Navigating a relationship while taking care of kids is a lot. I never know if I'm doing it right, wrong, enough, or too much. As my children get older, my partner and I are constantly faced with new challenges — things we couldn't foresee as young, hopeful parents — and new and evolving ways parenthood is re-directing our journey through life as a couple. So if there's a list of parenting decisions only forever couples will make, I'd bet some choices we've made together are on it. If they're not, well, they damn well should be.
My partner and I have been together long enough that we've semi-perfected the art of standing as a united front when our children inevitably test us. The youngest is good at picking sides, hoping for compassion from at least one of us (usually me), while our oldest prefers to pit my partner and I against one another. As we near the teenage years with our oldest, it's more important than ever that we stick together and not let her (sometimes) raging attitude divide us. It's the whole strength in numbers thing, you know?
There are times when our generally well-behaved kids (at 10 and 5 years old), act up in ways that go beyond what we're capable of handling, so this united partnership ends up doing or saying something we never thought we'd do or say. We're not perfect, and don't always make the exact right decision when it comes to parenting, but through 13 years of togetherness I'm thrilled to say we've survived some situations I was sure would end us. Here's some of those decisions that prove our relationship was meant to be. Sure, these might not apply to you and your partner, dear reader, but that's the point: we all choose our own destinies, put in the work to make our relationships work long-term, and that always looks differently to different people. Here's what it looks like to me:
Going To The Bottle
When I made those first attempts with breastfeeding our oldest, it didn't go the way we'd planned or hoped. Not only was it derailing my mental health, but it also affected how I felt about being a mother in general. In the very beginning, my partner didn't quite understand all I was going through (and how could he, really?), but once we sat down and decided it was best to switch to bottle, things between us felt easier.
Though decisions like aren't always necessary for a couple and/or parent to make, it was necessary for us. I'd had my heart set on breastfeeding and it took awhile for my partner to catch up to my disappointment with the whole experience. Going to the bottle allowed us to move forward, faster, and we were better for it.
As first-time parents, we didn't know how to get our daughter on a regular, sustainable sleep schedule. After reading all the baby books, we settled on a method that utilized swaddling as part of a sleep-training routine. While our first attempts at sleep training didn't go as planned, and we lost a lot of sleep in the process, I'm thankful we stuck with it, even when we thought about bailing. Soon after, our daughter slept through the night, every night, and so did we.
Advocating For Your Children Together
There was a time during our daughter's younger years when she was bullied. A few incidents led to talks with the principal and, eventually, a change in the way we got her to and from school. As a parent, you're never quite prepared to tackle issues such as this — when your child is hurt by someone else — and we felt like we couldn't protect her like she deserved. It definitely caused a lot of friction between my partner and I (i.e. blaming one another instead of working together). Once we found a solution to keep her safe, our relationship with her, and each other, improved.
Choosing A Discipline Method & Sticking With It
Serving punishments that fit the crime has been an ongoing battle in my home. I never know if I'm doing it right and it has caused a lot of conflict within my relationship. Where I'm too lax, my partner may think a stronger punishment is deserved, and vice versa. It's hard to get on the same page. However, there have been a few times when our oldest has found herself in trouble for electronic-related instances, and my partner and I have come together to decide how to handle things and, surprisingly, we survived.
Staying Home To Be With The Kids
When I found out I was pregnant I made the decision to stay home with any children we'd have, at least until they grew older. My partner didn't love that choice, and for a long time, it divided us. We almost didn't make it through those tough, but mandatory discussions. In the end, we came to a mutual agreement that me staying home was the best choice for everyone involved (for many reasons, aside from my preference). I knew that my partner had my back if anyone asked me what I "do all day."
When To Have "The Talk"
So, maybe there was never an official decision, as a couple, to have the talk with our oldest, but the day I spat out the words as quickly as possible, I immediately told my partner about how it went in case he needed to add to the conversation. It was awful, it continues to feel awful, but we're getting through it together.
While this doesn't apply to every couple, my family and I recently moved to another state. The decision had to be made quickly, and though it's something we'd talked about for a long time, we were so very afraid of doing wrong by our children. Ultimately, we decided it was a chance worth taking.
My partner had to leave to begin work sooner than we could move, leaving the three of us behind for two months. It was difficult, challenging me in new ways as a mother and as a partner. Now that we're settled together in our new home, I see how many times through the year we didn't just survive — we thrived. With love, compassion, an unflinching dedication to make our life together work, despite the hardships or complications, we've turned into a forever couple that will undoubtably grow old together.