Just like a boxer landing a knock-out punch with his first blow, let me hit you with an uncomfortable home truth. Having a kid can be incredibly hard on your relationship with your partner. Babies create extra stresses and strains on your lives, which can manifest in different ways between you both as a couple – friction, conflict, arguments and more.
Everyone’s relationship is different so I’m not going to lump us all in the same boat – for starters, there’s not enough life rafts. However, you’d need an incredibly solid relationship for the additional responsibility and pressure of becoming a parent to not impact your marriage / partnership. Just think of the impact that a lack of sleep has on your sex lives as a starter!
In fact, research by Relationship Research Institute (reproduced in this Babble article) shows that two-thirds of couples thought that the quality of their relationship declined within three years of having a baby. That’s crazy! To put it another way, nearly seven in every 10 relationships are worse off after having a kid. Jeeees.
The same study showed that 13% of marriages ended in divorce within five years of the birth of a first child. Let that sink in a moment. We’re not talking about getting divorced during the rest of your life after you’ve had a kid – this is more than one in 10 marriages breaking up before your kid has even hit five years old. With stats like that, why would anyone even want a baby?!
The missus and I have been together for over 10 years now and I’d say the last two – since Toddler L was born – have been the most challenging. We’re not in trouble as a couple, but we argue more, get annoyed more, apologise more and spend less quality time together than pre-kid. It’s not nice admitting that, but that’s the truth. It’s hardly surprising that your relationship can suffer. A huge part of your attention and focus switches from your partner to a little human incapable of looking after itself.
Since becoming parents, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve spent time together as just a couple. Three of these were to the cinema, one was for an experience day we were bought for Christmas – which we got around to doing the following September! – and the other was an overnight stay at a hotel in Yorkshire. Even though some of these were only a few hours long, it was nice to spend a bit of time together and remember what life was like before Toddler L.
We’d both love to do spend more time as a couple, but we struggle a bit. The main reason being lack of childcare. Both sets of grandparents live 3+ hours away, my brother is an hour away plus works random hours and we don’t have that many local friends who we could call on. That kind of leaves us stuck with a toddler and usually stuck in the house. The one time we dumped her in the garden, the cops were called as her crying disturbed the neighbours…
The last thing we want is for our relationship to suffer because we don’t get adequate couple time. Yes, we have evenings at home, but it’s not really the same as a ‘date night’. Therefore, if we want to have wild, child-free hours, we’re really left with one option – a babysitter. Although we haven’t bitten the bullet just yet, we’ve been thinking about this more and more.
We’ve seen teenagers advertising their services on local Facebook groups, but that doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I’m not sure I’d trust them with my TV, let alone my toddler. There’s then obviously a lot of qualified people who do childcare as a job, but it just makes me feel uneasy about going with someone we don’t know.
Whichever way we go about doing it, the fact remains that we need to start thinking about our relationship again. For the last two years, it’s been somewhat ‘on hold’ as Toddler L has taken priority. Now that she’s getting older – and less reliant – we can start to think about ourselves as a couple again. Parenting can be tough, eh? And that’s not just the parenting side of things!
What are your experiences of relationships ‘changing’ when you’ve had a kid? Have you found it a challenge or did you take it in your stride? How do you balance being a parent and being a couple?