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Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it’s not what you think):

Today I’ve partnered with Prepare/Enrich to bring your my favorite strategies to strengthening your marriage after babies, and they aren’t all what you’d expect.

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

How many times since having kids have you heard the importance of getting out the house with your guy for a kid-free evening and strengthening your marriage? A lot right? The advice usually included not talking about your children either, didn’t it? Well I think my very favorite moments of marriage these last two years (Lincoln is TWO, when did that happen??), revolved around the two sweet spirits we’ve brought into the world. There is not a time I’ve loved Ben more than watching him be a kind and patient father. And as much as we love rock climbing, there is nothing quite like the shared love of a tiny human to bond you over a common interest.

Embrace that!

Bond over it.

Enjoy being married to the one person who loves your babies as much as you do.

One of my very favorite traditions with Ben is watching my snapchat stories (or IG stories more often these days) in bed before we fall asleep. It’s a great way to recap what we did that day (because I take far too many videos of my kids) and I love that he loves their silly, quirky behavior as much as I do.

But, I get it, since having babies there are kids around for most of your life these days. And even though you love them, and even though you love watching your husband be a parent, your marriage is different now. If you’re looking for Valetine’s ideas, I loved reading through this post I put together FOUR YEARS AGO as a guide for men but today I have ideas to get you through the rest of the year for strengthening your marriage.

So, aside from embracing your mutual love of your children, here are some things to consider going forward.

Tips for strengthening your marriage after kids:

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

Consider an early bedtime (for the kids)

I know, I know, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some dads get home late and want to spend time with the kids. Some moms NEED the kids to sleep past 7 am so early evenings are out of the question.

BUT, babies with early bedtimes is the best thing we’ve done for our marriage in the last two years.

Lincoln (now 2) has managed to get his bedtime to about 7:30 but for the first year of his life it was 6:30 and Adelaide (7 months) is in bed by 6:20 each night. My goal is to get them both closer to a 7 pm schedule but I am really loving the quiet hour I have with just Lincoln after Adelaide is asleep.

It means Ben and I have a solid 2-4 hours after the kids go to sleep to ourselves. Now, with his work schedule and work I have to get done from home, we aren’t always both free during those 2-4 hours, but any given week, we could always find a few nights to be.

Don’t Give Up the Me-Time

Before kids it’s likely that you spent some time apart from your spouse, right? Maybe it was girls night or book club. Maybe he took off for the gym or a game of basketball. I know that time is precious but I really think having a few moments without having to think about the needs of another person makes you better at meeting the needs of other people. And when you’re parents, most of your life is about meeting needs. So, make time alone from your spouse (and your kids) a priority and watch as it helps you be a better mom, and a better wife.

Small Habits

Maybe it’s bringing your spouse a green smoothie in bed or maybe its setting out a bowl and a spoon for their cereal. Maybe it’s as simple as a lingering kiss goodbye each morning. Maybe you watch a show without your phones together each night before bed. Whatever you do, find small rituals to communicate through your actions that you care about each other, that your spouse is a priority.

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

Just Say It

I know we all say “actions speak louder than words” … but not always. And even when they do, words speak louder than silence and sometimes we get caught up in our own little world and stop noticing all the things our spouse is doing. Or am I the only one?

Five years into marriage and most of the time I can tell what Ben’s thinking. And I KNOW he loves me. But I can’t always FEEL that he loves me. And small comments over the course of a week make a HUGE difference in that department.

One reminder I love is, “when you think it, say it.”

So when you notice your husband took the time to unload the dishwasher before he left for work, thank him for it. When you catch yourself thinking about how great your spouse is at 2 pm when you’re apart, send a short text. Or when you’re together, on the floor playing with the kids, take the second to articulate the feeling of love you’re getting.

When we were dating Ben would call these moments “love bursts” and all we’d have to do is mention that we were having a “love burst” to communicate the feeling of appreciation and love for the other. And I’m committing right now to bringing those back (Ben, you’ve been warned).

Keep Score

I sometimes find myself getting SO frustrated in thinking of all the things I’ve done around the house while the things I expect Ben to do still sit unfinished.

I catch myself striving for a fifty/fifty split on so many things and being frustrated when I feel like I’m doing any more than my share.

I love the advice though to keep score of what your partner is giving. I try to make a mental note whenever I realize Ben has done something (even if it’s leaving for a full 14 hours at work to provide for our family without first putting his bowl in the dishwasher). This habit of cultivating gratitude for him has made a huge difference to me over the last few weeks and I’m working to make it stick.

Each time I mentally log something good he’s done I’m more appreciative of him, and more excited about helping our family too.

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

Get Perspective

Last week Ben and I spent half an hour taking the Couples Checkup assessment and going over our report together. I loved the insight it gave us into certain areas of our relationship but what I liked even more is the conversation is sparked. I love it as a tool to facilitate important conversations in marriage we don’t often make the time for (like our communication styles, our division of labor, and our extended families).

We spend our whole lives living and working in our marriages and we often forget to step back and work on our marriages. I think quality time together is great, I think serving each other is awesome, but I think taking the time to evaluate and improve your relationship and communication multiplies all your other efforts at date night and random acts of kindness.

The checkup consisted of a long set of questions that Ben and I answered separately (we did it at the same time on different devices) that took about 15 minutes to get through. Most of it was rating how I felt various statements applied to me, to Ben, or to our relationship. At the end it put together a 10 page marriage report, complete with our strengths, and the areas we needed to work on. It went in depth and we were able to use each analysis as a starting point for conversation about what we could change or how we could improve.

What I really like is you don’t see your spouses answers to any specific questions. So, for example, I don’t know how Ben feels specifically about how much time we spend with my family at the end of the report, but I do know that he is “very satisfied” with how we relate to family and friends. On the other hand, the questions showed I think we could improve the way we communicate with each other but didn’t specify which questions/answers led to that conclusion. I think this makes for healthy discussion about themes/trends in your marriage without getting stuck in the details of specific situations.

Are you looking for a meaningful activity to add to your Valentines plans this week? Let this be the match that sparks the conversation that leads to small changes that make a big difference. And then go watch a favorite romantic comedy. Or go out for a fancy dinner. Or eat all of the chocolate truffles.

Put Your Phones Down

I hope Ben and I are the only ones who get through a whole episode on netflix and realize we’re sitting three feet a way on the couch each scrolling through on own social media feeds?

Oh you too? So lame, right?

Find a time, set a time, enforce a time everyday or every week that you unplug and are fully present.

There is something about being with Ben, but in my own world of technology that ends up feeling more isolating than if I were alone to begin with.

For a few months we were really good at putting our phones away at 8 pm. For a while we enforced a “no phones in bed” rule. I’ve also considered a “no phones before 10 pm” rule so it also takes care of helping us be present with the kids before they go to bed. Whatever you do, find something that works for you and ditch the phone.

But really. Just do it.

Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

I’d love to hear your tips! What do you think has been helpful for strengthening your marriage since having little ones? What would you add to this list?
Strengthening Your Marriage After Kids (it's not what you think): by Boston mom blogger Elisabeth McKnight

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kids change your relationship - i love these tips for strengthening your marriage after babies

kids change your relationship - i love these tips for strengthening your marriage after babies

kids change your relationship - i love these tips for strengthening your marriage after babies

14 Comments

  1. I always struggle with the “division of labor” stuff — it’s hard, because while I understand that hubs working allows me to stay at home, I too get so frustrated with not feeling like he’s “pulling his weight” when he doesn’t help out as much as I wish he would! But then, when I think about it from an outside perspective… I understand that since I’m not bringing income into the home, it’s that “home stuff” that falls to me as “part of the job.”

    But, to be honest… sometimes I just wish that I worked outside the home so that I could hire some help instead! Sometimes I want to shout to the sky, “I WAS NOT PUT ON EARTH TO CLEAN UP YOUR DIRTY CEREAL BOWL!!” šŸ˜‰

    1. Elisabeth McKnight says:

      Oh the division of labor is the worst. The way I see it is either taking care of the kids is work or it isn’t. If it isn’t work, then when your spouse gets home he can totally be in charge of kid duty because even if he worked all day, taking care of kids isn’t work šŸ˜‰ If it IS work, then you BOTH have been working all day and when you’re both home, your time and duties should be split accordingly.

      I try to get a lot of the house hold stuff done during the day (and I end up delegating more of the childcare to Ben when he’s home instead of kitchen duty because I want him to spend time with the kids)… but I do really believe that your full time job is taking care of a baby. If you weren’t doing it, you would hire someone else to take care of the baby…and you and your husband would still come home and there would be laundry to be done and bathrooms to be cleaned..know what I’m saying?

      A whole post coming on parenting balance soon. I’ve been working on it but its hard to get right…I’m thinking of getting Ben to write a section and get a full perspective. we’ll see šŸ™‚

  2. K. O'Donnell says:

    My husband and I both work full time, so it is truly hard to manage the “division of labor”. I find myself getting angry when there are coffee rings on the counter in the morning, plaster-like oatmeal dried in a bowl, or dirty socks next to the couch. We have come up with a system that seems to be working for us. I went back to work after having baby number 2 about 3 weeks ago. This system consists of cleaning one day, and putting away the next. For us, dishes and laundry are our big issues. It seems like we wear 15 pieces of clothing each a day, and eat about 10 meals a day while using every bowl, plate and piece of silverware we own. So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we wash dishes TOGETHER after the kids are in bed. He throws a load of laundry in the washer, while I start washing the dishes. He rinses and puts them in the drying rack. By the time we’re done with dishes, the laundry is usually done and ready to be switched over to the dryer. While it dries, we usually sit down to a netflix show or talk bills for a bit. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we put everything away. The laundry sits in the dryer until the next day and we “freshen up” the load while we put dishes away TOGETHER. Then we head up to our bedroom and fold/put our clothes away. I usually end up putting the kids clothes away in the morning, or they end up wearing what was washed! It works for us. I hope maybe it helps someone else out there as well. This technique makes things manageable for us and isn’t so time consuming.

  3. These are fantastic tips! My husband and I LOVE Prepare/Enrich and the Couple Checkup and love how much it’s helped out in our marriage! <3

  4. ughhh the me time is sooo important! I never get that right now, hoping for some after Husband quits working so much in evenings, etc šŸ™‚

  5. Aw I love these tips! I don’t have kids but I will definitely keep in these mind in the future!

    xx Mollie

  6. This was such a sweet post! I agree that having a ritual you two love to do together is so important! We don’t have kiddos yet, but I love that we have something every week to look forward to!

    xo, Sara

  7. I wish it were that simple. We were so madly in love for the 1st 12 years of marriage, regardless of our struggle with infertility and many losses. I imagine that when our parenting cream became real it would be even better, WRONG! Total opposite, now we have 2, in contemplating divorce but don’t want to leave children with a 1 parent home.

  8. I love this! It’s all spot on. Marriage changes so much after kids. I especially liked what you said about keeping score. We need to focus on what our spouse is doing for our family instead of what they aren’t. My husband recently started school along with his full time job, and it really has caused us to change up the way we divide various house hold duties. Thanks for sharing!

  9. These are all such great ideas! I wrote a post myself about this recently and you brought up some things I hadn’t thought about, so thank you! Keeping out marriage at the forefront of our family is a must for the family unit to be strong. I applaud you for making this a priority in your family as well.

  10. I love that you addressed the importance of “Just say it”. It’s good to never assume. My husband and I have been together for seven years and we definitely went through a stage when we were just assuming we knew each others love. Eventually, we realized how much we actually missed hearing it and showing our love in the most simple ways. Great tips!

    -Mariah
    Family Fruition

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