I can specifically remember being in an undergraduate marriage and family class and listening to the professor describe some research around what happens to couples after they have their first baby. To sum it up, what we learned that day in class is that relationship satisfaction tends to decrease after the arrival of the first baby, and that change happens pretty suddenly.
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to have kids, I don’t know what will.
I thought about this research when I first got pregnant. I looked at my goofy, spontaneous and incredibly loving husband and thought, nope, not us.
The first year of our marriage was so fun. We rarely went to sleep before 12:30am, we went to so many happy hours, we were always with friends, and had so much time with each other.
I knew that when the baby came we might be more tired, and we probably wouldn’t have the freedom we once did, but its us. It’s him. We got this.
Well, it turns out we aren’t bulletproof. Tired is an understatement and freedom to do what we want when we want (without packing four bags and thinking about naps and feeding times and if we brought all the necessities needed for a blow out) is a distant memory I can hardly remember.
As a wife, if I am completely honest, I probably do feel less satisfied in my marriage since the baby has come into this world.
And it TOTALLY makes sense.
I am less satisfied in the sense that we have less time together (actually, very little one on one time). And in the rarity we get it, there are piles of laundry and dishes to clean, and we are often too exhausted to even get to those, let alone to do something fun together. We have more expenses, more mess, more chaos. So of course a relationship feels the brunt of this. Life is so different. I think the research is right.
If I just made you feel like a baby is going to ruin your relationship, hang on! There is good news.
And I’m not going to say the cliché “having a baby is totally worth it/It’s the greatest joy/It’s the most fun you will ever have”. I do believe these things to be true (primarily after I have had my 5th cup of coffee), but there is something else.
What they don’t tell you is the amount of satisfaction (or pleasure, joy and love) that comes from watching your partner become a parent, too.
Part of the reason why I don’t get as much quality time with my husband is because he is spending time bonding with our baby. Throwing him in the air, tickling him, talking to him, sleeping with him, teaching him to say “dada” before “mama” (a rant for a different time).
Watching him be a dad is one of my favorite things about being a parent and a wife.
So yes, there may be less satisfaction in one aspect of our marriage where I miss the alone time and freedom we had, which I truly loved. I do think there is some sort of grieving process we go through when a child comes.
On the other hand, I get to experience a whole new joy of loving him not just as my husband but as my baby’s dad. I get to experience watching my husband invest in and love our little man. This is a whole new side of him I would have never experienced without having that first baby.
The interesting thing is that when I look back on those days when it was just the two of us, it seems funny that we even knew how to live without our baby, that life even felt okay and normal without him. He is such a big part of us that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t always been there.
I think it’s OK to say your baby has made your relationship more challenging. In fact, I think it would be strange if your relationship didn’t change when you add a new human into the equation.
It’s also pretty cool to see how your relationship dynamics change when the baby comes, and how it can bring about a whole new love and appreciation for your partner. Maybe not the exciting, passionate type that you had at the beginning of your relationship, but a deeper kind.
It’s definitely not always (or ever) easy or even close to perfect, but it is totally worth it. Dang it . . . I said it.
Originally published on the author’s blog