I had a lot of time to think about my kids and about my relationship with their father on my drive home. It made me realize that I forgot to include a very important component in the last post about maintaining your sense of self. It's important to pay attention to your partner. You decided to have children because you love each other. Many couples get so involved in raising their children, they forget to continue being in love. When I talk about being in love, I'm not talking about that all consuming passion that happens in the beginning. I'm talking about the slow growing comfort and dependence on each other, though the passion is important, too. Your partner should be your best friend. If they're not, something is wrong.
My husband and I had our daughter less than two years after getting together. We were young, adventurous and carefree, traveling around the country, playing music along the way with big hopes and dreams. When we discovered I was pregnant, we happily traded that carefree life for a more settled one, though settled had a different definition for us than for most people. We decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom, and I loved doing that. It had it's disadvantages too, though. I was living in Santa Cruz, California and had very little community, having moved there from Connecticut. I was still very shy and became stir-crazy very quickly. I didn't know about mom's groups or story hours at local libraries, so I immersed myself in being the best mother and housekeeper I could be but did it all alone. That was my first mistake.
I spent all of my days with my baby girl, taking her for walks, singing and reading to her and propping her up on the kitchen table while I baked bread or cooked other yummy things. Her dad worked a full-time job as a cook. It was very stressful, and he didn't love his job. When he came home, he wanted to relax in peace and quiet. I'd had no adult conversation all day and almost lunged at him verbally. Of course, he hated this. I also wanted a break from entertaining a baby and expected him to rush over and scoop our daughter up. You can easily see, this was a recipe for disaster. Over time, I learned to let him debrief first, but those early days were difficult.
We became so overwhelmed with just trying to survive financially and otherwise, we forgot about each other. We still played music and wrote songs together, but it became more of a job. We'd lost sight of the things we loved, including each other. We never went out together unless our children came with us, though most of that was due to economics and lack of support. What we didn't realize is that we didn't have to go out on dates to acknowledge our love. We forgot to have meaningful conversations. We talked about problems, money, the kids, but never talked about life, politics or other non-family oriented topics. We kept moving further and further away from each other emotionally and eventually ... physically. We soon became angry, not really at each other, just at our situations, and took it out on each other.
If I could do it all over, I would make time for the man I loved. I would be physically close to him noticing that I was tired but also noticing the love we shared. I would remember to have conversations that didn't involve my complaining about the woes of the day. But, I would also make time to listen to his woes and ask him to listen to mine, too. I would find other parents with whom we could trade babysitting and ask him to go for walks with me, remembering that it isn't necessary to spend money to enjoy each other's company. I would remember to praise his efforts whether or not I thought they were enough and find ways to encourage change that didn't involve criticism. It's easy to look back and see all the things that I would change, and I have changed many of those with subsequent partners, but that's why I'm writing this post, so that you don't have to look back later with the same regrets. It's not easy. Our relationships are always hard work whether they are friendships or love affairs, but they are worth every effort. Our love can easily stagnate when we throw children into the mix. I hope you don't let that happen to you.