How To Balance Parenting & Marriage
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated August 27, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
People probably warned you about how hard marriage can be. And, when your first little one came along, there's a good chance people warned you about that too. But, what a lot of people don't tell you about is how hard it is to balance parenting & marriage. There are some common problems that marriages face as children enter the picture, and if you want to be still standing strong when your children are grown and leave home, there are some tips that can help you along the way.
Common Problems With Balancing Parenting & Marriage
There are plenty of areas where problems arise when trying to balance parenting and marriage. When a little one enters the picture, typically, both spouses are working on less sleep and busier schedules. There is a big adjustment period of having to find a new normal. Expenses increase, time seems to decrease, and everything starts to revolve around the kids. Here are some other common issues that can lead to problems within your relationship when parenting enters the picture.
Putting Your Spouse on the Back Burner
When you first met your spouse, they probably held all your attention. You wanted to spend all your time with them and couldn't wait to see them. But when the first child comes along, this can change for many couples. Instead of your spouse being the most important person in your life, they are removed from the pedestal for the child. This can cause a lot of disturbance within a marriage.
Your child needs your care and attention, but when you do it at the total expense of your spouse, it opens the door for a few potential problems:
- You and your partner lose your connection which could increase your chance of splitting up.
- Your spouse could start looking outside of the marriage to meet their needs since they feel neglected at home.
- Your child sees that everything is about them and struggles to adapt in life when that doesn't happen for them.
- When you become an empty nester, you feel lost because your entire life has been only about your child for years.
Having Different Parenting Philosophies
There are a lot of things that come with parenting that you just can't be prepared to be still. As new situations arise, you and your spouse might have different ideas on how to handle them. And, if you both feel strongly about your idea on how to handle the situation, this can lead to disagreements and problems within your marriage. These are difficult things to overcome and compromise on because it often involves your values and what's right or wrong in a situation.
Not Being Married
This article might be about "marriage and parenting," but there are more and more couples that are cohabitating and having children that are looking for advice as well. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 40% of babies are being born to unwed parents.
This might not seem like a bad thing if you think that cohabitating couples live together, so the child has both parents in the home, but the statistics tell a different story. The Marriage Foundation conducted research that found that married parents are 57% less likely to split up. So, statistically speaking, your chance of successfully balancing your relationship with your partner and parenting responsibilities will increase if you take the step of getting married.
Tips on Balancing Parenting & Marriage
Now that we addressed some of the common issues that arise within a marriage when kids come along, here are some tips on balancing the two better.
Keep Your Spouse First
Don't forget that without your spouse, those sweet little kiddos wouldn't exist. And, if you are married to someone other than the other birth parent, remember that you are setting an example for your child through your marriage. They are watching how you behave in your marriage and are likely to act the same way on their own.
If you have a strong marriage, which involves prioritizing your spouse, your kids are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, suffer from mental health challenges, and quit school, according to the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
This doesn't mean that you need to neglect your children. But it does mean that you don't neglect your spouse either. If your spouse is talking and your child tries to interrupt, politely tell them that they need to wait their turn. Don't drop everything you're doing for your spouse or with your spouse every time your kids call your name. Show them that your spouse is a priority to you and someone that you love as well.
Enforce A Bedtime For The Kids
It's hard to find time alone with your spouse when you have kids. They always seem to be around, and even if they're in the other room, as soon as you try to sneak a moment with your spouse, they show up. This is why it's helpful to enforce a bedtime for all kids earlier than you and your spouse will go to sleep. This provides you with precious time alone to have adult conversations and enjoy each other's company.
If your children are older, you might not be able to force them to go to sleep before you do, but you can at least require that they are in their room and doing a quiet activity.
Have A Regular Date Night
The advice to have a regular "date night" when you're married, and kids come along is not new advice by any means. However, it's very effective advice that shouldn't be taken lightly. In the Marriage Foundation's research mentioned above, they also found that married couples with children that dated each other each month were "significantly less likely to split up."
Make Decisions Together
Making parenting decisions together will help to keep you and your spouse on the same page. But you must remember to back up those decisions when your spouse isn't around. If you say one thing when your spouse is around and something opposite when it's just you and the kids, you're undermining your spouse and hurting your marriage.
Remember that these decisions and conversations aren't always easy because you might have different opinions. But you must work through difficult conversations and remain a united force.
Don't Fill Up Your Schedule.
Once your kids start to get a little older, it's easy to feel like you're running nonstop. Your kids might be in sports, dance, or have extracurricular clubs after school. And they want to have friends over or go to a friend's house. If you aren't careful with your schedule, you could end up driving them all around town every night.
Take time to talk with your spouse about the family schedule. Set aside time when you and your spouse can be alone (remember, date night from above). But you also want to set aside time when your family can be together without other people around. Remember, it's OK to say "no" to your child when they want to sign up for something or go somewhere, and you think it's going to be too much for your calendar.
Remember You And Your Partner Are A-Team
Your spouse is not your enemy, even if you have different opinions on things when it comes to the kids. Keep in mind that you're on the same team and look for ways to work together. And, whatever you do, don't allow your children to separate the two of you on an issue and cause division. A house divided will not stand.
Don't Expect Perfection.
Things aren't always going to go just right. That's why you must know that perfection is not realistic. Finding the right balance between protecting your marriage and raising your children isn't always going to be easy or possible. You and your spouse will make errors from time to time. But the important thing is that you continue to work together. Make sure to practice forgiveness and keep in mind that raising children is to help them become healthy grown adults. When this happens, they will move out of the house, and it will be you and your spouse again. Make this a time that the two of you can look forward to together by protecting your marriage now.
What to Do When It Feels Like Too Much
Sometimes the balancing act feels like too much. The daily stress might be getting to you and your spouse. If you find yourself in this position, individual or couple counseling can be helpful. A licensed therapist can help you get your priorities back in line, learn strategies to cope with the stress of balancing life, and help you and your partner stay connected through it all.
If you're interested in online counseling options, check out ReGain to find the right therapist for you.
Remember, marriage and children are a blessing and something to be grateful for. The balancing act of keeping it all together isn't always helpful, but there is help out there for you if you need it.
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