It almost seems comical to me how marriage and parenting are supposed to go hand-in-hand in some sort of symbiotic relationship. Because in reality, these two worlds are often the farthest thing from symbiotic. Sometimes, they’re on totally different ends of the spectrum. Strong relationships are about connection, communication, and intimacy. And should be about the enjoyment of one another. But parenting can sometimes make those ideal tasks difficult.
The Relationship and Parenting Paradox
“No, I can’t hear you! Don’t act so annoyed. The baby is screaming. Call back later when she stops crying. Oh, wait. That’s never. So just don’t call me when you’re at work.” Click.
I’ve watched it, counseled it, and experienced it. Those moments where the stress is so intense and the emotion so high. The rest is at an all-time low. You want to check out, get ugly, go your opposite ways, and give the metaphorical finger to the person on the other side of your bed. Because you’re at your limit, and they are too.
Then, right when you’re ready to engage in some good communication about why you’re frustrated, that little being you created is standing at the side of your bed crying from a bad dream and asking to get in bed with you. And the day is over. And the talking that probably needed to happen never began.
Suddenly, without any time to think, a new day begins. A new day with “little” responsibility for either of you. Just the tiny task of figuring out how to raise a child well. Your job is to figure out the answers to books worth of parenting riddles that seem to defy logic and basic reason.
How do we get her to pee in the potty and not in her panties?
And how do we get him to stop using potty words?
Oh, and what is the secret to getting them to stop fighting in the car?
And how do we succeed in the role of knowing the best method for making them the best they can be?
So much pressure and insanity. So much loneliness. Or at least it can be unless you choose a different way and join together instead of moving apart.
10 Tips for Creating a Stronger Relationship Through Parenting
1. Have an understanding between partners that your children belong to both of you. Not just one of you.
It never seems to join partners together when one parent feels the weight and pressure of raising the kids. And the other parent feels like when they take time to be with their children, they are “babysitting” (that word makes me cringe in the context of parenting) the kids for the other partner instead of spending time with and investing in their children. I understand that when one person stays at home, it is that person’s daily parenting role to take care of the children daily, which is great! But that does not mean that when the other person is home and around, they cannot choose to invest in their child’s upbringing. In my experience with parenting, no parent enjoys feeling alone in parenting when their partner can help.
2. Have an understanding that you each have different gifts. Don’t undermine your partner for what they offer to your children.
Sometimes we want our partner to do things with the kids that we naturally do well. “You never sit down and read to them. You always just roughhouse.” Well, guess what? If you’re reading to them, it is excellent that your partner plays hard. Your strengths and weaknesses are a great balance in making well-rounded children.
3. Tag in and tag out.
It is easy to see when your partner is at their limit. Instead of critiquing them because they are ready to lose it, swoop in and save them. Offer to bathe the kids while the other one watches TV. Then switch off the next night. Or do it as a pair. Sometimes when you are both exhausted, doing it together is the best way to get through it as a team. Then you can simultaneously crash.
4. Joke and Laugh About as much of everything crazy as you can.
There are beautiful parenting moments that are easy to enjoy and savor. But for the not-so-beautiful moments, find the humor. When you’re riding in your new car, and one of your children throws up all over the new seats causing your next child to throw up too. Don’t cry. Laugh about it. (Unless the third one throws up, then you can cry.) Handling obstacles as a team can go a long way toward making your relationship stronger.
5. Stay connected about your life and your state of mind.
Text each other. “Kids are cuuuuuteeee today.” Or “Wowza. Need some sleep.” Give short phone calls. Stay in each others’ business. Gossiping as much as you want about your lives to one another is appropriate.
6. Communicate your needs and limits and how your partner can help.
Don’t assume they can see when you are at the end of your rope. “I am feeling very stressed. Very, very stressed. I’m not sure why. But I feel like your help is very important to me now. When you help cook dinner with me, I feel more relaxed.” Many partners are not mind-readers but are more than willing to help when asked.
7. Play together as a family.
Have fun with your kids. When you feel a negative vibe in the house, get out, and put your heart into the kids. We often forget that the stress from children comes from getting them dressed and out the door to school and activities. I find that sometimes when I’m feeling the most tired is when I can benefit from doing something fun.
8. Balance time away. Go on single dates.
Communicate if you’ve had a rough week and know you could benefit from some time alone. “Babe, the teenager and I have been bickering all week, and I think that if I took a few hours to walk on the trail, I would feel so much more relaxed. Would that work for your schedule sometime this weekend? Is there some time you could benefit from time away too?” It’s never good when one partner constantly gets breaks and the other partner does not. It’s a recipe for resentment.
9. Go on dates.
“I miss you lately. Could we have a date this weekend?” I think one of the best ideas is to pre-plan dates a month ahead. Because that way, your babysitter is booked. If you wait until you feel like you need time away, you may have waited too long. So, get away before you’re at your melting point. And enjoy one another!
10. Hit on each other in front of the children. Build each other up.
Tell your kids what you love about each other daily. “Girls, do you see how your mom does such a nice job making breakfast each morning? Do you know how blessed you are to have her?” This serves two purposes; it makes your partner feel validated in the good they are doing as a parent while also letting the children see how blessed they are too.