whole parenting

The years of having small dependent children bring with them the joys and the sufferings for our relationships with our spouses. I can safely say, having these three kids has been the single best thing that could have happened as a result of our relationship (because of it? due to it? oh whatever) AND the single hardest thing to endure when sometimes you just want to be with the other adult, or even better (not always, but sometimes) ALONE.

Young children are black holes of need for adult attention. Even if your kid is the most sleep-trained, autonomous creature ever. When they’re babies, they need diaper changes and feeding. When they’re toddlers, they need reassurances and food prepared. When they’re prek, they need constant and continual reminders that bedtime is not when you throw baseballs against the wall.

I’m the worst at not bringing my best self to the table. My husband is very patient, hardworking, light-hearted, a great and involved dad, yahda yahda. We don’t often fight fight. But I do harbor ill-will, if you will. I smolder with resentment. I take my long day out on him. I complain far too often and loudly in all-caps texting. Tell me you don’t allcaps. It’s really so obnoxious of me!

The year I’ve been trying (and failing) to be more kind to my husband following these seven steps. Maybe they can help you, or if you’re the nicer spouse, you can discretely leave this link open on your communal screen. HA!

1) Drop the tone.

Not quieter, though that would be good too, but kinder. I use this tone of complete disdain and exasperation. Dripping with reproach I utter:

“Would you MIND changing the baby’s diaper?” or “She really should get out of her pajamas.” or “Were you going to dry off their feet before they made that huge mess? Apparently not?” “This is a chokable hazard. Obviously not for a baby.”

I gotta check my attitude at the door! He is NOT another child (and those memes that circulate on social media about how a husband is like another kid? So ruuuuuuude–says the woman who treats her husband like that on bad days!). He’s my partner. And deserves to be addressed respectfully.

2) Do it yourself.

I probably ask him to do things that I am perfectly capable of doing dozens of times. And that’s only a night! Okay, I’m kidding but you know what I mean.

For me, I justify it because after all, I’ve been tending to the children’s every conceivable need all day long and he’s basically been on vacation. #nottrue #howifeel

I’m the worst when pregnant. It’s basically 9 months of living serfdom.

3) Assume the best.

Let’s assume the best about each other, shall we? And stop leaping to the conclusion that he deliberately let the baby waddle around without a diaper on so he would pee on the nice-hard-to-clean-rug. Or that he brought didn’t bring me a hot cocoa from the starbucks on the first floor of his building because he wasn’t being considerate (this segues nicely to the next one). #shecrazy

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4) Lower expectations of telepathy.

Shockingly my spouse lacks this gift and yours probably does too. I won’t tell you the number of times I had hoped against hope he would know what I really riddy wanted or thought or desperately needed to eat.

Ask if you want a glass of water from downstairs.

Ask if you want a hot cocoa that will jostle him the whole train ride home.

Ask if you want Mother’s Day alone by yourself.

Just ask. And when I have and I’m completely honest, oh! the difference! I’m not nursing that grudge like my 21st birthday cocktail anymore.

5) Own your actions.

I sometimes say something or do something completely crazy. But I’ve learned it’s like the 5 second rule for food on the floor. If I can own it, apologize, and recover my composure in a few minutes, it’s like it never happened.

In almost 6 years of marriage and 8 years of being together, just being honest with myself about whether or not I’m coming from a place of love (the one “must” in our communication) makes for a deeper and more trusting space. When I’m not being nice, or am motivated by petty petty feelings, I really try to own it, and work through it, and get over that.

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6) Leave the kids out of it.

We don’t badmouth each other to the kids. But they’re not idiots. When they hear me contradict the permission they  just received from their dad, or they hear my tone, or they see my face when I’m in a squabbling mode–they know there’s a rift in the tyrants who rule their roost.

Disagreements happen and will happen and always are going to happen because we aren’t married to our clones. I’m always trying to be mindful of not undermining him in front of them, even if I really think I’m completely right. And I also apologize if I am rude, in front of them, so at least they hear it from me and see how one should act.

7) Make time for intimacy.

Everyone is touched out by the end of the day. Everyone is craving some space for recharging. Intimacy doesn’t simply mean sex; it also means gentle touch, caring conversation, and being supportive without offering advice on the problems du jour. There is never time for it.

Never.

So just make the time. Schedule it. Allow it to happen.

Remember how wildly in love you are with this spouse of yours. ;)

This little lady had a great time picking these lil lovely flowers in the backyard same as we used to pick as kids. Soooooo special!!

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25 Responses to 7 kindnesses to show your spouse while raising small kids

  1. Lea says:

    This is so true. We had 4 kids in 5 years by our 5th Anniversary. We were only 25 years old. We made TONS of mistakes. But….we were and determined to stay best friends. Then you can’t stand having unresolved issues. And…don’t give place to preconceived assumptions. ..just ask. Men cannot read your mind, but will usually, cheerfully do what’s asked…if you ask before you’ve been smoldering a volcano of resentment over all the things he didn’t have a clue you wanted or needed him to do. He’ll get better only if you do ;-)) Treat him well so he doesn’t have to feel accepted everywhere but home. We’ve now been married 13 years, together 14 and have 6 kids. But through thick and thin, we make ourselves stick together, even in a disagreement.
    Thanks Nell, I love your posts about marriage, seems not many people wanna do anything but trash men these days. You get more of what you focus on…so it’s a no brainer.

    • Natural Mama Nell says:

      Such great wisdom! Thank you for sharing. I want us all to lift each other up as marriage is hard work and marriage with small kids involved . . . SUPER hard work!

  2. Micaela says:

    Yeeeeeessssssssssss! Thank you, Nell! I love every part of this, especially “9 months of serfdom.” HAHAHAHA!

    Nobutreally. I know all these things but don’t often put them into practice. Must work on it.

    Sharing this tomorrow.

  3. This is so great, Nell…and so timely. Not that we’re having that kind of week here, of course. Not at all. (sigh)

  4. Layla says:

    It’s a little creepy that you’ve been peeping in my windows and listening to me, but I do appreciate the encouragement to do better.

  5. Elise says:

    Yes, Nell! I’m not even three months into this parenting thing and wow, do I need to take these steps to heart. Thank you for this!

  6. Emily Barnes says:

    *sigh* Reading this was like looking in a mirror. In both the best and worst ways possible. I’m always hopeful that tomorrow is a better day and that I can always learn to do better. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only wife fighting this never-ending battle. The things are sweet men put up with…

  7. Emily B says:

    Loved this Nell! We all need reminders once in awhile…some more than others….maybe I’m a slow learner……

  8. Kelsey says:

    This was such a great post to read, and a needed reminder! I absolutely get caught up in each of these situations. Kids kids kids! And now with bringing home the fourth, I throw my husband on the back burner. No bueno!! Thanks for this!

  9. Bianca says:

    Hi Nell! I just started reading your blog and I really loved this post. Great reminders and the best part is I could laugh about my shortcomings while honestly looking at them. :)

  10. PREACH. I need to tattoo all of this on my forehead. Le sigh. Merci, mon amie!

  11. I love this so much but have you been peeking in our windows and seeing my faults. ;-)

  12. Shannon says:

    So based on this post and its comments, I can only conclude I have a bunch of clones running around… except the clones are wiser than I! Thanks for putting into words the exact reminders I needed. Now if only I can put them into practice…

  13. Sarah K says:

    Love, love, love. I am *the worst* about #2. It is embarrassing how often I ask my husband to get up and get me a glass of water when I’m sitting on the couch (and, no, I’m not nursing right now!).

  14. Ana says:

    Always wonderful, lady :)

  15. […] “7 kindnesses to show your spouse while raising small kids“, by Natural Mama Nell (Wholeparentingfamily blog). Some great reminders! […]

  16. This is so great and really is a general all-encompassing little guideline.
    I’ve only been married for 2 years, we have a one year old and one on the way, and even just after only a year of parenthood it has definitely changed us/our relationship/ our lives! (Doesn’t it always? Haha) I think I just didn’t realize it beforehand. Such a naive mom-to-be.

    It’s great advice and particularly as our child(ren) get older and will soon be picking up on “tones” and such– something to nip in the bud and work on NOW!

  17. […] friend Nell laughed when I told her this, but I check in with myself mentally every 10 minutes while solo […]

  18. […] friend Nell laughed when I told her this, but I check in with myself mentally every 10 minutes while solo […]

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