At what point to you get back to being ‘in a relationship’ when you have children?
Six months? Nine months? A year? When they go to nursery/ Primary school/ secondary school?
I wish there was some way of being able to chart the journey back to ‘normality’.
Or if it’s never going to happen, that someone was honest enough to let you know pre-children that kids sabotage your relationship for the rest of your life together, so you get the chance to go on some decent mini-breaks before you get pregnant.
The things that bring you together in the first place can end up being held by a thread when you throw children in the mix.
Affection- there would have been the point when you first met your partner when you couldn’t keep your hands off each other.
You’d find excuses just to brush arms with them. And as you became more comfortable with each other, you’d automatically move hair from their eyes, squeeze their legs, or interlock arms.
You grew into a natural physical extension of each other.
You have children and they immediately swell into that space. Children are instinctively affectionate. They want to be so close to you that they could live inside your skin again.
Your baby couldn’t be happier than sleeping on the small inch of exposed flesh on your arm, her head precariously balanced.
Your toddler would prefer you to carry them around upside down, blood gushing to their head, than walk alongside you.
That need for touch; for closeness; for comfort, is filled by your children.
Communication- the art of talking. There was a time in your relationship when you talked about stuff outside the day-to-day.
You dreamed together; talked about your ideals, your politics, your visions for your shared future. You let those dreams grow, take shape and then jointly explored how you could make them happen.
Talking when you have children is more a tick list to make sure everyone knows where everyone else has to be and when. And if you manage to discuss how your own day has been in the evening over a glass of wine, then you’re doing pretty fucking well.
You push back for the time together. For those moments when you try and recreate how it used to be.
And there’s too much pressure.
How do you act on a date with a man you’ve lived with for ten years?
Without venturing into weird role-play, how do you make the swift transition from the parents you were, moments ago, putting your children to bed, to the couple who are sitting opposite each other in the pub round the corner, both with phones out in case the babysitter rings?
Is there a ‘don’t talk about the ‘children/ house/ bills/ the camping trip we’ve spoken about but haven’t had time to book’ policy?
Or do you get that all out the way first? Work through the personal admin list, then tidy up your papers like a newsreader, before cranking up the fun?
Some couples who are having relationship problems supposedly have children to attempt to cement it. If people do actually do this, I ask them, why?
And then say, good fucking luck.
Children bring out the very best and the very worst in you as individuals.
You develop a capacity for love that you never realised you had before.
Unconditional, you can puke/ shit/ piss all over me and I’d prefer to hold you tight to comfort you than change my T-shirt kind of love.
You become stronger with the person you have had children with, but by building on a strength that’s already there.
Because your partner will drive you fucking mental when you bring children into the equation.
You will have conflicting views on virtually everything. The bits about them that annoyed you before children are suddenly magnified by about a thousand at 2am when your baby is crying.
Your love for each other becomes the bass line.
You can’t question it because the house of cards falls down if you do.
But you do need to feed it.
You need to remember why you chose to be in each other’s lives in the first place.
It wasn’t to do each other’s laundry, or sit through each other’s annoying choice of TV programme. It wasn’t to shout at each other when you’re so tired you’ve forgotten the art of listening. And it definitely wasn’t to blame each other for the things that haven’t worked out in your own day.
It’s because that person was and still is pretty ace.
It’s just their aceness has manifested into something else.
And their love has grown to include the people you’ve made together.
Maybe the affection and conversation will come back.
But in the meantime, don’t forget to ask how each other are doing.
And grab the squeezes when you can.