I wondered while I was pregnant if my marriage would be tested with a baby. Obviously, all couples are tested deep in the throes of parenthood, so why would we be different?
But the truth is, nothing prepares you for kids. Nothing teaches you selflessness like having kids. We had spent almost nine years together with it just being the two of us and I wondered how we would change when we brought home our daughter. Of course, in the beginning, we were sleep-deprived and clueless. We snapped at each other out of exhaustion and feelings of simply being overwhelmed. We loved our daughter dearly, but it was hard.
The weird part is, I actually became a better wife after she was born. Here’s why:
I learned self-control with conflict.
When it was just the two of us, our disagreements tended to occur wherever and whenever the opportunity arose. The worst was when I would jump the gun before thinking things through and then mealtimes would be spent in stony silence. When our daughter came along—and especially when she started to become more aware—we had to adjust the timing of our conflicts. Instead of hashing it out immediately, we were forced to resume life as normal until she went to bed for the night.
In the meantime, we had plenty of time to reflect on what we wanted to say so that when the time came, we could speak to each other calmly like the adults we were. It’s not to say we won’t ever disagree in front of our kids, I definitely think some exposure to that is healthy. I also think it’s good for us to wait to share our feelings after we’ve had some time to cool down.
Our connection has only grown stronger because we try to spend our time together wisely, knowing it’s so limited.
We quickly learned how to work together as a team.
Nothing screams solidarity like a feverish newborn at 2 a.m. I used to think we had pretty good problem-solving skills prior to a baby. But, in new parenthood, you can just as easily grow apart as you can come together, and be stronger than you each were as individuals. When our daughter got a little older, it was us—a team—against a tantruming toddler, the in-laws and friends who didn’t get it. We both became better at putting our little family first, before anything or anyone else. We learned to work side by side, instead of competing with each other. Yes, we were terrible at that before kids.
We spend better quality time together.
My husband and I are one of those couples that probably spend way too much time watching TV in the evenings. I know now how much I took for granted quality time alone with him when it was just the two of us. Now, our weekends and evenings are filled with the distractions of parenthood. So, once a month, we make it a priority to go out on a date.
Since we don’t have the time we used to have, we’ve learned to make the most out of those date nights. And once a week, the TV stays off, and we indulge in Wine Time, a back and forth conversation over wine, without any distractions. Our connection has only grown stronger because we try to spend our time together wisely, knowing it’s so limited.