I hear a lot of talk, and read a lot of blog posts and articles, about how hard it is to be a parent. Heck, every other blog post of mine is about that. But one thing I feel like isn’t mentioned often is how hard marriage gets when you have children.
Marriage before children is hard. There are bills to pay, houses to keep up, stressful jobs, in-laws, moves, financial hardships. My first couple years of marriage were spent a thousand miles from home in a foreign land (okay, it was Massachusetts, but it felt like another country) while one of us was in school and the other was working a job she hated and then getting pregnant (that was me). We had money issues from the beginning, and we’ve always been “fighters,” so it was never purely sunshine and roses for us. But still, we had our freedom, we could go on dates, take trips and sleep in.
Then we had a kid.
Everyone told us it would be hard, but so worth it because we would be so in love with this little new life that none of the hard stuff would matter. And that was true, about the parenting part.
The marriage part? Well, all of that crap we had brought into our marriage was still there. Wait, you’re telling me I have this baby to take care of around the clock, and I still have to find ways to be loving toward my spouse, to spend time with them, to get along with them and work through issues with them?
Issues. Let’s talk about issues. Remember how when you got married, all of these issues came up that you never even knew were issues? How you dealt with finances, how you related to family, how you handled emotions, how you arranged your pillows at night? Well, guess what. Bringing another life into the world brings up a whole new host of issues. Who gets up in the middle of the night? Who wakes up with the baby in the morning and who gets to sleep in? How late is too late to come home from work when the other spouse is drowning in diapers and baby food? WHOSE LIFE IS HARDER? (I’m convinced this is one of the great mysteries of life, one that will forever be disputed. “I have to come home from my job every day and go straight into my other job of being a parent!” “Well I never get to leave my job! Ever!” And so on and so forth).
I’m a firm believer in premarital counseling. But since having children I’ve decided that what we really needed was pre-parental counseling. No one ever sits you down and asks you if you’re really ready to add another life into your marriage relationship. In fact, from the second you get married, all anyone ever wants to know is when you’re going to start having kids. No one asked me if I felt like my relationship with Marshall was in a good place to start a family. People talk about being financially ready to have kids, and while that’s important, I think it’s much more important for your marriage to be strong enough to handle everything that comes along with becoming parents.
So if you’re thinking about having children, I’m not saying you need to go see a counselor (though I’m not saying you shouldn’t), but I do think it’s wise to take stock of your marital relationship and whether its ready for such a monumental change. If you have children, it’s never too late to start better tending to your marriage. It’s easy to say “We’ll deal with it later, I’m too tired right now.” Don’t do that. Talk to your spouse. Go on a date. Learn how to enjoy one another even when your children are going crazy. Let your spouse sleep in. One of the best gifts we can give our children is a happy home, which starts with a happy marriage. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.