Remember us? Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner as a parentOn June 25, 2023 by Calgary's Child
By Stacie Gaetz
Remember sleeping in together, leisurely dinners at restaurants that took hours and relaxing vacations with not a care in the world?
Yeah, me neither!
As parents, it is easy to lose your relationship with your partner in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Kids fill your world with a love and joy that you didn’t ever think was possible, but they also fill your schedule with dozens of events, parties, field trips, rehearsals, recitals, performances, games, projects, sleepovers, activities and more.
By the time you have planned for all these events, driven your kids to them or hosted them, and picked them up, there is no time or energy left for you to enjoy with your partner.
Add in work, household chores, cooking, grocery shopping, paying bills… and you can forget about “keeping the spark alive.”
Hope is not lost; you can find your way back to something that slightly resembles the “us” you were before you had kids. It will look different (dare I say it can be even better) but you can take a few measures to get back to the roots of your relationship and even strengthen it as you continue to navigate the path of parenting.
No. 1 on the list is to listen to your partner. Really listen.
I know you are thinking, “How can I listen when my child is talking 2000 words a minute, dinner is burning, and we are late for soccer?”
I will admit that it is not easy.
I also know that once the kids are in bed, you are too exhausted to have a heart-to-heart with your partner.
However, if you do find the time that works for you to truly hear your partner, you will not regret it. This can be first thing in the morning while the kids are watching cartoons or while on the sidelines of that soccer game. Make time to hear what is important to them, listen to their fears and show you are there for them.
On the flipside, be willing to share your ups and downs with your partner and ask for help when you need to. (See next tip for more on this).
It can be hard to be honest about how you feel as a parent. There are so many societal standards that make us feel if we complain or ask for help, we do not love or are not grateful for our children.
Let your partner be your safe space to say whatever you need to say. Those things that you can’t tell anyone else.
Being able to communicate openly is the only way you can work together to help each other. If you just can’t take one more second of your toddler’s whining, tell your partner and ask for help.
If you might go crazy if you play one more game of UNO with your child, tag Dad in.
If you went to the last five birthday parties and don’t think you can sit in another room while hyper children scream and run around for three hours, ask Mom if she can go this time.
Communicate your needs openly and honestly and give your partner the chance to help.
I know, I know, you have heard “make time for date nights” 1000 times but that doesn’t make a babysitter miraculously appear, does it?
Making time for each other doesn’t have to be an elaborate three-hour date night with candles, dinner out and rose pedals. Make it work for your schedule.
Is there a day during the week when the kids are in school and you could get lunch together? Or go to a museum or photo gallery? Could you have breakfast together before the kids get up? Can you start watching a show together after the kid are in bed? What about a movie at home and ordering in when your kids are at a sleepover?
It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. The key is to find out what works for you.
Each of you will need some space to themselves from time to time.
Maybe your partner has a big project coming up at work or you are fast approaching a deadline. Going back to that open communication, let your loved one know that you are feeling a bit of pressure and ask them if they can take the kids out to the park so you can have an hour to review your notes.
Wake up with the kids on Saturday and go visit the library so your partner has some time to have a quiet coffee and work uninterrupted.
Families don’t have to do things together all the time and giving an hour or two of space here and there (even during what is typically your “family time”) will help the parent that got the break be more present when you do all come together again.
I cannot emphasize this one enough.
As the primary caregiver of our two children, there are times when my kids and I need a break from each other.
Something as simple as having the parent that doesn’t normally go grocery shopping take one of the children with them can shake things up and press the proverbial “reset button” for everyone involved.
Take turns with who puts which child to sleep, switch up who take the dog for a walk, swap who drops off or picks up the kids from school or extracurricular activities…
Don’t get me wrong, consistent routines are very important to children but when it seems like your family is in a rut, it can be helpful to change things up a bit and see what happens.
I’m sure you would like someone to thank you for all the little things you do around the house – the same is probably true for your partner.
Saying thank you for the small things they do can spur them to reciprocate.
It can be as minor as letting the dog out or bringing the laundry hamper up the stairs. Giving thanks makes the other person feel valued, encourages them to help more and creates a gratitude in you for what you have. It’s a win-win-win!
Lastly, remember that the crazy hectic whirlwind of life that is your current reality won’t last forever. It is important to make an effort to keep your relationship strong while you are “in the trenches”, but you will have time when the kids are older to get back into being “us”.
For now, make sure to communicate, ask for help when you need it, give each other a break from time to time, be there for each other when it gets bumpy and be thankful for the good times.
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