Nothing changes your relationship with your partner like bringing a baby into the mix. Going from a couple to two inexperienced, exhausted parents isn't easy. And, in my opinion, your relationship continues to change as your baby changes, too. Just like your little one is learning how to navigate their world, you're learning how to navigate your ever-changing roll as mom and partner. So believe me when I say there are more than a few doubts you'll have about your marriage when you have a toddler, because, well, toddlers make you doubt pretty much everything. You know, like your concept of time, your sanity, your ability to remain patient, and your will to live.
By the time my son was a toddler, my daughter was pretty self-sufficient. That was wonderful timing, too, since her ability to entertain herself gave me more time to devote to my son, my work, and my marriage. But our relationship had endured a lot by the time my husband and I had two children. We had survived my two difficult pregnancies, two additional pregnancy losses, a slew of communication issues, and a seemingly endless list of lingering questions about how we'd continue to make our relationship work as our children continued to grow. As soon as we felt as though we had everything "in line," and our parenting decisions, our marriage, and our individual goals were all aligned, our children would change and our "perfect plans" would all come crumbling down.
Before too long, I realized that we weren't really a married couple, but two parents living with one another, going through the motions and doing what we had to do to make it through the day. Our relationship wasn't terrible, but it wasn't really wonderful or satisfying either. Everything was about the kids, and when I realized we were more roommates than man and wife, I started to wonder how we could possibly make our marriage last.
We eventually got through it, and now I consider those doubts to be just another normal part of being in a long-term, committed relationship. A healthy, lasting marriage takes work, and that work won't always be pleasant. A few apprehensive moments were, in the end, a reminder of how much we've grown, as parents, as people, and as romantic partners. And after 14 years, we've managed to continue to grow together. So with that in mind, here are just a few of the doubts you'll probably have when you're simultaneously caring for a tiny toddler person.
"Do We Still Like Each Other?"
Of course we love each other, but do we "like" each other? Admittedly, I've asked myself this question way more than once.
By the time my son was a toddler, I felt like my marriage had been through hell and back. We were two tired parents of two rambunctious children, and it was difficult to determine whether or not we were together for the kids, or because we genuinely still liked to be around one another. Of course, that doubt forced us to discuss our marriage and how we were both feeling, which is how we got through this trying time in the first place. Communication, my friends. Communication is key.
"Can We Ever Agree On Anything?"
As a couple, my partner and I were on the same page almost all the time, But as parents? Eh, not so much. As a stay-at-home mom, I always felt like I should have the final say when it comes to the majority of the parenting decisions. After all, I was around the children, and caring for the children, more frequently. So when my husband was home from work and undermined my authority, or made different parenting choices than I usually make, our relationship was tested.
In the end, it just took some trial, error, and a few too many growing pains. After feeling one another out as romantic partners, we had to take the time to feel one another out as parents, too. He had to be more assertive, and I had to learn to relinquish some control.
"Why Does Talking Have To Be So Hard?"
A funny thing happens when you have kids: you forget how to talk adults. I had no idea that my husband and I would end up talking to one another the way we talk to the kids, and this particular communication problem is stealth-like. I had no idea it was an issue, until the problem was so entrenched in our relationship that eradicating it took a helluva lot of work.
I guess we were so focused on being the best parents we could be, that we forgot how to be partners. I've since realized that our ability to communicate with one another respectfully and effectively will always be something we have to work on.
"Do I Still Trust His Decisions?"
Again, because I was the stay-at-home mom and my husband was working outside the home all the time, it was easy to slip into "dictator" mode and demand that he parent the same way I do. Of course, my partner is fully capable of making his own parenting decisions, but it was hard to give him the space, and the trust, to do so. Especially when I knew my way worked.
When you feel like you can't trust any decisions your partner makes regarding your kids, the next seed of doubt you'll inevitably plant is whether or not you even make a solid team.
"Do We Still Enjoy Time Together?"
With two great kids — one a toddler — my husband and I didn't get a lot of time to be together, alone. And when we did, we weren't sure it was worth it. Going out was something we felt we "had" to do, but really we could have been at home, watching Netflix or sleeping or doing one of the million things on our never-ending list of chores and responsibilities and work-related projects.
Little by little, we had somehow forgot that we were people, and a couple, outside of parenting. And, little by little, we started to remember that we exist outside of our children.
"Why Are We Together?"
When I thought about the state of my marriage, I probably couldn't have given you an answer about why we were still together, aside from our children. There wasn't any reason to leave — again, my marriage wasn't abusive or toxic — so our days together just kind of molded into one another. It was the same thing, over and over again, and suddenly I found myself wondering why we were still married.
"What If This Is As Good As It Gets?"
Our children are the absolute best things that have ever happened to my husband I. But that doesn't mean "the best thing that ever happened to us" didn't come without a boatload of sacrifice. We left a lot of our old selves behind the day we brought our babies home. But despite the doubts, we have managed to push past potential roadblocks and continue to choose one another, and our marriage, every single day.
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