A word of advice: before you have a child with your partner, put in the time and effort to ensure that your relationship is as strong as it has ever been. Because while babies are wonderful and adorable and they enrich your life unlike anything else, they will test the strength of your bond in ways you never could have imagined, particularly in those first two years. There are ways I questioned my marriage before my kid was 2 that I couldn't have predicted. I didn't personally question whether or not my relationship would last (though people regularly do and that's completely normal), but I did want to know what happened to the relationship I had before I had a baby.
After we had our son, it wasn't that my marriage got harder, necessarily, there was just less time to dedicate to it exclusively. And while my husband and I were able to bond as a couple in new and exciting ways because of the family we had created, our old modes of behavior were either cut down severely or cut back. Our romantic life became more compartmentalized, because everything we had to do for our child sort of scooted all the other stuff out of the way. So, for the first time, stoking romance took intention. It was something we had to remember to emphasize. Things we normally did all the time became "special occasion" activities.
Our kids are older now, so there's more space to breathe and a little less for us to do (I'm very pleased to note that it's been about six months since I've had to wipe anyone's butt). But for the first two years of my life as a mom and our time as parents, I wondered what had become of my marriage and what my relationship with my husband would look like moving forward.
Will We Ever Have An Evening To Ourselves Again?
Before we had kids my husband and I would get home from work, cook dinner, and sit and chat while we ate and cleaned up. This could take hours, followed by another several hours of TV and reading, both of which would be regularly interrupted by regular conversation. No joke, we once had two remote controls so we could each pause a show to discuss it as we watched — a half an hour show would usually take us about an hour and a half to watch. It was great — we really just had a ton of time for each other.
First of all, the evening revolved around him until we got him down to bed... which could take a while. Once that was done we'd be pretty exhausted and didn't much feel like expertly dissecting an episode of a complicated TV show. We'd usually just zone out in front of something stupid before passing out early because we knew his highness would be awake in a few hours again to eat.
Will I Ever Have Spontaneous Sex Again?
It's not that we lost our sex drive after we had a kid, but there was so much less time and so much more exhaustion. So even when we really wanted to have sex it didn't always happen. And we knew that sometimes, when one of us was up for it, the other person was just too overwhelmed to really give it their all (and if someone isn't going to give it their all what's the damn point?).
If you want to get everyone's needs met and avoid rejection, there's no time for beating around the bush. (Pun intended and I'm not sorry!) You basically just have to be like: "So, sex tonight?" This must be done well in advance of said sex, too, so you both can set aside the time and build up the necessary energy stores. It isn't sexy, but it's efficient.
Will I Ever Feel Sexy Again?
Even if one is feeling powerful and sensual in their postpartum body (and, let's be honest, it's hard sometimes because things change and it's jarring or unsettling), there's only so sexy someone can feel when they have several baby-made stains on their shirt. "Is that throw up or pureed carrots? No one knows. It's a mystery."
Will I Ever Go On A Date Again?
Do you know how frequently my husband and I went out before we had a child? All the time. Our life was one very long date punctuated by going to work. It was magical. And we lived in New York City, so we had a plethora of restaurants, cultural institutions, and fun new activities at our fingertips.
But then came the child, and with him the fact that we needed to provide for his well-being 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If we weren't around to care for him we needed to find someone who could, which either meant passing him off to family members or paying a babysitter. At the time we didn't have the same "budget flexibility" we had before kids to try new restaurants three times a week, either, or the funds to constantly hire someone else to watch our son while we focused on one another.
Dates, therefore, were often more trouble than they were worth for the first two years or more. Still, I missed them.
Will I Ever Be Able To Have A Conversation With Our Child In The Room?
I'm just about seven years into this parenting gig and I will let you know when this stops being an issue because — spoilers — this one actually gets worse as their grasp of language gets better.
On the plus side, if you enjoy hearing monologues about all the different things you can do in Minecraft you're in for a treat.
Will There Ever Be A Time When Everyone Is Just OK?
I don't know about you, but from the moment I started my family it always seemed like someone was in need of something pressing. Usually it was the baby, but sometimes I just needed to get out of the house or my husband just needed to lie down to recoup. It was extremely rare when we were all just chill, and when we were all chill everything felt creepy and out of place. It's not that there was always a crisis, but there was always a need for someone to take on "extra," physically, emotionally, or mentally. I wasn't used to that, our marriage wasn't used to that, and while I think this is actually something we did really well (if I may say so myself) it was still work.
Will This Always Be So Much Effort?
Everything just took so much damn effort. Planning, forethought, preparation, and intention were all necessary if we were to get through a day unscathed. Nothing was casual in those first two years of parenthood. Things that would just happen naturally back in the day (from romantic gestures to the process of walking out the door to go somewhere) all of a sudden took real intention. Oh, and the stakes were now higher. So, you know, no pressure or anything.
And, honestly, you get used to this, but every now and then the weight of it all hits you and you're like, "OMG is this going to be forever?!"
Will The Boobs Ever Not Be Weird?
So this is specific to me and the fact that I breastfed both my kids for two years. While I don't think we were overly weird about or weirded out by my lactating breasts... they're still breasts that are lactating. That never felt normal in intimate moments.
Will The Guilt Ever End?
There's always something to do and there's always something you're not doing. The first two years of having a child could be subtitled (among other things) "Something's Gotta Give." When I was focused on my baby I felt bad for not focusing on my partner and my friends and my extended family members and my job and my creative endeavors. And when I did find time to pay attention to those things I felt guilty for not focusing entirely on my baby.
As a new parent there's just not enough you to go around and it sucks, as a person and as a partner, to feel like you're constantly not quite enough.
Why'd We Do This Again?
OK, I never wished I hadn't had a baby, but there were definitely times when I'd think back to our pre-baby life of sleeping in on weekends and going out whenever we wanted and not having to plan for the continued existence of a helpless human being and wonder why my husband and I decided to start a family and change all that.
Even if you immediately know the answer, you can't help the fact that your mind will occasionally wander back to the days when it was just the two of you.