“It feels like I’m running a daycare with someone I used to date.” I’m not sure who the frustrated husband is who made this remark about parenting, but it really struck me and made me laugh. I think the statement was particularly meaningful because I fell in love with my husband 13 years ago… at science camp.
We had finished our undergraduate degrees at the University of Victoria and we were both working on campus with a team of instructors dedicated to making science fun for kids. I was smitten with his ability to shoot paper rockets straight across campus and he was undeterred by my high ponytail and Birkenstocks.
It’s kind of ironic that we fell in love amongst the craziness of a huge group of kiddos, and now we’re working at staying in love amongst the craziness of our own munchkins.
I say “work” because some days our relationship really feels like work. Without too much huffing and puffing, let’s just say, I often feel like I’m living and parenting with someone from another planet (and I’m quite sure he feels the same). It’s easy to lose the big picture of being a team trying to accomplish the goal of raising happy, healthy kids. I’m sad to say there’s more eye-rolling than hugs and kisses going on at my house.
That is why the book, Babyproofing Your Marriage by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, and Julia Stone caught my eye.
The authors are three wives, mothers, and good friends muddling through the early parenting years together. They profess that they adore their roles as mothers and love their husbands deeply, but after hearing the stories of hundreds of other couples, they know that with young children in the house, you need to do more than just block the stairs and cover the outlets; you need to take the necessary steps to safeguard your marriage.
I was sold by the front cover with the spilled Cheerios cutting through the text and the words “how to laugh more and argue less as your family grows” tugging at my heartstrings. I popped it into my virtual shopping cart and added it to my self-help library without thinking twice.
It’s an easy read with many laugh aloud moments and plenty of empathy from other moms and dads. How can you not giggle at a chapter title like “The Sex Life of New Parents – Coitus Non-Existus”?
We’ve all been there!
The book is filled with different perspectives from women and men. I recommend it as a book that both parents read because the authors really handle both viewpoints fairly and with lots of humor.
The book helped me feel “normal” and shed some light on how my husband may be feeling as he copes with parenting and our family roles. Some of their recommendations are a little hard to take (you’ll see when you read the book), but most of their advice is really helpful.
Chapter 6’s “Lose the ‘Tude” section was most relevant for me and my household. As the authors’ point out, sometimes we just have to suck it up and make a choice in terms of the attitude we’re going to have.
Running a full house and staying meaningfully employed can wear you down. It’s easy to develop a bad attitude, but a bad attitude doesn’t solve anything; it only makes you unhappier.
If you dwell on your bad feelings, you miss all the wonderful things that you do have in your life. “When you have kids, it’s either going to be really crazy and really fun or it’s going to be hell. Whether it’s fun or it’s hell is up to you,” the book reads. So true!
I want to take three suggestions from the book a little farther…
First, The Date Night Challenge. Regular date nights are a great way to stay connected, but for some reason these marriage-saving events are the first to fall off the calendar. Sometimes it is a matter of childcare.
Without meaning to sound like a broken record (see Trading Tots for Time), think of a friend who might be willing to trade time with you so that you can spell each other off to have date nights and then plan a later evening out once the kids are asleep so that it is easy for the sitter.
Or plan an at-home date night once the kids are asleep—get take out, eat it picnic-style in front of the fireplace, light candles, drink wine—you know, the special stuff you used to do before you had kids!
As much as I love to snuggle up with my hubby in front of the tube, we’re making an effort to plan dates that are a bit different to keep things exciting—kayaking, hiking, squash, etc.
Second, The Annual Retreat. The luxury of an overnight trip with your partner away from your kiddos may seem like an unrealistic dream, but what a fantastic way to connect with your partner if you can make it happen.
As someone who embraces attachment parenting, I get how this can be difficult, but as my boys grow and their grandparents express interest, I see a fantastic opportunity on the horizon.
Tofino, here we come!
Finally, Get Out Of Jail Free Cards. As the authors explain, everyone needs and deserves a break. Each parent should have a chance to recharge and refuel on a weekly basis and on a long-term getting-away-for-a-weekend-type basis.
Is it hard while one parent is away? Yes.
Does it make you appreciate your partner more? Indeed.
Do you think about the kids and your partner while you’re gone? Definitely.
Do you feel refreshed when you come back? For sure.
Being generous with one another when it comes to giving each other time off is a big part of staying connected.
If your bedside table is anything like mine, another book may just topple the pile, but I think this one is worth it.