When you have a baby everything changes, including your relationship with your partner. The jump from friends to lovers to parents doesn't seem like anything major until you're in the thick of it, too. That's when you start realizing all the things you should've done together, and way before you decided to add another member to your crew. Maybe it's something as simple as a picnic in the park, or as extravagant as an overseas vacation. Regardless, there are things every couple needs to do by themselves before having a baby, and because my pregnancy was unexpected, my partner and I regrettably missed out on most of these arguably awesome and beneficial things.
Before my daughter came into the world, I wouldn't say my partner and I had the full experience of being a couple. Our relationship started fast and we both fell hard, and when I found out I was pregnant neither of us were in the place we'd hoped to be as individuals and as a couple. We decided we wanted to be parents, though, so we dove headfirst into the pool of responsibility that comes with raising children. We loved it, and still love it, but we both acknowledge a lingering sadness associated with all the "just us" couple stuff we essentially missed out on.
Once there's a baby in your life that you and your partner are responsible for, it's hard to resume the life you both enjoyed before you held that positive pregnancy test in your hot little hands. Impossible, even. Sure there's a level of sameness you'll both hold onto, but even that "sameness" is totally different when you're a parent. So with that in mind, here are some things I think every couple should do before welcoming a baby. Things I definitely wish I would have done.
Go On A Retreat
One thing my partner and I did do before we became parents? Rent a cabin in the mountains. It was just a few weeks before I discovered I was pregnant, and a glorious time of togetherness and spontaneity. I think all couples should do something like this before having kids, because it's easier to focus solely on each other when you don't have to find a babysitter.
My partner and I moved in together pretty early into our relationship. I don't necessarily think that was the best decision, but I do think couples should know how to live with their other half (married or not) before trying to parent together. It's the only way to see how the other person behaves in real life, unfiltered scenarios. You know, like how they sleep and how clean they require their home to be and whether or not your lifestyles are compatible.
Figure Out Your Finances
Money is arguably the most complicated part of any relationship — especially if neither of you have much of it. My partner and I struggled with finances for a long, long time. I wish we'd spent more time discussing how to handle it before our baby girl entered the picture, instead of letting it nearly tear us a part after.
Invest In Something Together
You don't have to combine bank accounts or whatever, but it's probably a great idea to combine some of your money and invest it in something like a stock, a couch, or even a gift for someone's birthday. It's not a huge deal, but it's another step that would be good to work out before you're both paying for diapers.
Babysit Someone Else's Kid
I used to babysit other people's kids all the time, but it was only after having a kid of my own that I realized that babysitting is not synonymous with parenting. But still, you should see how you handle the stressful parts of caring for another human being — like calming a fussy baby — before yours comes along.
Go To All The Concerts & Sporting Events
It's not that we stopped going to these things after we had kids, but it was a lot easier to attend a local concert or game before we were parents. So go to as many as you possibly can before there's sitters to pay and schedules to work around.
Host A Dinner Party
It's such a grown-up thing to do, right? I've hosted my fair share of dinner parties, usually as a parent. So I truly think playing hostess would have been much easier before I was a mom. I mean, at least there wouldn't have been kids interrupting dinner conversations every three seconds.
Have All The Sex
It's not as carefree or loud or spontaneous when you have children. It can be, sure, but for the most part, no. Enjoy it now.
Enjoy Your Friendship
Friendship is the foundation of any stable romantic relationship. So of course you should be able to rely on your partner as a friend and a confidant before you rely on them as a parenting partner.
My partner is my best friend, and has been since we met. My advice? Make sure that part of your relationship is strong, because it will carry you through the harder times of becoming new parents, especially when the romance takes a backseat.
I've always wanted to go to random places across the country with my partner to see anything and everything I possibly could. After we had kids we've tried, but have mostly stuck to family vacations or sightseeing within our town for the sake of convenience and our sanity.
As a couple, see all you can before you become a family.
Get A Pet
I've always had any number of cats and can't imagine my life without at least one. Much like babysitting someone else's kid with your partner, taking care of a pet together says a lot about how you both will function as a parenting unit. It's not quite the same, but good practice as far as responsibility goes.
Watch All The Shows & Movies
As a mother of two now, most of what I watch is on Disney or Nickelodeon. Couples should watch all the R-rated things they can, while they can, before they're stuck watching Teen Titans Go for the rest of their damn lives.
Talk As Much As Possible
Another thing I took for granted was all the uninterrupted conversations my partner and I had before we had a baby. Now that we're parents, everything we say has to do with the kids, or is cut off by the kids, and it can be as exhausting as it is frustrating.
Take A Class
Learn something new together — maybe even a parenting or childbirth class. It's another way to strengthen your bond before you're too exhausted to do anything.
Exercise Whenever & However You Want
It becomes exponentially more difficult to spend a significant amount of time at the gym or take a yoga class when you're a parent. I say spend time with your partner taking care of and focusing on you, before your priorities switch and you focus on taking care of someone else.
Learn Something New
Anything. Another language. A craft. A hobby. Whatever it is, do it together and enjoy that time as a curious couple.
Go To A Wine Tasting
I've been to a few wine tastings with my partner and I can honestly say it was way more relaxing before having children. Not worrying about a hangover, or babysitters, makes the date significantly more enjoyable.
Spend Time With Other Couples
It was always a fun to spend time doing "couple" things before my partner and I had our daughter. It's not that we stopped going out with other couples after we had her, but it got tricky when we had a baby and our paired up friends didn't.
Find A Trail & Get Lost
Lose your watch and phone, find a trail, and just be together.
Go To An Adventure Park Together
Disney World, Cedar Point, Universal Studios, Six Flags — wherever it is, they're great when you can take your kids, sure, but going before you have them is even more fun because you can ride whatever ride you want and eat all the junk food without worrying about a little human's health and just be a kid before, well, you have one of your own.
Once you have a child your home will never, ever, be quiet again. Seriously. Sit in complete silence with your partner, and enjoy it.
Utilize As Much Self Care As Possible
Whatever this means as a couple, take advantage of it. My partner and would get our hair cut or do yoga whenever we felt like it. While we still do these things now, they require significant planning and scheduling.
Get A Couple's Massage
It's. The. Best.
Go To Las Vegas
OK, so my partner and I didn't do this, but I wish we had. Now, I'm too tired to even think about walking the Vegas strip.
Have A Picnic In The Park
Sounds romantic, doesn't it? And trust me when I say packing for a picnic is leaps and bounds easier when you don't have to account for diapers and bottles and a change of clothes and a pacifier and, well, you get the idea.
Get Into Some Heated Debates
Talk about religious views. Politics. The kind of parents you hope to be. All of it. Because there's no take backs once you're tied together by a child, and you both need to learn to agree to disagree, compromise, and figure out what you're absolutely not OK compromising on prior to procreating.
Attend Couple's Therapy
Even if you don't think you need it, going to counseling might help strengthen your communication skills and bring you and your partner closer together before you experience any kind of conflict. It's a great tool to have in your couple's arsenal.
Go To Family Gatherings Together
You're not necessarily tied together forever, even in marriage, until you have children. Make sure you've spent adequate time together at each other's family functions so you know how you, and your future baby, will fit into one another's already established families.
Go To An Arcade
Have fun for the sake of it.
Try Roller Skating
I love roller skating,. Turns out, it's also a great skill to know when you're a parent and have to attend children's birthday parties. It's a lot of fun as a couple, too. (Well, as long as you're not the one falling on your ass every two seconds.)
Take Dance Lessons
I wish my partner and I had attended a salsa dance class together before we became parents. I remember talking about it but we, somehow, never got around to it.
Cook A Meal Together
These days I do all the cooking. Back in the day and before we had kids, though, my partner and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. It's a great team-building exercise I think all couples should do.
Find Your "Thing"
Whatever it is, find something that's all yours as a couple — something that makes you uniquely you. My partner and I were in a band together. Once we had kids the band slowly disintegrated because, well, responsibilities. But I look back on those times fondly and am glad we did something creative together while we could.
Talk About The Future
Just as you should know where your partner stands on all the important issues, it's also important to discuss where you see yourselves in the future. Do you want more kids? What about your career? Are you married? Do you want to be? Talk about all of it. Now.
Seriously. Rarely do I get an opportunity to do absolutely nothing with my partner. Sit on the couch and enjoy pretending your both vegetables. Lay in bed for an entire Saturday. Do nothing, and enjoy it. Because when you become a parent, even your easiest of days will involve a lot of work.
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