Even if your husband still gives you butterflies like when you first met, having kids means the dynamic of your relationship is constantly evolving. Maybe he doesn't tell you about the differences he sees every day, but rest assured: You still surprise him all the time—and in the best way. In honor of Valentine's Day, we asked some dads to tell us how parenthood changed their love story. The answer? It's deeper and stronger than ever, enhanced through moments and memories only mom and dad can appreciate in the same way.
Here's what these 12 dads had to say:
We Trust More
Every year that my wife and I share as parents, every day that we are brought to our knees with exhaustion and frustration by miniature versions of ourselves and survive it together, every time we find ourselves high-fiving a small success of one or more of our brood, every family hug, dance or tag-team group house departure executed at a grading level of B or above, there is another layer of trust and adoration built up between us.
I do not see my wife as the same person that I fawned over in high school so many centuries ago. She has become my best friend and the surest comfort that I have in the world. I know that I love her more now than I ever could have then. Because if experience can strengthen the bonds of marriage, having kids is like Super Glue.
Maybe Super Glue isn't the most romantic of images. OK, how about: It doesn't hurt that she's even better looking now than ever. Now I'm sucking up. Darn, this thing started out so well.
My wife and I started dating young and procreating old. Since we had been together for ... lemme see ... 17 years before we had our twins, there wasn't much that the kids changed about our relationship. We've been through so many major life events together that we're used to adapting to new situations and how we both have grown as people, and loving each other the same way through it all.
However, this has been a bit of a surprise. After the twins were born in 2009, I was kind of like, "Oh well, I guess it's just not gonna be like it was. At least now I can let myself go' [buries head in pie ... ]. And then, in the last year, my wife kind of came out of the postpartum haze, started taking some new exercise classes, got an entirely new hairdo, updated her wardrobe and even got a hot new car to replace the one she had been driving since medical school. All these things may sound superficial, but—and I'm not exaggerating at all—she's sexier to me now than ever! (Well, OK, let's be honest, there's nothing that can replicate the first year or so of dating. But still.)
It's been a tough year this year. Our son was born with a rare and challenging congenital heart defect requiring multiple heart surgeries, including two before he was born. In fact, he's the only person ever—then, or since—to have two successful fetal cardiac surgeries before birth.
Our care team told us going into this when we were pregnant that this can bring a couple closer together or do the opposite. I guess we're a good match, because I'm just as attracted to Erica as I ever have been. She's an amazing wife and mother. Of course she's hot, so that helps, but her being a mom just makes her sexier. (Which I guess lent to us getting pregnant again already. Oops ... )
Every day I see things I never saw before. Every day I feel new feelings. I could go on about my love for my son and the rich sense of pride and hope he gives me. Seeing my wife as a mother, as kind and caring and strong as ever, but somehow more beautiful every day.
I fell in love with my wife the first time I set eyes on her. Yes, you could call that the traditional "love at first sight." We went out that night and never looked back. Two years later, we got married and when she walked down the aisle, I fell in love again, just more intense than the first time. I did not think it was possible. Our first baby was born, and it happened again. Today, after three babies, I can barely look at her without having these enormous emotional feelings of just how beautiful she is—such a wonderful mom to our kids, such a loving and supportive wife to me. Sometimes I feel like it is Groundhog Day, and I just fall in love with her again and again. Happy Valentine's, Baby.
Save for her St. Patrick's Day amber hair, my wife's fire was hidden away from public view, thanks to damp clothes being thrown on her passions by lame-duck parents. We fell in love quickly and unexpectedly, and a dozen years later—through tear-soaked screaming matches, long weekends of bliss and a pair of lovely daughters—the flame has never been more visible in her, and still burns white-hot between us.
Since having our twins, I've realized my stunning, smart, funny wife is more than my partner and my inspiration—she's a bare-knuckle street fighter who'll bite the ear off anyone who threatens our family. People talk about "Mama Bears," but when we face a challenge, she's like a Super-Robozilla Mama Bear with rockets and lasers and grappling hooks riding a T. rex in outer space. I'm overwhelmingly grateful that my best friend, who's that awesome, gave us our two wonderful boys and empowers me with love each day … Well, love and grappling hooks.
I've always thought of Rachel as a strong and determined person, even before we had children. So, when she first told me she wanted to have a home birth for our first son I said, "Please don't want that." My pleas changed to questions, then with an education of the process during meetings with midwives and home-birthing classes, I changed my mind as we moved united down the path towards a hospital-free delivery of our eldest son, Harvey. I see Rachel in a different light since those times. Not only the force of determination it took on her part to physically see it through to the beautiful result, but the iron force of will she displayed during the birth.
The bond between us was amplified by the process of creating another human together. I followed her rhythms with complete relinquishment of myself. The two of us became the three of us. And now it's the four of us. It's no secret that parenting young kids is equal "struggle" and "joy." But the joys are so achingly beautiful and powerful—to be able to share them with Rachel is one of those experiences in life, like really falling in love, that you think you know what you want, but when you get there, you're surprised to find so much more than you knew to look for.
Fifteen years ago this May, I became the stepfather of two beautiful and intelligent young women, then ages 4 and 9. Twelve years ago, my wife blessed me with a son, who is the greatest gift I could have ever been given. Now, my daughters are 24 and 19, and I admire the responsible, intelligent and caring young women they have become. I see in them all the reasons I first fell in love with my wife. She has shared the best of herself with them, and me. Her love and sacrifice for our children shows every day in how they treat her as a friend and confidante, but still respect her as their mother. While I cherish the moments we are alone together, the greatest joy in my life is stepping back and watching her love our kids and share their laughter and joy—at those moments my heart is fuller than I could have ever imagined. Nancy is the best of my life.
My wife and I grew apart because we stopped being attentive to each other's needs. I sometimes felt jealous of the attention she gave to the kids, which, of course, exacerbated our lack of intimacy. Eventually, we decided that our family's well-being was the most important thing and we sought counseling. We learned to communicate better, express our needs and not take each other for granted. Our relationship grew stronger, and that allowed us to show our children the importance of nurturing a marriage. Our family benefited greatly from our decision to fight for our love.
We've been married for 15 years, and our love is stronger than ever. I watch her care for and nurture our children in ways that I never could, and I'm proud to have her in my life.
It started with witnessing our daughter's birth and then watching my wife Kara's power in its rawest sense. With owning a small business and always being on the go, it's tough to remember the importance of getting on the floor to play. My wife has reminded me how important that is. My greatest fear was that we'd become complacent and that trying to find time to spend together would fall on the back burner. This has not been the case with us—Fridays are our date days. At 7 p.m. we leave the apartment to have dinner. The night is spent talking and connecting—these are the times that I realize how much I still admire who she is as a woman, a wife and a mom, and that our relationship continues to grow. I can't imagine what our week would look like if we didn't take this time together.
Emma is an amazing person, someone that I fell in love with almost immediately. She has a very calming character, yet chatty and inspiring, which draws everyone in. I am very lucky that I was able to snatch her up. Many people admit I was swinging way above my weight.
We have two amazing little girls, which have added a different dynamic to our lives, but as we always say: We try to keep all our ups and downs between the sheets! Emma is an amazing mother, while still finding time to look after the most important person: Me! (Just kidding.) But she does make me "lucky pancakes" on race-day mornings. She's classy and a true romantic. Fitting that our wedding anniversary [February 16] always ties in with Valentine's Day."
—Scott Dixon, winner of the 2008 Indianapolis 500
I Saw How Devoted She Is
I knew My Love had drive and ambition when we met. Add to it a well-tailored pinstriped business jacket and skirt combo—well, I'm only a guy.
Then came our firstborn. In the three months while she was home on maternity leave, My Love pumped breast milk until the machine cried uncle. When My Love returned to work, our baby girl had a solid six-week supply of life-giving nourishment sitting in the freezer for use at day care.
Now, the process to get to that point may not have been sexy (except to some really, REALLY weird dudes who still hang out in AOL chat rooms), but that kind of devotion to providing what's best for our kids continues to this day, and it has never been hotter. That and, when I behave, she still breaks out the pinstripes.