When I think of marriage and parenting...and how the two words are supposed to go together, it's actually kind of comical to me. Because often times in reality, the two words seem on totally different ends of the spectrum. Antonyms to one another, if you will.
Strong marriages are about connection. Communication. Intimacy. Enjoyment of one another. "I love it when you call me from work. It makes me feel so giddy."
And parenting? Well. It sometimes does everything it can to make those tasks difficult. And add stress to your plate. "No, I can't hear you! Don't act so annoyed. The baby is screaming. Call back later when she stops crying. Oh, wait. That's never!" Click.
I've watched it. I've counseled it. I've experienced it. Those moments where the stress is so intense, emotions are so high and the rest is at an all-time low. You want to check out and get ugly. You want to go your separate ways because you're at your limit. And your spouse is too.
But rather than pushing away, what if you choose to enjoy the crazy little reality the two of you share together instead of stressing over the small things that are temporary? What difference does that make in your relationship? Well for me, it is not that it makes a difference. It's that it makes a marriage.
So here are 10 tips for not letting parenting divide you, but join you closer together:
1. Have an understanding between partners that your children belong to both of you
It never seems to join partners together when one parent feels the pressure of raising the kids all of the time, and the other feels like they are "babysitting" when it's "their turn" with the children. Both parents should take on the responsibility of parenting and never babysitting their children.
2. Don't undermine your partner for having different strengths than you
Sometimes we want our partner to do things with the kids that we naturally do. "You never sit down and read to them. You always just roughhouse." Well, guess what? If you're reading to them, then it is great that your partner plays hard. Your strengths and weaknesses help make well-rounded children.
3. Tag in and tag out
It is easy to see when your partner is at their limit. Instead of critiquing them because they are ready to lose it, swoop in and save them. Offer to bathe the kids while the other one watches TV. Then switch off tasks the next night. Or do it as a pair. Sometimes when you are both exhausted, doing it together is the best way to get through it as a team - then you can simultaneously crash.
4. Joke and laugh about as much as you can
There are beautiful moments in parenting and those are easy to enjoy and savor. But for the not-so-beautiful moments, find the humor. When you're riding in your new car and one of your children throws up all over the new seats, causing your next child to throw up too - don't cry. Laugh about it. (Unless the third kid throws up, then you can cry!)
5. Stay connected with one another about your daily state of mind
Text your spouse with updates. "Kids are cuuuuuteeee today." Or "Wowza. Need some sleep." Make short phone calls. Stay in each others' business. It's appropriate to gossip as much as you want about your own lives to one another.
6. Communicate about your needs and how your partner can help
When you know you're at the end of your rope, don't assume your partner can see that. Acually say "I am feeling very stressed. I'm not sure why. Could you help me at bedtime?" Many partners are not mind readers but are more than willing to help when asked.
7. Play together as a family
Have fun with your kids. When you feel there is a negative vibe in the house, get out with the kids. Many times we forget that the stress from children comes from getting them dressed and out the door to school and activities - not the fun part of parenting. I find that sometimes when I'm feeling the most tired is when we can all benefit from doing something fun.
8. Balance time away by yourselves
If you've had a rough week and know you could benefit from some time alone, communicate that to your spouse. "Babe, the teenager and I have been bickering all week and I think that if went on a short run, I would feel so much more relaxed. Would that work and then maybe you could do something too?" It's never good when one partner constantly gets breaks and the other partner does not. It's a recipe for resentment.
9. Go on dates
I think one of the best ideas is to pre-plan dates a month ahead. Book your sitter in advance and get reservations. If you wait until you feel like you need time away, you may have waited too long.
10. Hit on each other in front of the children
Tell your kids what you love about each other daily. "Girls, do you see how your mom does such a nice job of making your breakfast each morning? You have a great mom." This serves two purposes: it makes your partner feel validated as a parent while also letting the children see how blessed they are, too.
With a little work, and a lot of love, marriage and parenting can be a match made in heaven. Even if your heaven involves a dirty house, Disney characters and lots and lots of toys.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Quin's blog, Sanctification and Spitup. It has been republished here with permission.