Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for my son's father. Not only are we lovers and friends and share a love of heavy metal, but we make a pretty great parenting team and seem to "get" one another in a way that's both easy and helpful. However, parenting is hard — regardless — and there are times when my battery, my partner's battery, or both, run dangerously close to empty. Thankfully, there are ways to recharge your partner when their battery is running low; ways that reinforce the idea of "teamwork" and help you both stay in-tune not only as teammates in this whole parenting business, but as romantic partners and friends and individual human beings, with lives and goals and needs outside of the family you've cultivated together.
The added necessities and responsibilities and obligations of parenthood is, in my opinion, what makes parenting with another person so difficult and, at times, exhausting. It's one thing to simply share a life with someone; to have bills you both have to pay and plans you both have to sign off on and a middle ground you both have to collectively find. I think that simply living with someone can be stressful. However, throw a kid (or more) into the mix and you have something else draining your time, energy, creativity, and every other facet of your existence. Suddenly, you need more from your partner and your partner needs more from you. Time is precious, sleep is limited and things that at one time seemed so trivial suddenly seem nothing short of monumental.
Which is why it's important to not only focus on what you need, but what your partner may or may not need, too. I know that I'm at my best when my partner is at his best, and our parenting falters if we both aren't running on fully charged batteries. In the end, I'm responsible for myself and my mental health, but being part of a partnership is about looking out for the person I've decided to share my life (and my parenting responsibilities) with. So, with that in mind and because teamwork is fun, here are just a few ways you can help your partner recharge their battery when parenthood has figuratively (and probably literally) drained them. #RelationshipGoals
Tell Them To Take Themselves Out On A Date
My partner and I recently started a "new thing," where once a week we have date night— with ourselves. One week I will take myself out to one of my favorite restaurants, followed by a new movie or a walk in the park or whatever else I fancy, and the next week, we switch. I can't tell you how helpful it's been for not only our parenting (together and separate) but for our relationship.
I get one-on-one time with my son while my partner gets to recharge and spend time alone, and the next week we get to trade places. I get to spend some one-on-one time with myself and get back to being me, and only me, and my partner gets some father-son time. I honestly can't believe we didn't do this the moment after our son was born (or, honestly, the moment we moved in together, way before I was even pregnant).
Call Their Friends And Have Them Plan A Night Out, So Your Partner Doesn't Have To Orchestrate A Thing
My partner stays at home with our son all day, and goes to school full-time in pursuit of a degree in electronic engineering. In other words, homeboy needs a break. Not too long ago I called a mutual friend, told them to get their ass into town and take my partner out. I didn't want him to worry about anything or organize anything, I just wanted him to have a night out on the town with his buddies where he didn't have to worry and he didn't have to be a dad or a student or anything other than a normal, 30-something year old dude.
He came home happy, rejuvenated and ready to take on his midterms. It was easily one of the best decisions I've ever made (and that's saying something because, well, I did decide to have a kid once upon a time).
Help Your Kid Make A DIY Craft For Your Partner, Then Present It To Them
I was having a particularly difficult day at work, hardly ever sleeping, missing my friends and just genuinely overwhelmed, when my son made me his first "picture." Of course, my partner orchestrated the entire thing and even wrote the "to mom, from Matthias (my son's name)" calling card that made his squiggles and circles a "gift," but it was a wonderful reminder of why I am working so hard for my family (and myself).
I put that picture on our fridge and instantly felt better about my week, as well as the weeks ahead.
Take Your Kid In The Morning, And Let Your Partner Sleep In
In my opinion, this is co-parenting 101. It honestly doesn't matter who does what, but alternate between Saturday and Sunday mornings and let your partner sleep in. Not only will they get the sleep they probably need and deserve, but you'll know that in seven days, you'll be the one sleeping in and they'll be making breakfast or simply entertaining the kid.
This is partnership, in a nutshell. Let your partner sleep in and then make sure they return the favor.
Run Them A Bath, Then Shut (And Lock) The Bathroom Door Behind You
My partner did this for me a few times during pregnancy, and one time since, and changes my entire perspective every single tie.
Just recently, my 2-year-old toddler was throwing an epic tantrum, I was attempting to work from home, I was behind on a deadline and I was struggling to even think about what to cook for dinner. Out of nowhere and without a single prompt, my partner ran a bath, put some lavender-infused bath soaps in the hot-as-hell water, turned on my favorite music and left the bathroom. I spent an hour in that hot water, eyes closed and listening to whatever was on my iPhone. It was glorious, and I re-emerged a brand new woman ready to tackle toddler tantrums and work and dinner and whatever the hell else I needed to deal with.
Leave Them Alone With Nothing But A Book Or Netflix Or Both
I know that we like to fancy our romantic partners the "answer" to all of our problems, but that's just not the case. In fact, I've had to tell my partner on more than one occasion that I don't need affection or attention or anything of the sort; I need to be left alone. Sometimes, the only way to recharge your battery is to spend time with yourself, and just yourself.
So, when those moments arise the most supportive thing my partner can do is take my son and just leave me be. Let me spend an hour or two with a good book or my computer or Netflix or whatever else. Let me take the time to really sit back and relax and think and not have someone else asking me for something or tugging on my pant leg or just touching me. I promise, one hour of absolute silence (or Orange Is The New Black) will make all the difference in the world.
If You Co-Sleep, Take The Kid For A Night And Let Them Have The Bed All To Themselves
If you don't co-sleep, be the one to get up with your kid when they cry or have a bad nightmare or simply want someone next to them.
Now, is this always possible? Nope. I exclusively breastfed my son for almost-seven months, so I can tell you that when he woke up, I was the one rolling over and feeding him (my partner and I co-sleep). However, when the breastfeeding ended, the co-sleeping didn't and every now and then my partner will take our son to the living room couch-turned-bed and "camp," so that I can get some sleep that doesn't involve a foot to the nose. Then, and of course, I'll return the favor a night or two or however long, afterwards. #Teamwork
Let Them Vent And Actually Listen
I can tell you that there are days when I don't need a bath or a massage or some fancy night out. Instead, all I need is one world-class bitch session where I can vent and say all the things I "shouldn't" say and have someone not only listen, but promise not to judge or shame me.
My partner does that for me on a daily basis, and knows I can offer him the same. Having someone listen to me and tell me what I'm feeling is normal and that they support and understand me, is like hooking my internal battery to some super-power source and being catapulted to 100 percent efficiency in seconds.
Take Them Out For A Romantic Evening, No Kids Allowed
If course, the go-to for any parenting couple is a date night sans children. It's so easy to lose yourself to parenting when your entire life (or at least a good part of it) revolves around another mini-human. So, every now and then, I demand that my partner and I have a night on the town without our son.
Do I like the times we explore as a family? Of course, and the three of us trying new things and going new places are some of my most cherished memories. However, I feel rejuvenated when I get to spend time with just my partner, and remember what we were like before we had a son to raise. Those moments make me feel like I'm more than a mother, and that's such an important reminder (I think) to have and hold onto.
Tell Them What You Value And Appreciate In Them
When in doubt, pay your parenting partner a compliment.
I can tell when my father's son is feeling down and overwhelmed and exhausted and just, you know, not himself. I can see that he's holding on by a figurative thread and is in need of a little "boost." If I don't have the time or the funds or the resources to do something more, I simply tell him that I see him. I see him trying and I see him working hard and I see him being a great father, even when he doesn't think he is. I see him doing what he can for his family and going to school and bettering himself and trying his absolute best, even when he can't see that himself. Those little reminders let him know that his efforts aren't in vain and they're not taken for granted.