This marriage advice for couples with kids tells you how to plan, what to read, who comes first, how to play nice, and more. You don’t want to miss these seven essential pieces of marriage advice showing you how to be happy, even with kids.
This marriage advice is from Marriage.com founder Malini Bhatia.
We will raise a family,
A boy for you, a girl for me.
Oh, can’t you see
How happy we would be?
-Tea for Two lyrics from the 1925 musical No, No Nanette
When it comes to the idea of having children, many share the rose-colored glasses worn by the composer of Tea for Two. We envision adorable infants, little ballerinas, football team captains, perfect hair, straight teeth, prom kings and queens . . . the list goes on and on.
If you are considering having children, this your wake-up call. There is a lot of time in between those scrapbook moments, and it isn’t all ideal. Divorce statistics testify to this fact.
Thankfully, I’m not part of those statistics. I’ve been married for 10 years, we have two children whom we treasure, and I truly believe we are together for the long run. Since my spouse and I have been blessed with the ability to make this work, I’d like to share some advice in hopes that it will bring you success as well. Let’s begin at the beginning:
Read the Baby Books, Then Throw Them Out
Seriously, you can make yourself insane with those books. I’m convinced that if you read half of the current baby books, you could contradict everything with material from the other half. Granted, this might not hold true for a few topics: I’ve never read a book saying you should let your child stick foreign objects into electrical outlets. But when it comes to pacifiers or schedules, forget the books and follow your gut. If you’re acting out of love for your child, you’re doing the right thing.
Talk with your spouse about infant rearing issues. You may learn that while you think you’re acting out of love by avoiding pacifiers, your spouse thinks pacifiers are an absolute necessity. The best way to ensure peace in the household is when you are both on the same page.
Plan Your Parenting Strategies
Our parenting techniques tend to mirror those of our parents. My parents were strict, while my husband’s parents were relatively lenient; now he is the good cop and I am the bad cop in our household, and we haven’t always agreed on parenting issues.
Discuss scenarios with your spouse. “How do you think we should deal with tantrums?” “What do you think is an appropriate punishment for a three year old?” “What do you think is a reasonable bedtime for a ten-year old?” You might be surprised that your mate’s answers differ from yours. Align some strategies now.
The Child Does Not Always Come First
There is only so much you can neglect yourself, and sometimes it proves to be needless. For example, I refused to allow my daughter to cry herself to sleep. I got no rest when she napped because I drove her in her car seat so she would sleep. I was chronically tired, but I felt that her needs came first.
My son was six months old when we adopted him. He, too, was a put-to-bed nightmare, and I quickly realized that catering to this was taking a serious toll. We began to allow him to cry in his crib, re-entering his room to soothe him briefly after one minute, then two, then four, etc. The first night it took about 45 minutes, but by the third night, it was under ten.
Today both of my children are amazing sleepers, and I still have my sanity and my marriage. I’m not sure this would be the case if I had kept trying to pacify my son.
Discuss issues such as this with your partner before you decide to have children. If your partner thinks your child comes first at all costs while you want to vacation without the child in six months, it would be best to resolve this disconnect now.
Play Nice: Take Turns
You’ve been home with the kids all day; you need a break. He’s had a hard day at work and needs to unwind. Or you’re both exhausted from work and the baby needs attention. Who is going to be responsible when you’re both drained?
It is critical that you and your mate agree to a system of taking turns stepping up to the plate. Not respecting your mate’s exhaustion and only prioritizing your own is a recipe for divorce.
Align Your Morals
Is it okay to have a drink in front of your kids? Are you going to admit to them that you drank, smoked, and/or had sex underage someday? What if your daughter tells you she’s pregnant at 16? You may think I’m borrowing trouble way too far in advance by raising some of these topics. But let’s say your son comes home years from now and tells you he’s gay. You decide that you will love him unconditionally for who he is, but your spouse disowns him. Different philosophies can ruin a marriage. Make sure you’re on the same page regarding moral issues now.
So you and your spouse have your parenting strategies hammered out. Or do you? You may find that once your child is born, your philosophies will change. This is not unfair; this is life. If your ideas change, bring them up with your partner as soon as possible; don’t wait until that parenting decision is upon you to test your new ideas. Ask your partner to treat you with that same respect.
The Bottom Line: Communication
The common bond underlying successful marriage with children is communication. If you bring these topics to your mate and he/she is not open to discussing them, perhaps your mate is not ready to shoulder the responsibilities of parenthood.
Despite the many issues that can arise, raising children can be an amazing, rewarding experience. As long as you and your partner have a united approach to parenting and can communicate well with each other, you have the foundation for a successful, long-term marriage with children.
Malini Bhatia is the founder of Marriage.com. Malini’s background in business and communications provided her with the knowledge to build a content company, but it is her deep passion in helping people develop and maintain positive relationships that inspired her to create Marriage.com. Malini lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 10 years and two children.