Monday, February 16, 2009

Marital Bliss?

One of the best pieces of advice I got before we got home with Abe was from a mom of four who looked me straight in the eye and ordered me to go to as many movies as I could stand. I was so anxious to get home with Abe that I only sort of took her advice. But now I get it. She was right.

If you are currently without children, do all you can to enjoy t
his time that you're in now because it surely will end. I was thankful that this mom gave me this advice, but something that no one told us was how annoying your spouse becomes when you have a child. I guess we both thought that because we love each other so much that the addition of another person in our family to love is just going to increase the love exponentially, as if our house was going to filled with laughter and songs and rainbows shooting out of the windows and candy falling from the sky. I was picturing a skittles commercial when I imagined what "life with child" would be like.

While life with Abe is certainly rewarding and often a lot of fun, I was surprised to discover the toll having a child in the house can have on a marriage. We've been through some rough patches since getting home with Abe and think we're coming out on the other side, but I so wish someone had told me that we might go through this. Maybe they did, and I just was not listening. Entirely possible. So I
was relieved to read this article in the Sunday Oregonian by Elizabeth Hovde about this issue.

"Quality couple time is hard to come by, even if there is a lot of enjoyable kid time happening. Ohio State University researchers found that after a child is born, couples have only about one-third the time alone together as when they were childless. Further complicating things, children bring extra chores -- especially for women."

I wasn't at all surprised to read that the time together as a couple decreases to only a third of what it was before children. The article also explains that researchers at UC Berkely found out that marital satisfaction increases as children age and reach highest levels when the children have moved out. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

It was reassuring to me to have empirical evidence to support what we have been through in the last 10 months. We're not
unusual. We're not crazy, though we have certainly done our part to drive each other a few times to points of exasperation bordering on insanity.

So the solution? We have found that the most practical thing for us is to have at least a weekly time alone, just with each other. We went about six months after coming home with Abe where we only went out once. That is way too long of a stretch. So we found a family nearby that we trade babysitting with, which we try to do weekly. The chance to go out, even briefly for a drink, sans child, does wonders for a relationship.


So for anyone waiting for children right now: it may seem early, but line up a babysitter. I'm not joking. Do it. Find another family who'd be willing to do a child-care trade with you. It's really hard the first couple of times to drive away without your child in the backseat, but believe me, you'll get used to it. You need to get used to it. Eventually, you may get to the point of shutting the car door, looking at each other, and letting out a "Yee haw!" before peeling out.


Secondly, just know that this time does end. It was reassuring to me to hear that these are probably the most stressful years, at least on our marriage. This stress won't last forever. That makes it easier to
show little kindnesses to each other and not to get overly exasperated by being unable once again to finish a thought because of the wee one pulling on my pant leg or stepping on my feet (how many times a day do I say, "Abie, stop stepping on my feet please"?).

What I awoke to Valentine's morning, some of my favorite things, including my favorite magazine and flower.

20 comments:

Blog Shmog said...

Awww...Ted was super sweet on Valentine's day. :)

And I totally totally totally agree with you. Once you have kids life changes dramatically and you have far less time for your love. I think it gets harder with each added child too. I love your babysitting swap idea. I started that with a lady here, after talking to you about it, and it's working well so far. :)

coffeemom said...

I totally totally agree!!!!! I always tell expectant parents: go to the movies, NOW!

The very best thing you can do for your marriage w/ kids: you've already got it, but to emphasize: go out on a weekly date!!! It's critical for you both in so many ways and as they get older, it's good modeling for the kids (see, I love Dad/mom, they are important, we love to spend time together, just us, yes, we ARE entitled!)

And for what it's worth, maybe not so much but still....the first year of parenting, your first???? HARD!!! It's the year year to learn how to manage all the parenting stuffs. So, it's only gonna get better now that you are old hands at it!

L & J Gutwein said...

YAY! I completely agree with the making time for each-other. Yeehaw :). Love, J

The Albertsons said...

I'm just smiling big as I read this post... just because I totally get it- life it totally harrrrrd right now for us, too. we get so annoyed at each other, and then step back and say "hhmmmm.... is it true that we have three kids under the age of 5? yes. let's give each other a break!!!". So here's a comment just to say YEP! I get it! And I agree... this too shall pass. I don't want to wish away my kids' baby years, but sometimes I daydream...
love you friend
becca

Meredith said...

Thank you for this post. I have taken your advice to watch as many movies as possible. I love you, Netflix. I'll remember this post when I am ready to punch Ryan in the face after Stella comes home. We will go out on a date instead.

Autumn and Dan's family said...

Agree...agree...agree...agree.
I thought I heard a "YEE HAA" the other day, but I thought it might have been our crazy neighbor. Nope, just the crazy Rooneys...(in a good way).

Erin and Keith Sager said...

You are great!! Is it bad that my husband sometimes already annoys me, and we don't have kids yet? HeHe...No just teasing, but it is a reminder to enjoy all the free time we have together, which I charish...
And Sign me up, I would love to babysit Abe. Anytime! I'm free, it looks like we have awhile to go. Hope you have a great week....

Sarah Ada Cupcake said...

Lori,
Your post is so true. Doug and I have hardly any time alone together. Even when we're sleeping there's usually one or two little people in the room. I'm hoping the next year will bring a light to this darkness of grownuphood. It is really hard having two little ones that constantly NEED. I keep telling them they are lucky they are so cute. That was all in the design I think.
Keep up the good work.

Eryn said...

Great Post Lori! As all the other moms have said, I AGREE!

AND FURTHERMORE, why oh why do the kids have to stand on the moms feet? They must know how much it drives us nuts, therefore getting the attention they want, by us saying "would you PLEASE get off my feet?" for the 9th time each day!

Mine do it all day long. ugh.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for writing this! we are just in the paper chasing phase and sometimes i have that same image that you did about the house being all rainbows and light once the child shows up. and it really helps to be prepared for such disappointments. i appreciate your honesty!

mary

Jana said...

OH, yes. Oh, yes.

kristine said...

Yes exactly! I would like to add/ask - when they are stepping on our feet why must they lose their balance and pull on our shirt/sweater/dress/ loose sweat pants (that fall down?) My 2nd most repeated phrase (hopefully 'I love you' is first!) 'please stop pulling on my clothes!'

You are so right about it being a great example to make time for each other.

Thanks for posting about real life.

Rebecca said...

What a sweet spread to wake up to on Valentine's!

Um, yeah. I totally agree with you on the whole marriage thing. I find myself being super critical of Ben since Eli got home - which is horrible. I sometimes feel like he could do more (as though earning all of the money for our family and supporting us isn't enough?!?). It's nice to hear that we're not alone. These past couple of months have been the best months of our life - and the hardest.

PVZ said...

Thanks for helping me to appreciate the kid-free marriage I have. As always' love your honesty.

stephanie said...

Hah, I loved the Skittles commercial reference. I totally felt it would be that way, too. We've been home almost 10 months and I think our snapping has finally decreased significantly as of late. That's a relief. We do the babysit trade with our neighbors but I wish I would have lined up another "regular" babysitter during the wait as well. Oh, and slept a lot more like other parents advised us to do.

Thanks for your honesty.

Stephanie said...

Yeah Lori! I do love your insights so! I love Ted and the heart-shaped donut. I think people are afraid to suggest that raising children adds considerable stress to marriage. But it's too true! How wonderful that we live in an age where we can be honest with ourselves and each other about how hard it can get. Often I think of my mother's era and I'm sure it was just as hard to raise four kids, but she didn't have the same freedom to express how tough it was on her (and her marriage). Revel in a community of families who all experience similar struggles as we try to strike a balance between marriage and kids.

That donut, really. I must be hungry...

Lori said...

Thanks so much for being so transparent! It's sure to help people who may never even comment but are reading! I need to get back to you on fb and want to talk about this stuff too! xo

More Dorrs said...

Thanks for this post Lori.

Jake will be happy that watching many movies is your prescription for the wait. My problem is that I always fall asleep during movies...but since I probably won't be getting much sleep once the little one is home, I'll watch the movies, fall asleep, and enjoy the fact that I can do that without worrying about when diapers need to be changed.

Christine said...

You are completely right. I find it difficult to warn people to take advantage of this time now because, hey, the wait is not fun. Waiting for something to begin is very hard and the marriage has usually already suffered some blows on the path. However, it is true. Take a mental health day now, people. Because you will never ever have another mental health day again that is quite as rewarding. No movie will ever be the same again. I was a huge movie buff before I became a mom. Now I am ruined. I cannot watch movies that involve any kind of suffering of children. I have a much harder time with violence in general. Lay in bed and read, just do it.

Christine

P.S. Love your blog.

Karen said...

Thank you for sharing your toughts and feelings, Lori! As usual, you hit the spot for many of the rest of us. I've found it really challenging to keep the husband happy, the kids fed, the house kept up, and other responsibilities at work taken care of without becoming a little (or a lot) bitchy. :-)