How would you say having kids has affected your relationship with your partner? This is a conversation that was sparked between myself and some friends lately and brought up a heap of different, diverse experiences and opinions. The one thing that we all shared though was that looking after both relationships and kids is a difficult balance to strike.
For one friend, she felt that her relationship with her husband became more solid, like they were an indestructible team after the birth of their first child. For a couple of us, we agreed that having kids made balancing our relationship more difficult, but the happy moments were pure joy and worth all the hard work. One friend said that she felt like she was in a tunnel during the baby years and only now her daughter’s at school, was starting to see the light at the end of it (and her relationship). And one of my lovely pals said that the birth of her son was the moment she knew her marriage was over. They amicably separated when her youngest boy was 8 months old and she’s never been happier.
While I know there are a host of family configurations and dynamics out there, I can only speak from my experience. For Gavin and I, having children has been exactly what we want, but it has been far from easy. Luckily, we’re both very good at communicating with each other and I honestly do think that is key. The thing that we’ve both brought to the table is that being parents makes us both feel a hell of a lot more buttoned up and serious. Maybe it’s the weight of responsibility or just falling too much into routine, but our main goal is to remember to keep things light. Admittedly that part is hard when our baby has just flipped a bowl of porridge onto the carpet…
There is also a lot of duty involved in raising kids. There are a ton of things that we need to do that we don’t particularly *want* to do. Dentists appointments, swimming lessons, tidying messes that we didn’t make (every damn day), buying new school shoes, dealing with seemingly irrational emotional meltdowns (and not always my own) and asking our five year old to put his shoes on 6000 times before we leave the house every day.
It doesn’t leave too much room for the flirty, fun, carefree feeling we had at the beginning of our relationship. It’s changed. Day to day it’s morphed into a beautiful system. A tight-knit team that can handball kids and their needs back and forth pretty efficiently, but that kind of systematic life doesn’t leave too much room for mystery and romance.
We make an effort to make space for the romance. Whether it’s in house date nights, a night away in a hotel somewhere, or a chance to head out together with friends. One of my favourite things in the world is to stand at the other end of a room with my pals and catch a glimpse of Gavin laughing while he’s talking to someone else. It reminds me that we’re two different people, that I’m still super into him and that life isn’t all just about nappy changes, school forms and flopping on the couch like a burst ball the end of the day. We’re planning our first trip away without the boys next year. I’m simultaneously delighted about being alone with my husband and nervous about leaving my sprogs. But I think it will do us good.
With all that being said, nothing comes close to experiencing joy together with our kids. Those moments when our little family of four are falling about the living room laughing. When we all celebrated Finn starting to crawl. Spontaneous trips to beautiful parks where Ethan runs and Gavin and I follow behind, hand in hand. Late night checks on the kids where we both linger in the doorway looking at their perfect little sound asleep faces. Knowing that we’re doing our damned best to bring them up in a loving, safe home.
For us, having children has been gorgeous, momentous, terrifying, exhilarating, boring, loving, frustrating and a whole other host of juxtaposed emotions. I suppose, though, that’s life in general. And really, there is no one else in the world I would want to share the crazy trip with other than him.
Has having children changed your relationship? Are you closer, further apart or learning that you’ll drift back and forth between both like us?