When you first get married and don't yet have any children, you get to spend a lot of alone time with your spouse. For the most part, it's sort of like you're still single, but you're married which is much better.
Things are going well and you decide it's time to start a family. Despite all the unsolicited advice, there is nothing that can quite prepare you for parenthood. You know there's going to be lots of diapers to change, late night feedings and sleep deprivation.
But, what about your relationship with your spouse? It changes after you have a baby as well, so there are some important things to do to baby-proof your marriage.
"Almost everything about the pre-baby way of life changes, including the amount of time alone and as a couple, leisure-time activities, desire for intimacy, relationships with friends and family, self-identity, "distribution of labor" within the home and more," according to a parenting article.
Keep your marriage strong with these 5 ways to baby-proof your marriage:
1. Share the load
Before you had children, you probably figured out a way to share the responsibilities of caring for the house and earning an income.
With a new baby come new responsibilities added to the current workload. Often, a new mother will take on most of the baby-related tasks. This may be a good time to reevaluate what needs to be done and who can do what and when.
Dads ought to take turns with caring for the new child. Household responsibilities may shift around a bit to compensate for the hard work required for caring for a baby. Find out what works for you and your spouse and pay attention to the individual needs of your spouse.
2. Pay attention and pick up the slack
Working together means paying attention to the cues your spouse gives you directly and the more subtle ones.
When mom seems overwhelmed from caring for your new bundle of joy, make sure you can take over for a while to give her some time to herself. After a particularly stressful day at work, make sure you treat your husband like a friend; give him some time to decompress before unloading your day on him.
Everyone has hard days and we need to be there to comfort, support and pick up the slack for our spouse.
3. Higher stress can create conflict
Life gets stressful and caring for a helpless human being can add significantly to that stress.
When couples or individuals get overwhelmed, potential conflicts increase. When there's a conflict, you need to discuss it together. Find out what is going on, take time to cool down and think about it and then work together to resolve the problem.
Taking care of issues when they first arise is best so it doesn't become worse and create more problems down the road. Make sure to respect each other even when you disagree.
4. Take time to connect every day
Whether it's ten minutes or an hour, couples need time to talk together.
Discuss your day, the kids, your relationship and other things that need attention. People who live in the same house can grow away from each other because they don't make time to connect with each other daily. Turn off the TV, put down the cell phone and give your full attention to your spouse.
5. Date nights, alone time and intimacy are vital
Making regular alone time or date nights a priority is important for your marriage to thrive.
You have to spend time as a couple—without the baby—to stay in love, remember why you fell in love in the first place and to maintain your friendship. Getting a babysitter is ideal, but if it's not an option, plan a date night at home you can do after the baby is in bed. Rent a movie, pop some popcorn, order take-out and snuggle on the couch together.
Intimacy also becomes more complicated after the baby is born. For women, their bodies have changed, emotions have changed and that can create insecurities that weren't present before. Husbands need to be patient with their wives. Intimacy does not only include sex—though that is super important, too. Intimacy can be snuggling, holding hands, kissing, hugging and any other closeness between partners.
Many women feel more "in the mood" if they are able to connect emotionally with their spouse. Take time to reconnect your sex and intimate life with each other. Schedule it if you have to!
Having a baby can change many things, including your marriage. Don't let having a family make your marriage worse when there are many ways to make it that much better. Some may take extra planning and work, but keeping your marriage a priority will make it stronger and more resilient.
A strong marriage makes you better parents, too. Kids thrive when their parents have a happy marriage.