It has been so long since a Marriage Mondays post and I am so excited to dig back into this series! As we are on the brink of adding a 3rd baby to our little family, I have been thinking a lot about kids, and having kids, and how it changes the dynamics of marriages. So many of my couples from the last few years at at the point where they are having kids, and old students I taught are in that stage as well (how did that happen?!). While this post won’t apply to everyone who is married, I have a real heart for sharing the stories of our marriage and parenting to try to help some of those people so dear to me who will find themselves in similar situations one day or soon!
Marriage is wonderful. And it’s hard. Having kids is wonderful. And it’s hard. It’s hard on marriage, and I don’t think that’s something that people always talk about. I have said it before in this series and I will say it again and again, I married an absolute gem of a man, and also am fortunate enough to have married someone whom I very naturally get along with extremely well. I almost think it’s because we are so opposite in some fundamental ways that we balance so well– but we are also easy going in similar ways so we don’t pick at each other and very truthfully rarely argue. I don’t believe in any way that that makes our marriage better or stronger than anyone else’s– we are just lucky in that way. But regardless of what your marriage looks like pre-wedding or pre-kids, it is bound to change when you add other little lives into the mix. And because it’s not something I think is regularly talked about, I wanted to share some of the early struggles we had here. We don’t have all the answers about how to fix these struggles- but I wanted to share them so you have warning, and know you aren’t alone!
1).The “I Don’t Know” Struggle. This, in my opinion, was Michael’s and my largest struggle when we had our first baby. The truth about this is that no matter how much or how little experience with kids you may have when you have them yourself (from much younger siblings or cousins, or babysitting, or whatever), nothing truly prepares you for you to be the sole people in charge of a baby’s livelihood. There is a lot of pressure in that statement (and ultimately a lot of accomplishment and joy as well). There are just so many unknowns, even with “easy” babies (which I believe we had). So a typical conversation…more often in the middle of the night when baby was up eating, would go like this (add in the assumption that no one has had more than 2 hours of sleep at once in weeks and you will get a better picture):
Me: “Why is he still crying?”
Michael: “Do you think he’s still hungry?”
Me: “I wonder if he’s gassy.”
Michael: “Maybe he needs more milk.”
Me: “Yeah but he’s not drinking, he’s just crying.”
Michael: “Maybe we should rock him.”
Me: “Maybe he just isn’t tired.”
Michael: “Maybe he needs a diaper change.”
Me: “Maybe he’s sick. Do you think he’s sick?”
Michael: “Should we try to burp him again?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Michael: “I don’t know either.”
I believe we had some form of this conversation daily for the first couple months, and it STILL happens as we encounter new stages. Because honestly, as a new parent? You just don’t know. So much of it is trial and error- and after this long drawn out discussion assuming everything from the easiest to worst possible fix, we would usually start trying things to figure out what was wrong. But when exhausted, and totally unsure what the answer was, this got hard for us. I think sometimes we both wanted the other to just make a decision and go for a solution, and this still happens today. If someone is sick and we aren’t sure what to do, or we are dealing with a behavior issue we aren’t sure how to handle, we get into the “I Don’t Know” struggle again. Both of us were used to knowing the answer to most of the key things in our lives…and that totally changed the day we became parents. At some point, we would come to a conclusion and act on it– but I think we both would have benefited from that happening earlier in our discussions!
3). Time for yourselves. This is just really really hard, and depends a lot on your personalities and dynamic as a couple. Michael and I from the get go (even before marriage) decided and knew that we were on the same team–and that that also meant that there is no primary parent. We are in every way equally responsible for our kids well being, upbringing, and for the attention and joy they need and deserve. I know that isn’t how it goes in every family, but that is what we both believe. This is hard in the beginning though, because if the mom is nursing, the newborn is pretty extra dependent on mom. And if there is an older sibling? That kid often becomes all dad’s during the newborn stage because mom is busy with the baby. Either way- it is really hard to get a few moments to yourselves in those early days (who am I kidding, in all days as a parent!). But I think that has to be a big priority in the beginning…to find a way for each person to get a little time each day to themselves. For us, that meant that sometimes just one person was in charge of baby while the other had a few minutes to themselves. Bigger picture, that means sometimes Michael takes the kids to the store so I can have a little down time, or I the kids to a birthday party so Michael can have a little down time. I think having open communication about this, and what the needs are, and knowing that those needs won’t always be equal, is important.
2). Time for each other. As a strong believer in marriages, and in your marriage being the root of the entire family experience you give your kids, I think this is extremely important. There seem to be 2 sides to this…either the kids come first period, or the marriage comes first period. I don’t think Michael and I fall in either black or white here- there is a gray space in between and it works for us. We do fully believe, however, that you have to make time for each other as husband and wife and not just parents. All parents have said it- they finally find time for a date night, and they go and it’s hard to talk about anything but the kids. And I think that’s ok- being a parent is honestly the biggest part of your life! But I think it’s important to make sure that there are still some things that are about the two of you. That is one thing I love about the fact that Michel photographs weddings with me. Before we had kids, we worked together at school and while it is work, we always loved having that in common with each other. I cried during my maternity leave when I realized Michael was changing buildings and we wouldn’t work together in that capacity again– and weddings were an answer to prayer. It is work, but it’s also a hobby and passion we share and we love having that time together. But because we have those days, and because our family does a lot of childcare for us during the week so that our kids aren’t in daycare, we have to really work hard to carve out time to go on dates and intentionally find sitters since our regular sitters do so much other duty for us. I think setting up some sort of a regular schedule could be really helpful in this matter…the first Wednesday of the month is date night, or something like that. But make a plan, because otherwise months could go by and you will realize you have never seen your husband without your baby near by, and that is a significant difference from the early marriage days.
Phew, that’s a lot of information on a pretty big topic! I hope it was helpful for all of those soon to be parents, of married couples who think it might be on the horizon!
If you are wondering how close you are to that point, I wrote another post here about both marriage and kids!
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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!).
As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids. I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!
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You're in the right place! As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business! I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).
I'm so glad you are here! Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business! I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).