"Kids, bills, laundry...what about us?" Does this sound familiar?
Life with kids I've heard some people say "Kids come first. They are always the priority." Well, yes...and no. You may be wondering how a parenting and stepfamily coach could respond that way. After all, isn't parenting my focus?! Here's how I look at this: Of course the kids are an important priority! It's our job to make sure they are loved, fed, healthy, and safe. As their parents, we need to make sure they are nurtured, encouraged, guided (yes, this means disciplined), and raised to be contributing, kind adults. Just as important
Remember that "once upon a time" I mentioned? Well, that's important too! Being a parent is wonderful and difficult and a million other things wrapped into family life. We have so many things on our to-do list when we become parents. Calendars get filled with play dates, school schedules, after school activities and so much more. Many couples forget who they were before parenthood. It's not an intentional decision, life just gets busy. You look at your partner as another set of hands to help get things done. You lose "us" in the chaos. What's really at stake
When life gets busy you forget about the little things you used to do for and with each other. You lose the bond that made you a couple to begin with. Here's where I disagree with the "Kids always come first" thought. When you put your relationship on the back burner you lose the strength of your partnership. You begin to feel like your identity is only defined by your parenting role as "Mom" or "Dad." The busy days can have you falling into conversations about the kids, the house, the bills without ever asking, "How are you?" and really listening to the answer. You forget to connect on an emotional level because by the end of the day you're both exhausted. You want to care, but you're running on empty and don't have the energy to worry about another thing. You are losing a critical piece of the family dynamics, the piece that was the start of your family to begin with! Most couples go through this, so don't panic! Occasionally putting your relationship first is good for the kids! Keeping your relationship healthy can be a priority without guilt. Nurturing your relationship is important for 2 very important reasons:
1. It strengthens your foundation so you can survive the "storms" that come.
2. It models a healthy relationship for your kids.
When your kids see the two of you having fun, being kind and thoughtful towards each other they learn to expect that in their own relationships. My parents were so great about the little things like getting each other a cup of coffee without being asked. For me, it demonstrated how much they cared for each other. It also offers a sense of security. We don't have money for date nights!
Taking care of your relationship doesn't have to cost a dime! Here's a few ideas:
Schedule time once a week to check in with each other without the kids around.
Swap childcare with another couple and go take a walk.
Do little things for each other throughout the week. Make the coffee first. Fold the laundry before your partner gets to it. Tuck the kids in while your partner does something for himself/herself one night a week.
Send each other a sweet text message. Better yet, write out a sticky note and tuck it where your partner will find it later in the day.
Complement each other to your kids. "Your mom is the best at keeping us organized." "Your dad was so kind to help me with that project."
Express your gratitude for something your spouse did or said. "Thanks so much for helping get dinner cleaned up." "I really appreciate it when you read to the kids so I can get laundry put away."
So many times I work with couples who need to reestablish their relationship and tweak a few things. When we nurture and keep our partnership healthy it truly does have a ripple effect within the family. Your takeaway... Share this article with your partner and talk about one small thing the two of you can do to build up your relationship. You can choose from the list above or develop your own unique list. Give it 3 weeks of consistent nurturing and see how things feel! Remember, you'll always be parents but at some point your kids will be grown and gone then it's only the two of you. Invest in your relationship now so you have a firm foundation for those empty nest years ahead (which come way too quickly!).