Marriage requires a lot of work, compromises, and communication even before children are discussed with your spouse. When children arrive, tensions may rise and new conflicts can pop up. Our case was no exception, and the first year with our identical twin girls was the hardest year my husband and I ever had, as a couple and as individuals.
My husband and I were married for six weeks when I found out I was pregnant. At our first ultrasound weeks later, we found out we were having two little babies, and we were ecstatic. However, once the shock of it faded, concerns sat in and we planned, talked about changes, and discussed how we could overcome them together. We wanted to make sure we would make an excellent parenting team while not forgetting about each other.
Boy, did that backfire, at first. No matter how nice some plans looked on paper, we could never really keep from bickering and arguing over whose turn it was to sleep, whose turn it was to feed the girls, or whose turn it was to relax, accusing each other of making things unfair.
Our daughters are now one-year-olds, and we’re still somehow married. Here are some things that helped us and that I wish we had thought of right off the bat. This is in no way a one-size-fits-all list, but it did help us and I hope it can help or prepare parents in a similar situation.
1. Make a Sleep Schedule
This might make it sound like you’ll never sleep together again, but it’s only for the first few months. I am not a night person and I have my limits when it comes to not getting rest (thanks, Bipolar Disorder), but my husband tends to be a night owl and can function with less sleep. Our solution was coming up with a schedule – I’d go to bed at 7:30pm and he’d stay up with the girls until 3am, when I’d take over. Taking melatonin, sleeping with the door closed, and with ear plugs in helped me get settled into this new routine. We both got sleep, we were less bitter, and much more refreshed during our turns with the girls.
2. Sort Out Your Priorities
Sure, everyone needs to be able to relax or have time for hobbies. We were not exceptions to that rule, and we became two opposing extremes in this problem: I ended up dropping all my hobbies and was constantly stressed out, while my husband would always take the time to partake in his hobbies and time for himself. The result was a very angry mom and a confused dad, and the unbalance was taking its toll in our marriage. I spent the first four months at home after they came home from the NICU, so I took care of the girls all week long while he worked, and I had very few breaks for myself. Then, on weekends, he’d take time to relax and do what he wanted to do for a while and left me to take care of the girls all weekend long as well. I’ve thought to myself, “What the hell?!” more times than I can count. As the newborn stage faded, the girls took two scheduled naps during the day and started to sleep through the night, which gave us both more “me” time, and we helped each other on weekends until I went back to work. Now, the girls go to sleep at 9 pm and we have our much needed alone and together time, in which we binge watch shows on Netflix and play a few games together.
3. Communication is a Must
I cannot stress this enough – TALK TO EACH OTHER. This is the number one cause of any and all strife my husband and I had in the first year of parenthood, and I wish we had done this from the get-go. Sure, we thought we talked a lot, but we only talked about the girls. We never talked about expectations and needs that we had, and we both just kind of expected the other to magically understand what we needed or wanted. No. Talk. Is something your spouse is doing rubbing you the wrong way? Calmly approach him or her about it. Do you feel you’re being, for lack of better terms, taken advantage of and having no time for yourself? Bring it up and talk about a way to make things more even. It’s the most important part of marriage, yet it’s the one that you will not think about for the majority of the time. We’re not mind readers. We cannot guess what the other is ultimately upset about. Talk before it escalates to an ugly fight or a major issue.
4. Don’t Let Intimacy Die
Yep. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about cuddling while watching a show, snuggling in bed after tiredly putting the babies to sleep. Flirt with each other. Remember the reason why you married the person you’re with, and the reason why you have beautiful babies together — it’s a direct result of intimacy. It took us a while, but we finally got to go out on dates, make some time for each other, reminisce about how we met and how we got here. What about sex? Schedule it once or twice a week if you must. It’s an important part of your connection with your spouse. Some months, it’ll be a lot easier to make time for it, other times, not so much – whether it’s a timing issue, or maybe you really just don’t have the energy. But don’t let it die. Love each other in every way you can. Keep the fire alive in your relationship and the family time will be more loving and cherished.
5. This Too Shall Pass
The first couple of years with kids is the hardest time in your marriage. You’re getting to know a completely new side of our spouse and yourself. You’re finding new limits and new boundaries. You’re raising little babies together, babies who can’t tell you what’s wrong, who can’t tell you what they need, and don’t understand you for a while. It’s all very frustrating, but it shouldn’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You’re a team – work together to make sure your babies are healthy and growing, and work together to solve problems along the way. You will sleep again. You will have time for yourself again. This chaotic beginning does end. Communicate through it all, keep loving, respecting, and helping each other, and always be on the same page. Your marriage is important, and it needs a little attention to keep it growing strong and steady. Breathe, talk, and work things out. Heck, if my husband and I did it, you can too.
Camila Servello is a mother of identical twin girls, human to a pup, wife to an amazing man, Brazil native, airline employee who loves her job. I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve found the perfect reason to do so – my crazy, perfectly flawed life. Honesty is key when it comes to handling all the curveballs life throws at us, so don’t expect any less from me. You can read more on her blog Confessions of a Working Mom of Twins.