Once upon a time, you thought it was hard to prioritize your relationship. After all, you had friends and hobbies and a job to keep track of. Then you had kids, and you realized that any struggles you had making time for each other before were nothing compared to the giant chasm of difficulty you face now. When you have kids, you have basically no free time. You start considering mom guilt, screaming kids, and babysitting fees, and date night sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. Before you know it, you and your spouse begin to feel like passing ships in your own home, paying hot-potato with a baby without remembering why you had a baby in the first place.
If that sounds like you, and if you’re ready to reclaim your love life after having children, read on.
Put a Little Effort In
Think back to when you and your spouse were first dating. Did you used to get dressed up to see them? Put on make-up? Shave your legs? At some point between marriage and children, getting dolled up every time you saw your spouse stopped being practical. It became a date-night-special. And then, maybe, it became nothing at all.
You don’t have to be Madonna to keep your romance alive. You don’t even have to get out of sweatpants every day. But if your love life is stuck in a rut, consider putting a little extra effort into your appearance some days. Put on a splash of makeup. Do your hair. Maybe consider things like laser hair removal to make life easier.
Redefine “Date Night”
Maybe you can’t afford to have someone else babysit your child, or maybe you’re just not ready yet. That’s okay. There are ways to prioritize your relationship without leaving the house. Don’t think that you have to have an entirely child-free evening to make time for your spouse. Consider creative ideas to make time for each other instead.
For example, you could dim the lights in the dining room and enjoy candlelit PB&J while the baby is down for a nap. Or you could play a round of Fortnite duos together to remember what it’s like to feel like a team, or read a chapter of a book together each night before bed. The important thing is to do something daily to prioritize the relationship.
Talk to Each Other
Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. Set aside a part of every day to really talk to each other. Ask how work was, talk about how the baby is doing, and—most importantly—listen to each other. Be honest about how you’re feeling, both about your relationship as a couple and about your co-parenting relationship.
Also, be sure to talk to each other about the division of labor. Before you had kids, it might have worked to just take care of whatever messes you saw when you saw them. After you have kids, that way of splitting up the labor will invariably lead to one of you feeling like you’re taking on an unfair workload. Instead of letting that fester, speak openly about how you want to divide the labor, and revisit the conversation once a week or so to ensure that it continues to feel fair.
Create a Habit of Good Deeds
There are many ways to tell your spouse that you love them. Date night is only one of those ways. Another great way is to do things for them that make them feel special. Buy them flowers for once, or buy their favorite cereal at the grocery store, or do one of the chores on their list—not passive-aggressively, and not to guilt them into doing one of yours, but just to relieve their workload.
Create a habit of thinking of your spouse and of what will make them happy and doing one thing a day for them out of the goodness of your heart. Not only will this make them feel loved, but thinking in that way will ensure you feel more empathetic towards them—and less resentful of them—as a result.
The biggest key to rekindling the romance after having a baby isn’t in spicing up your sex life again (though that can help!) or getting back into the dating scene immediately. The biggest key is to have grace with yourself and with your spouse, to communicate with each other openly and freely, and to work, each day, at figuring out your new normal as a couple.