focusing on our relationship again, instead of focusing only on surviving our first year of parenthood. We put us as a high priority again.
4 years later
Our little boy is now 4. We’ve added another little boy to the mix. He has not enjoyed sleeping through the night as much as his big brother did… BUT, we’ve continued to keep the 7 p.m. bedtime. We’ve found it is so important to our relationship to carve out that extra time for each other.
Yes, sometimes we get in a rut and we focus on our phones for those hours before bed, or I’m stuck doing homework for my graduate work. BUT, we keep coming back to using this time to be together to reconnect.
What do you do to reconnect with your spouse when the joys and pitfalls of parenting overtake your world?