I never fully realized how much of a strain parenting would be on my relationship until my daughter arrived. Sure, in theory I knew that having a baby would change everything -- forever -- but I didn't really grasp just how much that extra person would alter the fabric and dynamic of our lives.
Pre-kid, we used to cook leisurely dinners and discuss the minutiae of our days. Jeopardy! was a nightly viewing staple. Sometimes we'd attend concerts or spontaneously decide to go to the movies. We didn't realize that these activities were about to become extinct.
I still remember driving our daughter home from the hospital. The sheer shock of it all was overwhelming. We certainly had all those giddy, new-parent hormone flooding through us that get you through the throes of sleep deprivation and endless feedings, but we were terrified down to our toes.
That little bundle of bliss asleep in her car seat would soon wake up demand an increasing amount of our attention as time went on. Would we be able to hang on to our relationship in the midst of all this chaos?
The answer is yes, but It's been more difficult than we imagined. It took everything we had to survive those first few months, when I struggled with postpartum depression and our daughter battled colic. I was so grateful that my husband worked at home at the time, but in retrospect I can see how difficult it must have been for him to support us, both emotionally and financially.
There never seems to be any energy left over for each other at the end of the day. Like all families, we've settled into a routine and accepted our new lifestyle, but I'd be lying if I said we haven't lost some things along the way. I don't think any couple gets through the first year of their child's life unscathed or unchanged.
For every huge, exciting milestone, there is a tiny toll taken. For every indescribable joy, an alteration in your original intimacy. It's completely natural to focus the majority of your love and attention on your baby, but it's wrong to lose sight of your partner and let that new love completely consume you. I know I did.
Our daughter is an adorable two-and-a-half-year-old now, but we still struggle with not letting her be the centre of our universe. All toddlers are tyrannical by nature, and it takes enormous willpower not to give in to their constant demands and let them take over. It's no coincidence that they are at their cutest at this age; they're are also at their most selfish. And they have no idea how their behaviour affects anyone else (or what it does to mom and dad's relationship).
The hardest part of parenting for us is when we are at odds about our little girl. My husband and I have similar, laid-back personalities, so it's come as quite a shock to realize that we sometimes have very different views on how to parent. Every day offers up new scenarios and dilemmas.
Should we let her eat on the couch if meal times feel like the seventh circle of hell? Is it time to follow up with the specialist since that sore on her nose hasn't healed? Should we continue with our current bedtime routine even though it's turned into a wild free-for-all? Is letting her sleep with ten stuffed animals just pandering to her whims?
The biggest lesson we've learned along the way is that we need to always support each other, even if we don't necessarily agree with each other. We have to pick our battles and back each other up--it's as simple as that. It's not about winning an argument or being right; it's about doing what's best for our child and making each other feel like we're in this together, as equals.
I love my life and I adore my family, but I never pretend that things are completely rosy. That's just folly. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and marriage bears its weight the most. It's important to take time for each other and remember the romance of the early days, the reasons why you got together in the first place.
On tough days I'm tempted to just retreat to my own corner once our daughter goes down to bed, but I try to remember that little gestures go a long way. So I'll come downstairs and chat to my hubby as Barcelona plays in the background, or he'll rub my back as we decompress.
Every day is a new opportunity to nurture our relationship and deepen the special connection we have. Paying him a compliment, surprising him with lunch, or just snuggling together for a few minutes all count toward strengthening our intimacy. The way I see it, doing nice things for each other reminds us that we appreciate all the support we give each other, not just as co-parents--but as husband and wife.
Tara Mandarano lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A content producer and digital editor, she's also a freelance writer, blogger and a first-time mama navigating life with a tyrannical toddler. A book lover who regularly reads past her bedtime, she loves to share stories about life with her [...]