Love in this stage of parenting littles looks different than it used to.

It’s not the same as it once was, and sometimes, it’s hard to even find it at all if I’m being perfectly honest. There are no firecrackers to announce it is there; this is the season of love that tiptoes ever so gently that it can almost go by unnoticed.

Raising babies is hard. Little hands and little feet and little tooshes and BIG emotions, all around. Sometimes, in the sheer exhaustion of it all, love for our spouse finds itself well down the priority list. That’s not how it should be, but sometimes it just is.

Love in this stage of parenting is all about the little things. There are no romantic trips away or fancy dinners at swanky restaurants or expensive dresses or overseas vacations. Those big things may come one day, but they are not a part of our reality right now.

No, love doesn’t look all that fancy in this stage. 

Love in this stage of parenting looks like waking up to the smell of fresh coffee, knowing he has a mug waiting for you. It looks like letting the other spouse sleep in for a few extra winks (because who are we kidding, nobody gets a proper sleep in when there are LOUD littles in the house). It looks like offering the last piece of toast because neither of you remembered to get a fresh loaf and there simply isn’t enough to go around. Love in this season is you going without so the other one can be happy. 

Love in this stage looks like tag-teaming. Coming to the rescue when you see your spouse flailing in parenting. It looks like taking on the extra load yourself to ease theirs, even when your hands are already full, too. It looks like biting your tongue instead of entering into an argument, even when you know you would be right. It’s choosing to be on the same team. It’s cheering the other one on. It’s a gentle hand on the shoulder with an encouraging word. 

Love looks like filling up the car with gas when you know your spouse has a big drive ahead. It’s cleaning up the dinner mess and wiping dirty benches even when you’re exhausted, just so the other person can relax. It looks like putting fresh sheets on the bed even when you weren’t the one who took the old ones off. 

Love in this stage looks like collapsing on the couch once the kids are in bed, both of you utterly spent for the day yet happy to spend a few more hours just sitting. Sometimes on your phone, sometimes watching a movie, sometimes on the same couch, sometimes on separate couches—whatever the arrangement, it’s always together.

Love in this stage of parenting looks like glancing in each other’s eyes and knowing, without a word, what the other is thinking. It is knowing someone so closely and intimately, which is comforting and infuriating, all at the same time. It’s knowing this is the person you have trusted with your entire life and you wouldn’t have it any other way but you still get so annoyed that he can’t put his clothes in the laundry basket. Or change the empty toilet roll. Or put his dishes in the dishwasher. But, whatever. 

Love in this season is not so much about showy, over-the-top romance. It’s not proclaiming your undying affection for each other from the rooftops. It’s more like being out in the deep together, both being swayed by the turbulent current, yet still throwing out a lifeline for each other. In this season, love doesn’t come bounding in noisily, but rather tiptoes in gently. It’s passing each other in the hallway, each of you on a mission to tend to pressing needs, but knowing that you’re in this together. It’s remembering that you’re on the same team, even though at times it doesn’t feel that way.

Love in this season looks little sometimes. But it’s only because it’s found in the little things. This parenting gig is rough—it’s exhausting with an exhaustion that seeps deep into your bones. But the quiet love found in this season is not a small thing at all, it’s what helps us get through. And as parents, we understand that little things can be the most important things of all. Just like Winnie the Pooh says: “Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

You may also like:

Here We Are, My Love, In the Season of Parenting Little Ones

We’re In a Season of Life Right Now Where Our Marriage isn’t About Romance, it’s About Remembering Us

To My Husband—I Don’t Say It Enough: Thank You For Being Our Everything

Sina Steele

Sina is a wife, mom and creative from New Zealand. Along with raising her daughters, she enjoys working from home in social media, design and writing. She serves alongside her husband at a Christian missions-training college in New Zealand. She loves encouraging women to step out in faith, and you can find her writing ministry over at Her Mustard Faith.