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Has Having Kids Been Good or Bad for Your Relationship?

Taylor Newman

Some of you have been reading this blog since my pregnancy (and for those of you haven’t, feel free to internet-stalk your way back into the archives), and I hope you’ll agree that I was a pretty grounded, happy pregnant girl. I did my nesting and my prenatal yoga and my chasing down of midnight cravings (followed by 1 a.m. Google searches like: "How much Tom Yum Soup is it safe to ingest in a 24-hour period while pregnant?"). I was psyched that we were rolling full steam ahead into family-style living, having become pregnant halfway through our engagement and then married at three months knocked up, but I did suffer one choice freak-out moment after watching part of the film Marley and Me. Remember that? Remember how having kids turned cute-couple Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston into sleep-deprived, fragmented, escape-seeking crazy people? Remember how Aaron and I had to stop watching their dramatized train wreck of a marriage, and how uncomfortable we felt after seeing that? How I couldn’t help but wonder, Will this baby wreak havoc on our marriage, too?

The short answer from that freakout’s future (aka the present) is: no. We celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary on Monday (and actually have been celebrating since last Friday night), and we are both happy, satisfied and whole. Bringing a baby into our mix has cemented our relationship, has strengthened and deepened our bond in indescribable ways, and made us appreciate aspects of each other that we couldn’t have known about before (e.g. Aaron can rock a spot-on Elmo impression while changing a diaper with one hand. Who knew?). And we LOVE our little guy so. We love parenting together. It’s super fun, and an amazing experience to share. As I’ve hinted not-so-subtly at in recent months, I’m pretty sure we’re eventually gonna grow this family some more.  

Now for the not-so-short answer: I want to be real and give mention to the many, many sleepless nights, the perpetually unfinished sentences and thoughts and work and laundry, the chaotic move across the country and navigating of new jobs (new everything), the health crisis and the giving our cats away, and the constant give-and-take that is 100% necessary between us in order to do the work or the laundry, or the achieving of individual or mutual goals. Or even to take a shower. These things are not easy, not for individuals or for couples. They’re made well worth it by the sheer joy that raising a baby brings into our lives, but that doesn’t change the fact that the tough parts are tough, that sleep deprivation is a god-awful thing, and people sometimes say things they shouldn’t in tones they shouldn’t… and sometimes it hasn’t felt like our relationship has gotten to be a priority in our lives at all. But it has been, all along. It’s gotten us through the sleepless nights (now a thing of the past—new-babyhood is a fleeting thing, wow), and it’s gotten us through fights. Sometimes marriage is the reason you stick around with the other person ‘til morning. And by morning, everything’s looking up again.

Because we love each other, because we’re married to each other, everything else falls into line, perspective-wise, as it should. And perspective, my friends, is everything. We’ve smiled and laughed our way through most of the past two years (Kaspar is also, seriously, the happiest person I’ve ever met, so… that’s working). Beneath all of the day-to-day doings of this everyday hyper-speed life, there is a current of commitment, love and direction (forward, mostly-blind, together) that keeps us steady and strong.

I never thought I’d wholeheartedly embrace a social and political institution in this way, but being married has played a key role in our staying on-track as we navigate the wilds of new-parenthood, figuring it out on the job. It’s worked for us. I don’t think—by any stretch of the imagination—that all parents need to be married, though; if the give-and-take weren’t solidly in place in our relationship, our lives would not work. So, obviously, we’d need to change it up if that were the case. I totally get why some people choose to go solo, or similarly reorganize their relationships, if the parenting balance isn’t right. Having kids does change how much one can accommodate in a relationship in terms of differing values, communication styles, approaches to time management or whatever. Marriage is simply one option, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Oh hey, big shoutout on this topic to NYC for finally legalizing same-sex marriage! And big congrats to all the happy couples out there tying the knot! Don’t watch Marley and Me! (Though I hear Owen and Jen’s characters did work it out in the end…).

How has having kids affected your relationship with your partner? Has it strengthened it, weakened it? Maybe both? How has your marriage changed since having kids? Do you think you'd do anything differently, if you had a do-over (more or less time as a couple before becoming a family, etc.)? Can't wait to read what you think about this!

PS. Have you gotten your Alt-Mama fix today? Stop by, say hi, and let the good times roll.