If your relationship never ran into any kind of turmoil or stress before you had children, I have a few thoughts for you:
- Seriously though, how?
- Seriously though, congratulations
- Once you have a kid, the stress will find you.
I'm not saying that children are the end of couple-y bliss, but having a baby is hard on relationships, or at the very least can be. With their entry into your life, children bring many things: contentment, excitement, joy. But they also bring screaming, inconvenient hours, and wants and needs that will completely upend the way you've been living up until before they arrived.
Whether you're raising a child with a partner or on your own, you pretty much have to re-learn how you're going to do absolutely everything. When you're doing it all on your own (which, #respect) you have the challenge of needing to figure this out (and take it on) largely on your own. If you're parenting while partnered, yes, you have the help of an extra set of hands, but you both now have the added challenge of remaining physically and emotionally available to the needs of someone in addition to your child, who is basically requiring 7,000 percent of you as it is.
But there are those we can learn from. Strong couples who get that this is going to be both a marathon and a sprint — a sprintathon! To ease the stress and difficulty of life as new parents, they have figured out bizarre ways to demonstrate their love of one another. Most of them relate to eating, sleeping, and body fluids, because this is what our lives are like now, you guys.
They Cut Each Other's Food
In the four and a half years I have been a mother, 87% of dinners have, at some point, included a child on my lap, making cutting food an impossibility. This is where my husband comes in with fork, knife, and two working hands. If it weren't for him, I'd probably still be gnawing on a serving of lasagna from 2012.
They Give One Another Back And/Or Foot Rubs
Children take a lot from us: time, money, and tranquility. (They give us things to, like love and macaroni necklaces and super-viruses from daycare.) Nothing can be done about the time or money, but restoring a sense of calm and relaxation can be accomplished through DIY spa services provided by your partner. They may not have the trained and skillful hands of your favorite masseuse, but let's be honest here: You have neither the time, money, nor energy to go out for a proper massage anyway. Foot or shoulder rubs while watching Jessica Jones is just another little sign that you care for one another.
They Offer To Let You Take Naps
To parents, offering the other person a nap is like a partner in a new relationship telling the other, "Hey, you know how you've always said your ultimate fantasy was [crazy sex thing that we've never done before]? Let's do that right now." Yeah, offering to let them take a nap while you watch the kids is far more exciting.
They Help Each Other Blow Their Nose
It takes a special person to hold a notoriously thin bit of paper to your nose and say, "Here, blow as much globby, germ-filled mucos into this as you can and then I'll throw it away for you," while you're holding a sleeping baby who will definitely wake up if they are put down. That's love, yo.
They Come Home With Take Out
No one wants to cook after a long day at work, whether you work outside of the home or not. So when one of you shows up at the door with containers of pad thai, saag paneer, or pizza, it's like, "You are a glorious and magnificent food goddess and I love you so much right now." Bonus: No one has to clean the kitchen, either.
They Take Turns Sleeping In
It's not quite a nap offer, but it's up there. And "sleeping in" doesn't even necessarily mean "sleep as late as you want." It means "Our kid wakes up at 5 a.m. but we don't have to be up until 7. You sleep until your alarm goes off; I've got them this morning. You can handle it tomorrow."
They Buy Each Other Little Treats On Drug Store Runs
I'm convinced the drug stores of America celebrate every time a child is born, because more babies means more people coming into their stores on a daily basis. This is just the natural order: when you have a little one, you invariably need something from the drug store. Wipes. Pacifiers. Nasal spray. Gripe water. Diapers. Formula. Something. So one of you will always have to make the trip... and, if you're very nice, you will come back with a little something to sustain your partner. A Kit-Kat, Milanos, chips, Ben & Jerry's. Parenting is hard as hell, and it's far more easily borne when there's a pint of Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream in your corner.
They Wash Bottles
Because that crap is annoying as hell, especially if breast pump parts are also involved. Stepping up and doing this crappy chore (because, let's face it: those things often just kind of sit in the sink for a while because no one feels like doing them) is a true sign of kindness and affection.
They Occasionally Send Each Other Away For A Few Hours
Whether you're being gently pushed out the door to get a manicure or go have drinks with your friends or play tennis or you're telling bae to skedaddle to see a movie or buy comics or do yoga, it's an ultimate sign of loving closeness when you tell your co-parent to get lost.
They Empty The Damn Diaper Genie
Like washing bottles, this is a chore no one wants to do. Even though it doesn't actually take too long, all the smells that this magical container somehow traps throughout the day/week comes rushing toward you in the few seconds it takes to remove the bag, tie it closed, and then toss in garbage (or into a fiery pit of Hell, where it belongs). A willingness to take on this task demonstrates kindness and bravery.
They Protect Each Other From Their Child's Body Fluids
At their basest level, kids are basically just factories of unpleasantness. My son was famous for projectile vomit at his 3 a.m. feeding (the one thing that makes a 3 a.m. feeding truly awesome? Knowing your child is going to spew the contents of his stomach all over you at the end of it.) and projectile poop literally all the time. My daughter was known far and wide for crapping up the back and front of her onesies. But when you're part of a strong relationship, you and your partner attempt to shield one another (and your possessions) from all this. My husband once jumped in front of my son's projectile poop, secret service style, to protect our white comforter. I once caught my daughter's vomit before it hit my husband's shoulder. This is what love looks like, guys.
They Warn Them Of The Things They Could Step On
Legos. Action figures. A diaper that you forgot to toss. An unexplained wet spot. A parents' home is one of landmines. Your true love will help you navigate these treacherous steps.
They Thank One Another
Two little words that, when genuinely and regularly applied to a relationship, can work wonders. It's like the coconut oil of words: It fixes everything and makes everything wonderful. Saying thank you to your partner goes beyond just, "I appreciate what you did just there." When you say it enough, especially for the little things, it says, "Thank you for always showing me that we are in this together."