WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff

Can We Be Amazing Parents and Still Keep Our Love Alive? Balancing Parenting and Marriage

The research is unequivocal that marital satisfaction declines once couples become parents. In an eight-year longitudinal study, researchers found, “Compared to pre-birth levels and trajectories, parents showed sudden deterioration following birth on observed and self-reported measures of positive and negative aspects of relationship functioning.” Both mothers and fathers saw this decline in satisfaction.

Balancing Parenting and Marriage
Picture Credits: Pexels.com

In everyday language, that means marriage gets harder when you become parents, a lot harder. So, what can you do to balance parenting and marriage so that you keep your love alive?

Acknowledge the Structural Issues at Play

Modern life is tough, and modern parenting is absolutely brutal. 

This is especially true in the United States, one of the few wealthy countries that provides no structural support to parents. The toll is particularly hard on women who experience a heavy motherhood penalty to their salary, which has a massive impact on their long-term earning potential. This penalty is the most significant driver of the gender wage gap. The rising cost of childcare further exacerbates the issue, driving countless parents away from their jobs because affordable, quality childcare isn’t available to them.

Acknowledging that the struggle is systemic can help alleviate frustration with your partner. Remember that these significant issues are largely out of your individual control and are really challenging to address, so do the work together.

Make sure you’re both researching options for childcare and being very, very clear with one another about how your choices will affect your joint finances and your individual careers. Make a concrete plan to counteract the impact of the motherhood penalty in your household.

Set Yourselves Up for Success

If you are new or expecting parents, this is the perfect time to set yourselves up for success as you balance parenting and marriage. Follow these tips to get started on the right foot.

  • Maximize your family leave if it’s available to you.
    • Both parents should avail themselves of leave whenever possible. It’s essential for the non-birthing parent to get comfortable with caregiving early on. 
  • Call in resources
    • Leverage your community and/or any paid resources you can afford (family, friends, lactation consultants, night nurse, meal delivery, etc.)
    • Make sure one parent isn’t the only one coordinating these resources. Non-birthing parents need to learn to anticipate and address needs at this stage.
  • Learn to comfort baby on your own
    • Baby’s cues can be challenging to read. Make sure both partners take the time to learn to interpret them and meet their needs without always defaulting to the birthing parent.
  • Be careful about breastfeeding*
    • Lactating parents need EXTRA rest! Making food for a growing infant takes an incredible amount of energy.
    • The time spent breastfeeding a baby in their first year is equivalent to a full-time job. That time has value!
    • If your partner is pumping, ensure you’re taking some nighttime feedings and learning to comfort the baby without the breast.

* Remember, fed is best. There is no judgment if you’re not breastfeeding — for any reason.

Anticipate the Sticking Points

Every family will have sticking points in the care of their home that cause conflict. Clear communication around these areas can help when you’re balancing parenting and marriage. It is absolutely critical that both partners learn how to anticipate the needs of their children and their households. This is the best way to balance the mental load and prevent resentment from building. 

Here are some common sticking points that many couples struggle to balance.

  • Chores and Cleaning
    • Make sure both partners not only DO chores but also know which chores are critical to keep the house running smoothly. 
    • Practice noticing what needs to be done around the house and taking action on it without consulting your partner. (Quick Help Guide to Know More)
    • Determine what chores are non-negotiable and which can wait if you’re both too busy.
    • Consider outsourcing if you have the means. Hiring someone to help with cleaning, laundry, or yard work can help couples free up time and capacity in their relationship. Make sure both partners take responsibility for managing any outsourced work.
  • Shopping
    • Making sure your home is stocked with everything you need is a massive contributor to the mental load. Both parents should know what essential products are required and how to source them. A shared shopping list can be helpful for this.
Parenting and Marriage
Picture Credits: Pexels.com
  • Food
    • Meal planning, preparation, and cooking are other significant sources of mental and physical work. 
    • Make sure both partners are aware of food aversions and preferences and are able to make meals for your children that they will eat. 
    • Share this work together. If one of you is a great cook, make sure the other partner is supporting their efforts with prep, shopping, and clean up.
  • Childcare
    • As I stated before, childcare is incredibly tricky for American families to navigate. Split the research and make sure both parents are filling out forms, communicating with teachers, hiring babysitters, packing food and backpacks, and doing pick up and drop off.
  • Discipline
    • Discipline is a challenging and inevitable part of parenting. Take the time to be very clear on your discipline philosophy and discuss it openly and often with your partner.
    • Be careful to watch for things that show up from your family of origin. Make sure you’re clear that how you disciple your child is thoughtful and intentional, not just a holdover from how you were raised.
  • Different Standards
    • Take the time to discuss the standards that you both expect in your household and parenting. Try not to assume your way is correct and your partner is unreasonable. Instead, discuss the reasoning behind your standards and find a place where you can both agree.
    • Store your standards in a place you can both access, so you never need to consult your partner before completing a project. Tend Task: Household Organizer is an excellent tool for this purpose.

Prioritize Communication, Connection, and Intimacy

Even the best, most well-behaved children will suck you dry if you’re not careful. If you want to keep your love alive while balancing parenting and marriage, you’ve got to be intentional about carving out time for each other. 

Again, resentment will build if all of the work for maintaining your connection and intimacy falls to one partner. Take turns planning date nights from start to finish, including hiring a babysitter and planning the date. When it’s your turn, make sure you’re considering your partner’s preferences! It feels amazing when your partner books your favorite restaurant or an activity you’ve been dying to try!

Parenting and Marriage
Picture Credits: Pexels.com

Kids are not good for your sex life either, so it’s extra important to be intentional about making space for intimacy. Get creative about time, place, and scheduling. What worked before you had kids likely won’t work again for quite a while. Be careful not to judge your partner if their sex drive changes, and they have less energy for intimacy. Hold space for vulnerable conversations and work toward solutions, not defensiveness.

Carve out a separate time to discuss family scheduling and household logistics. Plan a regular meeting at a time when you both have the capacity to really listen and respond effectively. You might find that weekend mornings are convenient, or weekday lunches when you’re both at your desks in work mode. Some couples even schedule this after sex, so you’re both in a good mood!

It’s totally possible to keep your love alive as you focus balancing parenting and marriage, but it takes effort, intentionality, and, most importantly, equal contributions from BOTH PARTNERS!

If you’re struggling to balance parenting and marriage, our coaches can help. Schedule a free balanced relationship call today!