We have all heard the nay-sayers and negative nellie’s in regards to attachment parenting and how to combine it successfully with a marriage or partnership. “But when do you actually have sex?!…You can’t possibly find time for each other with your toddler attached to your boob 24/7! We need to go out together at least once a week without the kids.” So what keeps relationships alive? How is it possible to breastfeed on demand, co/sleep or bed/share, wear your baby almost constantly, delay going anywhere together without children for at least the first six to nine months, breastfeed them to sleep, to awake and everything in-between while still having the energy, time and desire to actually want to hang out with another human being? The good news is…it’s possible. It’s not only possible but with a little creativity, communication and attention to detail, your marriage can not only survive but flourish…and you might even be able to find extra time to have sex. Or go out to coffee together, that’s almost the same thing right? 😆
Remember those romantic, love story movies that make married life look like all fun and games? Well let’s start by being honest here…relationships are HARD WORK (Mom thank you so much for telling me this right before I got married. Every single person needs this little fairy tale bubble to be burst before they get into a long term relationship). My husband and I have been together for twelve years, married for ten. We have three children ranging from almost 2 to 10 years old. We had our first baby while we were finishing college. For about six months we lived with my parents after our baby was born. We were broke, newlyweds, and I was breastfeeding while finishing my degree. We co-slept with our baby, I was never away from him and I was exhausted (as all of us new mums are, regardless if we are breastfeeding or not). So how did we survive this incredibly challenging start and manage to still be married a decade later? We work EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. to keep our relationship going.
*Disclaimer* I am not a marriage counsellor. I am not a spiritual advisor. I am a mum of three who has been married for awhile. We have fought, we have made up, we have cried together, laughed together and somehow are still standing together. Take from this what you feel might work for you and your relationship…leave the rest behind. 😀
I’ll like to start with the list my husband came up with for this article.
1. Have sex
2. Repeat step one
Maybe he should start a blog?!
Now here is MY list… 🙂
1. How will we ever get to go out and get away from the kids? Let go of the idea that there is a step by step guide to life that we must follow. Date for an appropriate amount of time, get married, go on a honeymoon, have a baby etc. etc. Most people get married and then go on a honeymoon. When we got married we had a three month old, so did we just throw out the whole thing altogether? No! We went on our honeymoon when our baby weaned at 2 years and three months old. It was awesome and we really appreciated that time together. The next child-less trip we went on was a long weekend in Perth. This was before I was pregnant with number three and our youngest at the time was about four years old. Weaned and totally fine without us for a few days…with no parent guilt at all!
2. But we really want to go out to dinner!! Think morning time. Forget going out to dinner just the two of you for the first year (at least) unless you want to pump and have someone else put them to bed. When I have a nursling who is under the age of two and not yet night weaned, my husband and I go out to breakfast or an early dinner. I’m talking 5pm people! Yes, we are out with the families with kids and elderly people but at least we are child-less! You can laugh and empathize with the other poor souls who are there mopping up spilled drinks and running after their children. It is totally possible to have fun with the kids too. See pic on right. Try to go out together at least once per week. Even if you have to bring your little minion with you as we did here while getting a coffee. Our oldest two were in school, my husband had the day off so we went to the local coffee shop!
2. Fight. And then make up. Yes this step sounds a little weird but if you fight FAIR then it can be a great way of communicating. Remember to make up though. Bake him a cake, have sex or give him a hug. Whichever you prefer at the time… 😀
Fighting fair means doing the following…
Identify clearly how you feel, if you need time to yourself then say it and walk away, let your partner walk away if they need to, stay on subject, do not bring up past fights or circumstances, don’t say mean or untrue things, if fighting in front of your kids refrain from yelling and make up in their presence as well (even if it’s some time later) so they can see how the process works. Remember it is hard to hug a porcupine so try not to be a porcupine. Or an echidna if you live in Australia.
3. Having a baby on your boob 24/7 is extremely exhausting…how will I have time to do anything else?! When you are feeling touched out, TELL YOUR PARTNER YOU ARE FEELING TOUCHED OUT! Sometimes as breastfeeding mums we just feel so frustrated and really not in a need of a cuddle but cannot put our finger on what is going on…this could be it. There were times I was totally touched out. After having a child attached to my boob 24/7 there were nights where I just could not even bear to think of touching anyone else! Not even a hug! When I feel this way, I tell my husband. Then he knows where I’m coming from, yes it sounds simple but often times we want our partners to read our minds when in fact they cannot. Unless they are psychic, in which case they should be on TV making millions of dollars and help solve crimes in their spare time.
4. Talk about how your relationship has changed and how you feel about it. The days are gone when you were having sex 24/7 and had time to go out to dinner, talk about your day without being interrupted 46 times and could go for a walk on the beach without a crying kid on one side of you and an older child complaining that they are bored. You are still in an awesome relationship, just a different awesome relationship.
5. Sex does not have to occur after dinner and the evening news, in your bed and after a thorough teeth brushing between 8:30 and 10pm. Brad Pitt once spoke about how he and Angelina would put on a movie during the day for the kids and sneak off into the bedroom. It’s all about creativity! If you really have the need to be in your bed then temporarily move your baby or toddler into a bassinet, cot or mattress on the floor. To imply that attachment parents “never” have sex or must have difficulty because of co-sleeping or bed-sharing with their kids need to wonder about those who keep having children past the first born…it’s not from immaculate conception.
5. Show interest in what your partner has to say, even when your baby is crying, your toddler is pooping in the closet and all you can think about is sleep. My husband and I will readily admit to each other, sometimes we are so bored out of our minds listening to the other person go on and on and often times are distracted by the kids. For my husband the subject of boredom he must listen to is of course, breastfeeding! But he knows that if he can at least pretend to be interested then I’m happy! This might sound ridiculous and horrid to a newlywed couple but believe me. If your partner is taking the time to pretend to be interested there is effort being put in there and that means something. Most of the time of course we are interested…but sometimes we are not!! When my husband starts to go on about cricket or rugby, my eyes glaze over…but I try. I really, really try. Most of the time.
6. Get some “me” time in. As frequently as possible. You might be thinking, but what does this have to do with my relationship? It has EVERYTHING to do with your relationship! You cannot function in an adult relationship without taking care of yourself and getting your own time. Sometimes for me this means just ten minutes by myself (possibly with my almost two year old asking for me on the other side of the door with my husband trying to distract him with crackers or trains). Ten minutes by yourself can literally change your entire day! Your partner needs me time too. Let’s be real here folks, men tend to be able to take time to themselves with little or no guilt while us mums feel insane amounts of guilt for taking some time to ourselves…let me just say, get over it and go do something without someone latched onto your boob!!!!
7. Talk about what needs to change SPECIFICALLY to help things go smoother with day to day stuff. My husband used to work out after he got home from work. You know that time of day when your older kids are going crazy running around fighting and your baby is wanting to breastfeed CONSTANTLY while you are tying to cook dinner?! This was the worst time for me. We talked about this and he changed when he works out. Now he goes before work or does some exercise in the garage while our toddler hangs out with him. I get to cook dinner by myself while he works out! Win win for all…kind of. Exercising with a toddler is not all it’s cracked up to be. 🙂
8. Patience. When you are out of ‘baby world” you will all of a sudden realize certain things…”OMG I just read three pages of a book without being interrupted or falling asleep!” “I just ate an entire meal in silence!” or “I slept in past 7am! Without having to take my boob out!” These times will come.
9. Meeting the needs of your children through attachment parenting and breastfeeding does not mean ignoring your own needs or the needs of your partner. Attachment parenting at the expense of your other relationships beyond your children helps no one, especially your kids. Teach your kids the importance of taking the time to nurture ALL of your relationships, not just the ones with them.
10. Your baby will need your 24/7. Yes, we can have it all. We can have a great marriage, a baby and a career. But we cannot do this all at once. We cannot have it all, all at once. Mothering through breastfeeding means being with your baby. When we are in it we feel exhausted, overwhelmed and sometimes plain bored. We need adult conversation, we need to get out, we need a break. You can do all of this while still breastfeeding on demand and paying attention to your husband over there in the corner who is looking at you with those big sad eyes…”remember me?” but those first few months it will be mostly focused on your baby. And that’s OK.
11.It is dangerous thinking that you can pay attention to your relationship after the kids have grown up. Don’t believe it for a second. It takes communication and effort along the way…but give yourself a break those first few months and love up that new little baby of yours.