Parenting and Marriage – how do you find happiness in both?
I love articles like this Parenting.com article by Robert Barnett, entitled “8 ways to be a happier Mom.”
I love reading and being reminded that I am allowed, even encouraged, to talk about when I am unhappy or overwhelmed as a parent. In fact, it feels that many times, once I have formulated and spoken the words of frustration or sadness with a situation, the bite is diminished. The soothing impact is even magnified when I have a partner in disillusionment.
This is why I crave the company of fellow parents of young children. Who can relate more than someone who dealt with the same sleep deprivation, potty training, discipline or picky eater-challenge just days or weeks before you? And yet, there is a reasonable limit to the amount of wallowing allowed. This limit comes for me when I lose sight of those “pinnacle moments” of parenting.
In the early days, the first smile could off-set a week’s worth of sleep deprivation. Now, my son’s determination to make his own lunch all by himself helps me down from the ledge that is potty-training. Whenever I feel myself veer towards wallowing and self-indulgence, I try to snap out of it by thinking of one of those pinnacle moments or even the kids-grow-up-so-fast, big picture mantra.
And yet, pinnacle moments do not a marriage make…
Yes, many of us still revel in the old wedding pictures and get a little sappy at the thought of the early days of our relationships. And yes, the birth of our first child was for many an amazing, transformative day that added new depth and meaning to the commitments we had made to our marriages.
And yet. Good marriages cannot exist solely on those pinnacle moments. The marriage advice many of us were given as engaged couples had to do with taking care of the relationship and being thoughtful on a daily basis – not a checklist of pinnacle moments to achieve. In other words, marriages require daily TLC and can run out of gas when relying solely upon pinnacles.
The article mentions the documented toll a child’s first three years can take on a marriage. Now, let’s do some simple math. 2.5 kids times 3 years each of the “diaper years” equals 6 years and change of some serious marriage obstacles. Assuming many couples wait around a year (give or take 12 months) after marriage before having a child; there you have your 7 year itch! Maybe it should be renamed the 7 year marriage wipeout when there are children in the picture. Just thinking about all the work focused on the children makes me tired. What about all those marriage vows?
Now for the sage advice?
Perhaps some of Mr. Barnett’s thoughts can be applied to happy marriages as well as happy mothers: savor the moment, take the long view, reconnect and say thank you. These are all great ideas.
I wonder if it might also help marriages if we give each other permission to say when things are hard. When we admit we are struggling, perhaps it might just take out some of the bite to marriages that children can bring.
Also, perhaps it would help if we knew in advance and talked about some of the marriage challenges that can come along with parenthood. Mental preparation for postpartum adjustment difficulties or depression; sleep deprivation; decreased time and energy to spend on each other; could go a long way in helping us survive the marathon of amazing pinnacle moments, and all the in-between that is marriage and parenthood.
Here at Thrive Couple and Family Counseling, we enjoy working with new and expectant parents, couples, and families. Call our Greenwood Village counseling practice, today at 303-513-8975 or schedule online, anytime Schedule Appointment