I know I’m not alone in the pandemic parenting struggles, but having a second child in the middle of a global pandemic felt like it turned my life upside down. Not only was I parenting two boys close in age, but I was also trying to keep a freelance career afloat, maintain my sanity, and allocate time to my personal relationships, including my marriage.
After my second baby was born, my marriage took the brunt of an overextended schedule, my stress, and my lack of anything left to give to another human being at the end of a long day. But my pandemic baby just turned two, and my marriage is the best it’s ever been. Here’s how we got back on track.
Conduct an audit of household duties
Nothing builds up resentment in a marriage faster than one partner who feels like they’re doing more than their fair share of work. My husband and I have always had a pretty evenly-balanced workload within our marriage, but sometime within the transition from one to two kids, that balance started to seem off-kilter to me.
We recently had a conversation about who does what in our house, from household duties to childcare, and we moved some things around. For example, I used to put both kids to bed, but once I stopped breastfeeding my youngest, that was something my husband could take off my plate at night when I was already exhausted.
Alternately, my husband was increasingly busy at work, so I took on responsibility for doing laundry, which was something I could easily knock out during the day.
Schedule regular date nights (whatever “regular” means for you)
This one may sound like a broken record, but I am here to tell you that scheduling regular date nights with your husband or partner will make all the difference in your marriage, especially if you have young children.
My boys are both very verbal, so it was common for my husband and me to go days without having an uninterrupted conversation. It was so frustrating to communicate over the constant din that we’d table things until after bedtime, only to forget or be too tired to discuss them once the kids were down.
Now we use our monthly date nights to discuss all of the forgotten things, from the cute thing our youngest did over the weekend to where we’d love to travel next. And no, we don’t schedule a weekly date night, as some experts suggest. That’s just not in the cards for us right now, and that’s OK.
Schedule time apart
Another perk of finally feeling like myself after baby? Setting aside some much-needed time for myself. For me, that looked like getting back into a regular workout routine, going on a girls’ weekend with some of my mom friends, and taking some time for self-care—like committing to regular facials and finally making all those doctor’s appointments I’d been putting off.
Not surprisingly, this also improved my marriage. That’s because once I started taking care of myself, I could allocate time to taking care of my marriage as well.
Consider professional counseling
This one may be a tricky ask for some couples, but it has truly transformed my marriage and is something I recommend to nearly all my couple friends.
Talking to a professional counselor or therapist is a great way to work through any ongoing issues within your marriage that have reached a stalemate. An objective party can often shed light on an issue in ways you may not have considered or help you and your partner communicate more effectively to solve it yourselves. With plenty of options available for online couples counseling, professional help is more accessible than ever.
It’s also a great way to practice accountability for how you treat your spouse, which we all know can often take a hit in the midst of raising children and all the stress it entails.
Is my marriage perfect? Absolutely not. But, almost five years into this parenting thing, I feel like we’ve finally gotten ‘us’ back—and it’s a really good feeling.