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 this 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"?).