This blog post was inspired by a post that I made inside of my Facebook group, if you're not in there already go in there. It's called Marriage & Motherhood. In that post, I asked the ladies, what are you craving most in your marriage right now? About 80% of them said quality time. I want to dive into that a little bit about why that tends to be the most common answer other than better communication when it comes to your marriage after having kids.
We become mothers the second that we're pregnant, we care about the baby, and their well-being and do all the things that we need to do to make sure that they’re healthy. After they’re born, you now have tunnel vision, all you can do is focus on how to support this baby developmentally, physically, feeding them, changing their diapers, and mentally stimulating them. In the process, we put our marriage on the back burner. It's not a conscious decision, it just kind of happens. You've got this child of yours that needs a lot from you, and previously, you didn't have this much responsibility. Sure, you still had responsibility, but it wasn't like this. It wasn't to the point where you had someone depending on you. You were the only one depending on you, it was you and your partner. You had all the time in the world compared to now to hang out. In fact, everything you did together was quality time. Whereas after you become parents, you've got a shit ton more responsibilities.
You've got to maintain the house on top of taking care of the child who seemingly makes so many messes and needs to eat so often. So becoming parents really forces us to prioritize.
We're tired as hell. We've got a lot more responsibilities and you having that responsibility of taking care of someone else is very mentally draining. I remember when I first came into the picture for my stepson. All I did was take him to the park and I remember wanting to take a nap afterward. I wondered why I was so damn tired when all we did was go to the park. How can that be so tiring? It's not the same as going to the park for yourself, you've got to make sure this child isn't killing themselves in some kind of way, running off into the street, or doing things that are outside of their physical capabilities. You're constantly paying attention, whereas, before kids, it was okay to zone out once in a while.
Becoming a mom shifts your priorities. In the process, you just become “mom” and you may have forgotten that you're also a woman, you've forgotten that you're also a wife, and a friend. You've let parts of you fall away that didn't need to fall away because you have over-identified as a mom. Whatever that image or vision of a good mom means to you, you have latched onto that, and anything that you think doesn't align with that you have let fall away.
How do I know this? Because that was me. This happened twice. The first time happened when I first came into my oldest son's life. I just completely forgot who I was and I let my new identity as a mother figure completely take over who I was as a person. I forgot how to have fun. I just took the role so damn seriously and I didn't need to do that. Instead of picking and choosing what I could keep a part of me and what I can let taper off, I just burned it all to the ground to be a “good mom.” My definition was too perfect. I wasn't doing anything for myself anymore.
If this is you, just know that you're not alone. I invite you to be more aware of what you've done. Maybe it's time to invite more of you back into the picture? The second time happened when my son was born. Almost six years ago, I did it again. My stepson was almost two when I came into his life which meant I had not experienced the infancy stage. When my son was born, I didn't even brush my hair anymore. Life became really transactional. It's very possible that you are not getting the quality time that you want because life has been shifted into this, monotonous routine. Maybe you're waiting for your partner to plan something. But you've changed, and so maybe they've gotten used to it, too. They've gotten used to your relationship dynamic shifting to co-parenting roommates.
After a while, of course, they're going to stop trying. If you keep turning down their bids for connection, then why bother trying because nothing they're doing is working. Nobody likes to experience failure or rejection repeatedly. The effort isn’t worth it. You probably didn't even know your actions came off as rejection because you're just thinking about how much effort it’ll require to connect. All the logistics, planning, and energy. You end up bursting their bubble left and right, not even intending to be negative. You're just being really honest. If you look at it from their perspective, it just doesn't feel good when everything they're offering you is just shut down, one after the other.
Do your conversations easily escalate and get out of hand? If you cannot communicate in ways where you feel like you can tackle any issues together, and instead it feels really hard and stressful, then time together is not going to be enjoyable. You see communication and quality time go hand in hand together. The better you two can communicate as partners, the more likely you're going to want to spend time with each other. However, the inverse is not true. Spending more time together does not make for better communication. You need tools to know how to communicate better, spending more time together does not mean you magically acquire said tools. If you're struggling with this, I would say stop trying to spend more time together, and instead focus your efforts on improving communication. Because, honestly, who wants to spend more time feeling stressed out, frustrated, unheard, or misunderstood?
Now that you’re more aware of what you’ve been doing that has contributed to the decline in quality time, it’s time to make some adjustments and stick to it!
It's going to take time, not quite years, but it's going to take time for your partner to realize that things are changing. It'll take some time to work through their resistance and have them be more open-minded about connecting again.
Here are some things you can do:
Take motherhood in all your responsibilities and dial down the seriousness. Remember to live your life. When you're on your deathbed, you're not going to look back and say you had a really good life because your house was sparkly clean and you went to all your kid's soccer games and you were the Pinterest version of a good mom. This is not a competition of who can sacrifice themselves the most. This is a journey of you living your best life.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Are you practicing self-care?
Are you being mindful of your energy?
Are you giving away your energy to the point where you're drained?
Are you giving so much of yourself and not allowing yourself to receive from others?
Are you burned out?
Raising your emotional awareness helps with this. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself, sleeping and eating the right foods, and moving your body. All of that contributes to building up your resilience.
This is essential for the success of your marriage because when you feel overwhelmed with life, you're likely to take it out on your partner. They become your punching bag and when you do that, they're probably not going to be thinking about how much they want to experience more of that. Make sure you're taking care of yourself so that you can get a better handle on life stressors.
It's easy to think of what you don't want, but it takes conscious effort to think of what you do want. So what if you just told them?
"Hey, I miss hanging out together! Can we work together to plan some quality time?"
Share your criteria, how often you want it to happen, and turn it into a collaborative effort. Turn it into a fun conversation, maybe over some wine or margaritas. You can even talk about it when you're on a road trip together or on a walk.
If you're just sitting around waiting for your partner to ask you out, then you're probably going to be waiting for a while and your resentment will build and that's going to affect how you show up in your marriage. It's going to affect how much compassion you offer them, how open you are to having conversations, how quick to snap you are, and whether you give them the benefit of the doubt or not.
Make sure that when you are arguing, you are working towards leaning into each other rather than away from each other. You can either choose to come together or push them away. When communication feels tense between you two, it becomes way too easy to start avoiding all potentially charged topics. To the point where you don't even talk about important topics anymore and then your conversations turn into more of a co-parenting roommate situation where all you're talking about are logistics and that makes connecting feel way harder. It doesn't motivate you to put the time and effort into it. Who wants to add more stress to their life? You chose to commit to that person. So, if you are having a hard time communicating with them, then something needs to change here.
Are you guys connecting physically anymore? And I know sex isn't like everything in a relationship. But it is certainly an important aspect of your relationship because that's one of the clear identifiers that separate your relationship from being a friendship.
It might just be the inspiration you two need to start connecting more often. Now, as someone whose sex drive has lowered since having kids, I totally get when you don't feel like it. Sometimes you have to remember that it is enjoyable. So you have to convince yourself or prepare yourself for it. Having a dormant sex life in your marriage could be affecting your connection. So maybe if you have fallen off in this area, they're feeling out of touch with you, because they don't feel like you want to connect with them.
Consider what it's like to be in their shoes, consider their experiences, and maybe why they're not trying to connect. I hope that you are able to walk away from this blog post with at least one thing that you can think about or do differently, and start to work your way towards creating more connections and getting that quality time that you so deserve.