Life brings with it different seasons. Living in the beautiful province of British Columbia I am reminding of just how different each season can be. The frost that covers my car on a cold winter morning always leaves me longing to feel the summers sun on my face. The hot, sticky, sleepless summer nights cause me to dream of the cold cozy winter evenings cuddled around a fire drinking hot coco. Spring flowers and fall leaves remind me that transition is in the air and that with each season new adventures are on the horizon.
I was under the impression that Parenthood would only just be a season and not actually the “world changer” that it truly is. I entered motherhood innocently going about my life without acknowledging that my whole outlook off this world had and would be, completely altered. This wasn’t a season. This wasn’t something that would pass or fade away like the sun as it sets. This was a permanent state of mind and being. I was and will forever be a Mother. Even when my children are grown and living on their own or even when they have children of their own, I will be a Mother. If, heaven forbid, I outlive my children, I will still stay a Mother. I will be a Mother until my very last breath.
Realizing that Motherhood was now a huge part of who I was, I started to recognize what kind of impact it was having on those around me. I started to evaluate my marriage and my friendships and how they were surviving this “New Me”.
My husband and I have been together for 15 years and have known each other for 20. I always considered our relationship indestructible. If I had to pick a material that our relationship was made out of it would be Titanium. (That is strong right?) The point is, that we had been friends for so long our foundation was stable and taking a blow like “parenthood” wouldn’t do much damage. In the first few months my theory stood to be true. But the thing is, everything will crumble eventually, if not taken care of. I noticed that my husband started to feel left out. I was home all day with our sweet baby and our little one was falling more and more in love with me. The two of us, mother and son, were bonding and he would react instantly to my touch and my voice. My sweet husband was the only man in my life up until the moment my son was born, and now this little bundle of soggy diapers was taking over all of my time. Instead of greeting him at the door with a hug and tons of questions about his day. He would be greeted by a sigh of relief and a cry for help as I yelled down the hall for his hand in changing a diaper that just exploded all over the car seat.
Parenthood changed our marriage. That was plain to see. We were no longer just two kids doing life together and playing it all by ear. We were now two adults with another human being we were responsible for. Date nights were scarce and adventures were few. Right when we were figuring out a good routine with our little man, we got the news that our trio would soon become a quartet. With each mile stone our children reach we have had to readjust and find our balance. We are not too far into parenting but far enough to realize that there is no such thing as perfection. Finding that happy balance between being married and parenting those little humans is a hard thing to do. I just thought I would share a few little tips with you, my beautiful readers, on what has helped us so far in our marriage/parenting balancing act.
- Date night. I know you have heard this one over and over but there is a reason it is constantly mentioned. Dating your spouse is so important. My Oma once told me that a “couple who play together, stay together.” I know she didn’t make that up but it will always be wisdom that I will relate to her. Spending time getting to listen and be heard from the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with is very important. Having fun and doing things you both enjoy can seriously make you feel human again. Children are draining and it is really hard to be a good parent if you are drained.
- Team work. My husband and I grew up in completely different families. So that being said we approach parenting a little differently too. In the heat of the moment most parents resort back to how they were raised when dealing with their children. I may not always agree with my husbands way of doing things but my children will never know that. We stand as a united front in their presence and then when they are out of ear shot or, in most cases when they are sleeping, we discuss how we would have done it differently and then come up with a new plan. This has worked wonders on our relationship and also on our confidence as parents. We are new to this whole parenting thing and we need as much encouragement as our children do. There is nothing like having your spouse stand by your side when you are putting your foot down as a parent to encourage you in this very intimidating role of raising the adults of our future.
- The Importance of who came first. I don’t know about you, but our children think they are the reason we live and breath. They came with the impression that our lives didn’t start until they entered out lives. I am always amused by the looks on their faces when I tell them stories of me as a kid or of our first date or even showed them our wedding video. “Where was I Mom?” is the common question heard every time a story is told that they are not the star of. We take moments like these to let them know that they are a result of a beautiful story that didn’t start with them or end with them but had a bunch of adventures that involves them. When we are going on dates and leaving them with a sitter and they are not too happy about it, we remind them that it is important for Mommy and Daddy to have time to remember why we fell in love. Just like they have play dates with their friends it is important for us to have dates with each other.
So those are just a few of the tips I have when it comes to marriage and parenting but I also wanted to touch on another relationship that changes when you have kids and that is your Friendships.
This is more of a big deal for some people than it is for others and in my experience it all comes down to two factors: 1. are you the first in your friend circle to have kids? and 2. do you have a lot of friends?
The changes you experience will be affected by your answers to those two questions. For me, I was one of the first to have kids in my friendship circles and I do have a lot of friends.
It is interesting looking back now, as I am almost 6 years into parenting, and seeing the change in some of my friendships. I have lost a few, due to lack of time and common interests, I have gained a few due to similar life stages and parenting syles. It is this last group that I would love to focus on. That group of “Pre-parenting” friends that seem to stand the test of time. Or not.
Friendships that move with you through the ages and stages are the ones in my life that I treasure the most. I have a few that I have known since elementary days and some that have started in university. They were there when I got married and joined me as I welcomed our two little humans into our lives. They brought presents and meals and did their very best to understand this new stage that I was entering into, with out them.
So now that we know which friends I am referring to I wanted to take a minute to talk about how we keep these friendships. I really believe that these friendships play a vital role in our lives both as we grow as parents and as individuals. They are important for us to keep as they provide a balance in our worlds. Parenting is a time consuming job and somethings having a person who can pull you out of that bubble is a very good thing. Here are a few things that I have found help me when trying to balance friendships and parenting:
- Inviting Them into your new Adventure. I remember life before I had kids and I would hear my friends or family, who had children already, tell me how I would “understand one day” what they were going through. I would also have no idea what to even do when I was around them. Something I found worked really well was when I asked my friends without kids for help. I asked for their advice and was totally honest with them on what was going on in my life. Instead of acting like I was all of a sudden and expert on babies, because i really wasn’t. I asked for their ideas or just shared my frustrations. We who have children, know that each day is whole new territory. We are constantly learning and our children are constantly changing. So not pretending we are experts and inviting our friends along for the ride is one huge thing that can help in making them feel more included in this new stage of life. It can also help gain you some empathy.
- Kid Free Time alone as friends. Girl nights have been great for both me and my friends. The most important thing to remember is to minimize the amount of stories you share about your children. When hanging out with someone who doesn’t have children I have noticed that they can only take so many stories about poopy diapers and picky eaters. It is not realistic for them to expect you to not talk about those little loves of your lives when you are away from them, but it is also not really fun to sit there and listen to you complain on and on about how tired you are because your baby was up 10 times last night and your toddler peed the bed. Be aware that you listen to what is happening in your friends life as well. Be cautious of making comments like “I forget what sleep feels like, must be nice” or “oh what I would give to have a kid free night.” If you take the time to listen, so will they. They will become a safe place for you and you will be that safe place for them. Besides, these friendships will become the most valuable when you need someone to baby sit. Friends with children can be a little useless sometimes!
- Be Honest With Boundaries. When I first had children my friends without kids just didn’t understand the importance of bed time. They weren’t sleep deprived or up all night and the magical hour of 7 pm meant nothing to them. So when we had finally established a consistent bedtime with my children it became an issue when my friends either didn’t respect my need to be home until 7 pm or in some cases made me feel silly for wanting to keep a consistent routine with my children. You know what your boundaries are and they need you to be honest about it. Communicating with them that this is only for a short season in your life, while your children are little and soon you will have more “freedom”, is something that I found really helped. Also, just being honest when you are tired and just need to cancel is fine too. Just don’t cancel all the time. Sometimes its good to push yourself and get out of the house even if you are covered in spit up and have only slept 6 hours in the past 48.
It takes a Village to raise a family. Mom, dad and child need the support of other people in their lives. Friends and family play vital roles. All people involved in the family unit need to be encouraged. Finding your place, setting your boundaries, and prioritizing your relationships and time spent with each person is what helps make for a more balanced life. Support can come from anyone but also remembering that you have the ability to be their for others and not just for your children is important too. Being apart of a Village doesn’t only mean that you receive but it also means that you give.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do you balance parenting and your relationships? Lets keep this discussion going and not stop the dialogue. Honest communication in all our relationships will help make for some pretty healthy friendships. And what better way to teach our children how to be a good friend then to show them what it looks like.