Last week in a post on our anniversary trip, Mary mentioned that we were going from being partners to parents, and the phrase has been bouncing around my head since. With our first wedding anniversary, and with a baby on the way, it is prime time for sappy thoughts and for taking stock of where things are and where they are headed. Leading up to our anniversary I went back and re-read the cards people gave us for our wedding. One of my favorites is from one of our closest family friends:
There’s a pull tab at the bottom, and you pull down and voila!
I love this. I love the idea that it’s the same two crazy optimistic kids that got married who have turned their love into a family. I love the idea that it happens without transition, all at once. Or to steal a popular quote, it happens the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.
For some people this transition to being parents means talks about whether to have children, it means uncertainty about where their partner stands, and then if one person does change positions, reluctantly agreeing to start a family, it means worrying if they will regret it, or resent the demands of parenthood.
For us, it was a foregone conclusion. Getting married meant signing up for a family, and probably a big family. Still, we have enjoyed our time together before our first child joins us, and we both feel strongly about taking care of our marriage especially when there are also little ones to take care of.
Here are some things we really hope to do as our family grows. I share them to remind myself of them, to ask for advice for people who have successfully navigated parenthood and came out with a strong marriage, and also because I like sharing:
We hope to:
1. Continue taking care of ourselves – Mary and I watch people close to us to see what strategies work, and to see what people who are happiest and most effective do, and one thing we’ve noticed among successful parents in our circle is that they keep taking care of themselves as individual people with independent needs. How this works varies a lot depending on what stage you’re in, but sometimes it’s stealing an hour or two for an adult beverage with a friend, or Mom stepping out for a pedicure. Other times it’s figuring out how to fold baby in on things, putting the kid in a baby bjorn and walking around the block a few times to get out of the house.
2. Continue taking time out for our marriage – Mary and I are blessed in that we are very close to her family, and when we go on a trip we know that our dog will be well taken care of. I can only imagine how much more important it will be to know someone is willing and dependable to watch our little guy so we can make it to the movies, or have a dinner at a place without high-chairs. Prioritizing time together, without the baby, seems to be key on staying connected during the happy but stressful transition to parenthood.
3. Keep looking for the double count – Mary has this idea, she calls it ‘looking for the double count’ and it means doing two things at once, or adding on a second thing that works well with the first so you can get the most bang for your buck. So for example if you have a massive pile of laundry to do, firing up Netflix or the DVR and catching up on a favorite show while fluffing and folding so that you’re accomplishing something you need to do, and also getting something you want to do in at the same time for the double count. Or one that our family will take advantage of: Dad (me) loves working out Saturday mornings, Mom (Mary) is a troubled sleeper who benefits from being able to catch up a little bit on missed sleep on Saturday mornings. Apparent conflict? Not necessarily, because our gym has a daycare that accepts babies once they are a couple months old. So I can take baby with me to the gym so that Mama gets some sleep, and I get that great outlet for stress and better health.
4. Model a healthy relationship – So much of a person’s success in life is who they marry, and how that marriage serves or work against them. I see time and again the idea that your parents marriage has enormous ability to shape your own beliefs on love, partnership, and marriage. Knowing that those little ears and eyes are observing how we interact and will more likely than not, have their own marriages bare similarities to Mom and Dad’s, it is even more important to Mary and I to ensure that we are setting that bar high in how we treat one another. Demonstrating cooperation, compassion, and healthy conflict resolution will make our marriage happier, but will also give our offspring the best chance at recognizing and prioritizing that in a future partner.
And all of this takes attention, all of this takes work and takes focus, but I can imagine nothing better than giving of my time and talents to this woman and this child. Because that — and not the hokey-pokey — is what it’s all about.