Couple Time: Finding Time for Two After Your Family Becomes Three

shutterstock_116290981-2Jean Merrill, Maryland

After nursing a baby throughout the day, juggling a toddler’s needs, and generally feeling “touched out,” “tapped out,” and “stressed out,” do you feel that the relationship with your significant other is the last thing on your priority list? When mothers sometimes struggle to meet their own basic needs (time to shower or bathe), romance can easily dwindle.

Motherhood, especially in the early days, may feel all encompassing. You have a new love in your life. While a baby is tiny in size, his needs are immense. Motherhood is a gigantic and overwhelming job. The never-ending and often exhausting demands can easily take over how you feel as an individual, a woman, and a loving partner. It might take extra nurturing through the parenting transition to preserve the bounty of that original love with your partner.

We are multi-tasking, multi-faceted, multi-talented, very capable beings; however, we can’t be all things to all people.  Focusing attention on the most important people in our lives can help add more balance.

Remember how you felt when you first found out you were pregnant? What thoughts about becoming a new family came to mind for you and your partner? Pull that feeling up and dust it off. Focus on it from time to time. Children learn about relationships by our example. If parents are to be role models for prioritizing a relationship with a partner someday, we might want to be good role models during the foundational years—showing them how it’s done! That’s the good news; taking time to focus on your spouse is actually good parenting.

It is a comfort for children to observe parents working at a relationship with each other. They learn about compassion, empathy, communication skills, and warmth. They become aware that parents’ needs are a priority just as much as children’s needs. There is give and take in every family. It’s an important learning opportunity for children to observe that their mothers prioritize all of the relationships in a family.

When babies and young children have such overwhelming needs, how can mothers focus on relationships? Many of us don’t have family nearby to help with childcare. Maybe going out without the baby is not an option.

How do you focus on your partner when children are around? When our babies are the center of our universe, is this even possible?  I am proof that it is possible and even a little freeing. Here are some tips to help find the balance that may feel right to you in your house and family:

  • Provide activities for your children. If you’re at home all day, is the end-of-the-day bewitching hour sometimes unbearable? Do you count the minutes until your partner comes home? Arrange a place with the children for an activity such as play-dough, watercolors, or puzzles. Schedule a phone call with your partner at the end of the workday. Then, when you are all together, you will feel slightly refreshed and ready to focus on family once again.
  • Let your partner sometimes be the center of the household. Shift your focus to the connection you have together. You can do this in the same room as the children; it is not a “check-out” from everything else happening in the house. You might find that you can have focused time together here and there by letting the children safely “do their thing” while you sit next to your partner and be together. Model what it is to value conversation with someone you love.
  • Take the baby along on date night; let the older children have time with grandma, another family member, or a trusted friend. You may feel uptight and unhappy—an anxiety-inducing proposition when leaving a nursling. That would not be ideal for reconnecting with your partner. Babies are happy to be in your arms. Nurse when needed, then let baby be entertained by the world while you get a little one-on-one time. That might be more like a one-and-one-half time with baby along.
  • Plan a date night when the children are in bed. Every once in a while, sacrificing a little sleep in order to have one-on-one connection time with your partner can be worth it! Plan a nice late dinner or a special dessert for the two of you after the children are in bed. Light candles. Play soft music. Make it an event. If you plan this time, let your partner plan the next date!

shutterstock_123249778-2Is it possible to get away when you have a nursing baby? It can be! Observe your baby’s routine and you will start to see patterns emerge. Take advantage of the “down time” between feedings for a quick date. The date might look and feel a little different than it did before you became a mother, but a “between” feeding ice cream date can be really refreshing. Keep these things in mind when planning your out-of-the-house dates:

  • Nurse your baby right before leaving the house.
  • Stay close by in case baby needs you.
  • Check in and stop back home mid-date for a nursing break if needed. Then head out to finish date night.

There are few things more swoon-worthy than a partner holding your fussy baby to give you a few minutes to re-group. This is part of your shared love story. Depend on your partner. Ask for what you need (even if you’re not quite sure what you need). Mothering will sometimes feel like climbing an unending mountain. Let your partner be the hero who swoops in with a snack and some water during another marathon nursing session.

Fostering the relationship between your child and partner might have the side-benefit of allowing a little time to focus on you. Sometimes the opportunity to breathe in solitude for a few minutes can allow you the space you need to remember yourself as the unique, capable, attractive person you are. Motherhood, while sometimes hectic and overwhelming, is also glorious and beautiful. Confidently own that part of it, too.

Additional Reading

When Baby Makes Three:

Breastfeeding and Intimacy: