Chandler and were together 12.5 years before we brought another human being into the world. That means we had 12.5 years of being a family of two… plus a Roma-dog. ❤ Of course we fought sometimes and had rough patches but, for the most part, we were SO good at being a family of two. We each value our individuality, as well as our coupledom. And because it was just the two of us for so many years, we could really respect those wants and needs. But as soon as we became parents, a lot of that got thrown out the window… at least, until we consciously decided to stop it.
When Brecken was first born, our lives (obviously) revolved entirely around him. That’s what newborns need (and demand). It’s such a difficult time in life, but also such a sweet time.
Just a few months later, normal life starts to creep back in slowly but surely. You might go back to work. Your babe might start daycare or children’s day out. You might start putting on clothes that aren’t yoga pants. You’ll (hopefully) be sleeping much longer stretches at night.
The problem is that normal life looks so different now than it did pre-kids that you may not recognize it. I know I didn’t.
We were out of the newborn phase and I was starting to get the hang of the whole working mom thing. But at home my focus was still entirely on Brecken. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I certainly wasn’t focusing on any of my other relationships — my family, my friends, my husband.
Before having a kid, I had two main focuses:
- MYSELF. I use this term to be all-encompassing of my individuality. It includes taking care of myself physically and mentally (doctors appointments and counseling), but also spending time with family and friends, and practicing self-care (whether that means a mani/pedi or spending all day Saturday in bed watching Netflix).
- MY PARTNER. Spending time with Chandler. Talking about our days, going on dates — just generally experiencing life together. It can also include reading a relationship book together, discussing our budget, planning a vacation or writing down our goals. Ensuring we continue to grow together.
Now, all of a sudden, a third focus was thrown into the mix. But there aren’t any more days in the week or hours in the day. And that third focus is so much more actively needy than the other two that it easily became the sole focus.
Some of you may be asking, “Is it really that big of a deal for my sole focus to be on my kid? They’re only little once.” YES. The answer is YES. Why? Because having a kid doesn’t make those other two focuses any less important. Not to mention that someday your kids will grow up and leave the house. If you’ve neglected taking care of yourself and/or your relationship with your spouse, where will that leave you?
I learned the importance of this from personal experience. Chandler’s and my relationship had been strained for months. I wasn’t seeing my friends often enough. I certainly wasn’t doing things for myself like getting a pedicure or even remembering to take my anti-depressant every day.
With the help of my amazing counselor, I realized our family needed to make some changes. Chandler and I needed to prioritize all three aspects of our new life — ourselves as individuals, ourselves as a couple and ourselves as parents. But, like I said before, we have the exact same amount of time to do this as we had before when we just had two focuses.
Giving each other time to ourselves, or time as a couple does take away from our time with Brecken. And when you already work 40 hours per week, that can definitely cause feelings of guilt. But after doing this for a while, Chandler and I both became happier as individuals and as a couple. And because we were happier in those aspects of our lives, we also became better, more engaged parents.
From a young age, Brecken will learn by example that taking care of himself is important, as is nurturing the important relationships in his life. And that feeling of pride was enough to erase any mom guilt.