Raising young children will undoubtedly be one of the hardest things you and your partner will ever do. You’re both a little clueless. You’re both trying to balance old lives with new ones. You’re both a little scared and a little irritable and a lot tired.
Welcome to parenthood.
Of course, it’s easy to feel like taking care of your partner is just one more thing to do on top of all of the other nurturing you do. This bitter resentment will not serve you, and it may convince you that they don’t deserve your attention. Don’t let it. You both deserve to feel secure, supported, cherished, and touched (and well-rested, showered, and cared for).
Here are a few ways to make sure that happens.
Make date night a priority
You don’t have to go out, but it’s better if you do. Enlist the help of a trusted sitter and give yourselves the gift of uninterrupted time together, even if all you are doing is getting groceries.
Having one parent shoulder all the responsibility of childcare is a recipe for disaster. Coordinate sleep schedules so that each of you can get at least 4 to 6 straight hours in a row as often as possible. Create some friendly competition around diaper duty.
Just as important as rotating childcare duties is completely owning a task. If Mom is the only one who can feed the baby, maybe Dad is responsible for packing lunches or making supper. If Mom is home running the house, Dad could take control of the yard, the contractors, or the car maintenance.
As your family gets older, it will become more and more important to show how many hands make light work. Families who do dishes together have clean kitchens forever. And clean kitchens are awesome.
Show them some love
Remember what it was like when you were first dating? The note you taped to his car, the messages you’d leave on his phone, the silly gifts you’d buy him to remind him of an inside joke–bring out a little of that playfulness now. Slip a note into his coat pocket or send him a middle of the day text telling him how much you appreciate all he does for you and the kids.
Use your words
Just because the rest of your house speaks in gurgles and squeals doesn’t give you and your spouse an excuse to stop talking. Speak up when something bothers you, and don’t let it fester. Aim for molehills instead of mountains and speak from a place of trust and compassion. When you do that, you’ll find the right words and the two of you can come to the best solution, together.
While the first three years of your young family’s life will test your patience, your inner strength, and your physical reserves, they don’t have to test your relationship. In fact, one of the healthiest approaches to weathering these precious early years is to own the honesty of the moments. To agree it is unexpectedly hard. To admit that you feel neglected. To confess to not wanting any attention. To accept that you need help and to accept it when you are offered it. And to get out of the house together as often as you can.
Because here’s the wonderful part: You aren’t alone. You two are in this together. And your children are the proof that when you work as a team, beautiful things can happen.