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Let me start off this article by sharing that on March 2 my second daughter was born. When my wife and I left the hospital on March 5, the second case of coronavirus in New Jersey arrived at the very same hospital. Ten days later, the world shut down, so there I was with my wife, a newborn, and a toddler in quarantine.
I only share this so you know that I am intimately knowledgeable on maintaining a relationship after having a baby. My wife and I had to learn real fast how to do this again, and under the strictest of situations. As I’m writing this article, she and I are at our dual workstations in the basement. The 7-month-old is in between us in a playpen, and the oldest is in preschool (for now).
In this article, you may find advice that you’ve heard before, but I’ll try to give you my own spin on how I made this situation work.
Life is never going to be the same, and that’s OK. Nothing is stagnant, and we all move forward. It’s OK to mourn the time before. Just know that the future is going to be great as well.
The first and biggest step is to have the right mindset. Things are going to suck for a bit. That’s the way it goes. It’s part of the process just like everything. It’s hard at the beginning, and it gets easier over time. If you go into this new situation knowing that it’s going to be hard and you’re going to be tested, it makes it easier to react to each new challenge.
There’s something called a Black Swan Event. In short, it’s a major, unpredictable event like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (start of WWI), the fall of the Berlin Wall, or 9/11. The point is that we’ll never be able to predict a Black Swan Event, but we can predict how we will react to that event. You’ll never be able to prepare for every eventuality, but you prepare how you’ll react.
Before the baby, my wife and I anticipated that we’d have barely any time to cook or do stuff around the house, so we did things like cook and freeze lots of extra casseroles and set up rest areas in the basement to escape to for a quick respite. Also, we basically just mentally prepared ourselves for getting no sleep, going slightly crazy, having a whole new set of fears, and going through a stressful time in our relationship.
Unknowingly, all those things also helped prepare us well for coronavirus and quarantine. While we weren’t really prepared for a pandemic (who was?!), we were prepared to embrace the sucky moments, and that helped us a lot.
Things are going to be coming at you fast, and many times you’re just reacting to events. Then, suddenly, you realize the whole day went by.
You may not have really connected with your mate or yourself in some time. It’s absolutely imperative to carve out some time for you as a couple and just for yourself. If you are attacking the situation haphazardly, it doesn’t give you time to work on tactics, so the quickest and easiest way of starting that process is to get the kid(s) on a schedule. We used a combination of Babywise and Moms on Call.
Once we got the kids (sort of) on matching schedules, we could make time for each other and ourselves. When the kids would go down at night, we would grab some wine, sit outside, and hang out with each other for a bit and catch up. With two kids, it’s less like a family and more like each parent dealing with one kid. Sometimes, even though we were in the same house, we’d rarely see or spend time with each other.
Don’t forget to carve out time for yourself as an individual, too, so you can be at your best. On the weekends, my wife gets one day to sleep in and I get the other day. The parent on duty deals with the kids for that morning and lets the other parent sleep in, play on their phone, read, watch TV, or just not have to be responsible. This system serves to give the other person some much needed breathing room to reset and relax, making you happy and grateful.
Any discussion about relationships, especially those with kids, advise that you need to plan date nights. I won’t be deviating from that. You absolutely need to set up date nights for many reasons.
The first reason is that the days just get away from you, especially in this period of pandemic. Every day becomes the same. Most relationships don’t end with a bang, but with a whimper. Things become stale and predictable with nothing to look forward to, so you need to create some fun things to do.
Date nights can, but don’t have to be, a big deal. But you need to actually schedule them. Put them in your Google or Outlook calendars. Not only does that give you a concrete day and time, but then it gives you something to think about and look forward to.
Even if it’s just an hour, you can order pizza and watch the latest John Oliver. In these days of COVID, many of us can’t really go out or get a babysitter, and eating pizza and binging on Netflix does get old. So you need to get more creative. Have a theme night. For example, you can buy some Krombacher beer, cook up or order a bunch of German food (i.e. sausages and schnitzel), and watch “Dark” on Netflix.
My wife and I have been working from home for seven months now and are usually wearing sweats/leggings and old T-shirts. Showers are less frequent than before. And, understandably, between kids and COVID, we haven’t been putting as much time into our appearance as we normally would.
So we had a dress-up night recently. We showered, shaved, put on cologne and perfume, and each got ready as if we were going out to a fancy restaurant. It was fun to get back into that rhythm of getting ready, and the scents and sounds and being able to see each other all gussied up made it seem like a special night.
This is another topic that comes up a lot and is also very necessary. Having a baby or small child sucks the libido right out of you. You’re exhausted, you want to sleep any moment you can, you don’t feel sexy, and sometimes it’s hard to work up the attraction when your partner has a four-day-old beard, spit-up stained shirt, and dirty hair. Yes, you absolutely still can have spontaneous sex, it’s a great addition to schedule some time as well.
Like the date night, setting it up ahead of time gets you in the right headspace, gives you something to look forward to, and gets those love chemicals rushing. Only you two will know at what point or how often to schedule it, but getting something on the books helps. Trust me.
There have been a few evenings where my wife and I get all the kids to sleep, we flop in bed, and look at each other. “Want to?” “Yup.”“But too tired now?” “Yup.” “When’s a good time for you?”
Then we whip out our phones, find a day and time, and lock it in. Remember, this is about more than just sex. It’s a time to reconnect in a relationship, reinvigorate the love hormones, and just be present for each other.
Honestly, there are so many more tips I want to cover, but just don’t have the time or space. For example, learn to let things go, remember this too shall pass, sleep is important, it’s not “us vs. the world vs. you vs. me,” and divide labor.
But the most important thing is to communicate with each other and understand that planning or scheduling something does not remove the romance of it. It postpones it. And, in its own way, it IS romantic to say something like, “I want to do something nice for you when you are best and ready to receive it.”
Good luck out there, and I would love to hear tips that have helped any couples through this pandemic as well!