Raising kids is many things. Exciting. Rewarding. Joyful. Frustrating. Terrifying. Often you may swing wildly from one of these feelings to the next with little warning.
But in the day-to-day of dealing with young children, one feeling is probably far more prevalent than any other: exhaustion.
Quite simply, kids wear you out. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally.
You have to do everything for them while striving to teach them to be self-sufficient. You have to ride their roller coaster of emotions without getting sucked in yourself. You are their jungle gym, their punching bag, and their mode of transportation.
And, of course, you have to worry that everything you do may be the wrong thing. You may struggle with thinking that it will be your fault if your kids are unsuccessful, leading to painful emotions, such as fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness, or frustration.
After all of that, how in the world can you be expected to have anything left to give to your spouse? How can you be expected not to snap at them when they ask if you washed the shirt they need or remembered the milk on the way home from work?
Of course you didn’t. They’re lucky you even got out of bed that day!
But you can’t give in to these feelings, because over time, they will drive a wedge between the two of you.
What can you do? How can you stay connected when it’s all you can do to stay on your feet?
Don’t stay on your feet.
Parenthood, possibly more than anything else in life, teaches us how to keep putting one foot in front of the other when it seems impossible. Once you’ve done it for a while, you can even start to get used to it. Not better at it, just used to it.
Unfortunately, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Living like this causes irreparable harm both to you and those around you.
The solution? Stop. Whenever the chance to rest arises, take it.
This can feel difficult at first. All those things you’re not getting done! But it’s utterly worth it.
Because you’ll soon discover that a well-rested you is both far better at meeting your responsibilities… and much more pleasant to be around.
Work on your relationship.
Get educated on how to really love another person. Marriage is hard, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. Quality relationship education is essential.
One has to ‘work’ on becoming married. This includes, but isn’t limited to, effective communication. Healthy feelings of guilt and fear could be important with messages suggesting you pay attention to becoming a better spouse, in order to become a better co-parent.
There are wise family experts who’ve suggested that the vast majority of us parents (I include myself!) are only ‘post-adolescent neurotics having kids, with little if any effective preparation for creating emotional health for themselves or their kiddo’. Chuckle, have a sense of humor, but understand that this is very important: it’s virtually impossible to be ‘one grain of sand’ better as a parent than I am a spouse.
A primary need of every child is for their mommy to love their daddy with Real Love – and vice-versa. (And if you’re divorced, then it’s a major need of your young child that you behave with some understanding and compassion towards the other co-parent.)
The greatest gift most parents can give to their children is to complete the Imago Couples Workshop, because you’ll learn how to co-create a marriage you both can love. And from your workshop, you’ll also learn how to become a better co-parent.
Share your appreciation.
Spend a few minutes each day recognizing all of the ways that your spouse kept the wheels from falling off and made your life easier – even if it didn’t feel like it in the moment. Write a list if it helps.
Then – and this is the most important part – share it with them. Preferably not at a time when they’re in the middle of 16 other things, but even then, it’s probably better than not saying anything.
It’s a reminder that you notice them. That everything they do matters. That you couldn’t do this without them.
Have fun together.
Remind each other why you fell in love in the first place: you enjoy one another’s company. Commit to regular date nights, just as you would an exercise routine or diet. It’s important for the health of your relationship.
If finances or childcare are issues, have a date night at home after the kids are in bed. Play a board game, cook a romantic dessert together, or sample a new bottle of wine. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it is an opportunity to interact, have fun, and spend time just the two of you.
Need help reconnected? Reach out to a Houston marriage therapist or attend an Imago couples workshop. Invest in your relationship – and your family!