When Kids Happen To Your Marriage

I have mentioned before that marriage is hard work.  Love is easy, but marriage.  That is hard.

Cortney and I never argue about money.  We never argue about who was supposed to do that one chore.  We never even argue about things like socks on the floor or leaving the toilet seat up.

Before we got married, we sorted these things out.  We quite literally sat down and made decisions about stuff as big as finances and budgeting to small things like who is in charge of which chores.  We compromised on things like the location of the dirty laundry basket so that socks and undies wouldn’t get tossed on the floor instead of put in the basket. And we both agreed that toilets come with a lid for a reason…to be closed when not in use (plus we had a cat at the time and no one wanted to deal with walking in the aftermath of a midnight splash fest).

The one thing that causes tension in our marriage is parenting.

I never feel so far away from Cortney as when we have just disagreed or misunderstood each other in terms of how the other is (or isn’t) handling a parenting situation. And I feel pretty confident he feels the same way about me.

I remember when I was raging with undiagnosed postpartum mood disorders, I wondered if I could ever like him again.

Sure, I loved him.  Loved him like crazy.  Had my heart melted every time I saw him being gentle and kind and fatherly with Eddie.  Every time Eddie snuggled and slept on him.  Every minute I loved Cort.

But I when the baby was screaming and he couldn’t fix it, I didn’t like him.

And I am positive that he didn’t like me.  I mean, I was screaming and throwing things at him for doing “it” wrong.  And neither of us knew what “it” was that he was doing wrong.

I know that  makes no sense; welcome to PPD! Weeeeee!

But seriously, when I was finally diagnosed, properly medicated, and going to therapy, I thought all those Blerg feelings would go away.  The ragey totally illogical, irrational dislike went away.

But certain tensions didn’t go away.

Since Charlie is small and easy, we generally don’t disagree on anything with that guy, but with Eddie? Let’s just say that so far, he is our challenge.  He has my personality (to a fault, unfortunately) and while Cort has learned how to deal with my moods and such (and I am better able to use my words when I am upset), he is not as adept at fielding Eddie’s explosions.

Not that I am either, I just understand where they are coming from better.  Usually. I mean, kids are weirdos, so sometimes he is a total mystery to me too.

Let’s see…here is an example…

Last night I went to put Eddie to bed.  Cort had gotten him a new nightlight and was putting it in his room while I supervised teeth brushing and such.  When it was time to go in his room and crawl in bed, he walked over to his new nightlight and fiddled with it.  It got messed up.

We call daddy down to see if he could fix it.  I told Eddie to get in bed.  He didn’t. I told him again.  He didn’t.  I told him he was going to lose book privileges and he finally, all sobby-like, crawled into bed.  At the same time, Cort announced the nightlight didn’t work and he would go get the old one.

Eddie lost his mind.

There was scream-crying and ridiculousness.

I knew he was upset because he believed he broke his new thing.  He was sad that his new thing didn’t work.  I told him it would be Ok; that daddy would either fix it or get him a new one tomorrow.

He didn’t stop crying, and he never once used his words to actually explain to me what was wrong.  He just got screamy.  And sobby.

He didn’t want to read books with  me; he didn’t even want me to be there.  The only thing he would say was, “Daddy.”

So I gave up and got Cortney.

I could tell he was annoyed that he was being asked to do bedtime yet again, but Eddie was having a fit and I thought he wanted Cort as comfort.

So Eddie is downstairs crying his face off…loudly, and Cort is sitting calmly in his chair with the information that Eddie would like him to come down.

And he sits.  And Eddie cries. And Cort sits.  And Eddie cries.

“Did you want me to go back down?” I ask.

“No.” He says as he logs in (or off, not sure) to his laptop.

I stand and watch him; he sits and pays no attention. Eddie, this whole time, sounds as if he has a flesh-eating disease.

“So are you going to go down or what?” I ask impatiently.

And that is when he explodes.  Or, since Cort never explodes, he gets all firm and grouchy with me.  “Yes, Kate. I am going. I’m just giving him a chance to get it out of his system. I can listen to it from here or in his room, and I would rather not sit there with him screaming…” and he trails off as he angrily descends the stairs to put his computer away and tend to the Screamer.

And the tension arrives.

I lie down for a bit to lick my wounds.  I know he was justified in being annoyed, plus with a screamy child, everything is at a heightened stress level.

At the same time, I am not a mind-reader and I didn’t know why he was just sitting there while our little guy freaked the frack out downstairs.  I felt he needed comfort and someone to explain to him that the nightlight situation was not life and death.  I didn’t feel that Cort had enough urgency.

He didn’t feel the situation warranted urgency.

We were both right.  And wrong.  And whatever.

In the end, he chilled Eddie out, read a few books, and got him to sleep.

I wrote a blog post.

We talked about it.  We know tensions ran high and that we snapped at each other because we didn’t use our communication skills in the moment.

As much as we agree and collaborate on almost everything, we still have moments of miscommunication or failure to communicate all together when it comes to parenting.

We are a team.  A good one.  We have more wins than losses.  But it doesn’t come easily.

I would say the biggest challenge in our marriage is being parents together.

The good news is we are always working on it.

The better news is that we are a committed team.  We are in this for the long, forever haul.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Agreed..and in my experience the older the kids get the more their is for parents to disagree on/respond to differently and the more stressful it gets.

    • Yeah, I have a feeling that will totally be the case. We agree on the big things, but the in-the-moment decisions? We have a tendency to approach differently.

  2. I get this. Before we had kids, my husband and I talked about how we would parent. When the kids arrived, we er, disagreed mightily. In many, many ways.

    But we always manage to come to a compromise. Until the next time.

    Parenting and marriage – not for the weak.

    • Yes! We have all the BIG things figured out, the big theory-type things. But in the moment when it comes to discipline or dealing with choices about snacks, nap, etc, we tend to have differing approaches. I also know this has to do with our personalities and the personalities of the boys as well as how we perceived our parents did “parenting”.

      Not for the weak AT ALL.

  3. Love is easy, marriage is hard. True story. I hate when people say “The first year of marriage is the hardest!” maybe in some cases that could be true, but from my experience, the first year of parenthood AND BEYOND is toughest on a marriage. The hubs & I have been married for almost 15 years… but our deepest challenges began 8 years ago when we started the journey of parenthood. We almost didn’t survive that first year. And now that our kids are getting older, new challenges are thrown our way. We may not always agree on how to parent, and it sucks. I try to remember that we both love our kids very deeply — but they are temporary residents in our home. I committed to my husband for life, and that’s not a commitment I take lightly. But… it’s a commitment that can be hard as hell at times.

    Katie, I have lived through this post… and I feel your pain. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh my goodness! I agree! For us the first year of marriage was by FAR the easiest. It was so fun and lovely and..oh to have that time back just for a day or two, right?

      The real work started when we had kids. But knowing that we are working through it together is comforting.

  4. OH yeah. I get this. Hubby and I never fought about anything before becoming parents. We agree on many things concerning our child, but when we don’t? It can get ugly. And frustrating. But we work on it. Together. Because parenting is a team “sport.” Marriage is hard, but it’s one of those things where you truly do get out of it what you put in. And it’s all worth it.

    • YES! This: “it’s one of those things where you truly do get out what you put in.” It’s true for parenting AND marriage…and really anything in life. But I SO agree with you!

  5. oh I get this, especially since we are two working parents with stressful jobs and we BOTH think we know how to handle the situation.
    what’s interesting to me (as I’m sure it’s crossed your mind too) is that we never fought before this, we had minor disputes, but never fights. Even during infertility, when we could have blamed each other, pointed fingers, let off the steam by just making it go “over there”, we didn’t.

    Yet our sons bring out our own childhoods I think. It’s very hard to be lovey and dovey when we are sitting opposite one another seething about the way something was handled, how late we are now that we handled it that way etc.

    I am glad you wrote this and I also know that Eddie is okay and he knows that both parents love him very much. Where our sons are pushing their individual limits with us (meaning all of us as parents) we are setting our own boundries with them.

    gorgeous post..again…Kate. XO

    • YES! As two working parents, both of us are tired and feel like we deserve a rest at the end of the day. That happens a LOT. I think we both let ourselves feel that we are more deserving of sitting on our butt than the other person and when it comes to “dealing” with something, well, we get irrational. And we do have very different approaches to our kids. Sometimes I need to have more of Cort’s non-wavering stance on decisions and sometimes he needs more of my softness. Every day it’s more work and more learning. But it’s probably the best, most important work I have ever done 🙂

  6. I can so relate to this. Jeff and I are so similar… parenting causes our biggest disagreements and annoyances too. The important message is that these things will happen, you just have to talk about them afterwards just like you guys did.

    • I have always ALWAYS been terrible at admitting when I am wrong, but marriage and parenting have humbled me in that department. I don’t EASILY talk about the miscommunication, but we always do it because we know if we don’t we are setting ourselves up for failure as a family.

  7. THIS is my every day. It used to be that I was “the bad guy”. That got old. Alexa would run to Peter for everything because he always said yes. We talked about it…he stopped. But he has no middle ground. Now he just sounds like a grouch when they talk. She’s still having similar tantrums to when she was in the midst of being a “threenager”…only she’s 4 now. It sucks because we’re all butting heads.

    Alexa is just like me. SO like you, I understand her point of view more…but it doesn’t make me better able to deal with it. I’m screamy and ragey. Peter’s crabby. Alexa’s tantrumy. And poor Emma is just hanging out wondering when the hell everyone is going to be quiet :-/

    • I know that often Cort is the bad guy and that just isn’t right. I tend to be soft for the boys…which annoys even me. I want to be tough, but I also die when they hurt…even if it’s their own darn bad choice that brought the situation. This causes tension…frequently.

  8. Katie, so on the same page as you. Being parents isn’t easy and there will always be situations where you would do things differently than your spouse — it’s just the way it is. In a way it’s a good thing – both parents are involved — it could be worse and you have ALL the work!

    • You are SO right! Cort and I are definitely a team and totally want to work things out together and show that we are a united team caring for the boys. It’s hard, but it’s TOTALLY worth it!

  9. Our biggest disagreement in our marriage, parenting and non-parenting topics alike, is the sense of urgency. If something needs to be fixed or addressed I would like it to be done right now, my husband seems to lack that sense of urgency. I find myself biting my tongue more often than I care to admit because I just want to shout “MOVE WITH A SENSE OF URGENCY!!!” when the kid is crusted in dinner and trying to put her grimy hands all over everything or I’m in the midst of doing something and need his assistance and he’s just strolling into the room.

    • I think this is me too. I always want things done NOW. I have zero patience. Many times I could take a lesson and learn to chill out a little. Cort is definitely the more chill parent in some regards, but he is also made out to be the bad guy often, which isn’t fair to him. What he has, I need more of. What I have, he needs more of. Which is probably exactly why we are a good team! 🙂

  10. Yep, this is definitely true for us, at times. So many emotions involved. And then you factor in all the other kids watching how you handle a situation and ready to point out any way that it differs from how you parent another child and it just gets more complicated. We often tell our children we are learning how to be parents just as they are learning how to be kids. It helps.

    • Right? You can’t just have a big disagreement about how to handle the kid who won’t sit down on the couch right in front of the kid who won’t sit down on the couch. Sigh.

  11. This has never happened at our house.

    BAWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    My husband has said many times that he always admired his grandparents because they presented a “united front” to their children, always. And while that sounds great, I don’t think it’s possible to always agree. Maybe on the “big” things but not always on the little ones, like situations such as this. And I do not think the crying bothers men as much as it does us Moms, so yeah.

    But yes, always work on it and always make up after. 🙂

    • You know, I also think we remember things that happened in our childhood as we saw them as a child. I would dare to bet that his grandparents were not always a united front, but as a child that is what he saw. And that is what is important, right? I don’t feel like Cort and I are often a united front, but as long as it looks that way to the boys, awesome. And really, we are on the same page as far as keeping the kids safe, raising them to be polite, etc.

      And I think you’re right. The crying affects the moms so much more.

  12. Yup. This sounds like my husband and I. And we love our kids SO DARN MUCH that when the other parent questions (criticizes?) the other’s parenting decisions, it hurts deeply. I think that is why we’re all so sensitive about it. But being a team is the most important thing to remember.

    • YES! We each react to a situation differently and feel our way of responding is what will work best. It’s a hard pill to swallow when the other thinks your way totes sucks…and you realize that it might actually suck.

  13. Parenting is hard period. Especially when you have a babe who is sick, challenge, etc. It definitely puts a strain on relationships. But you’re working at it and that is fabulous. I hate to say this because I’ll probably get my ass handed to me, but I think far to many people just give up. They forget the love that they had before kids and the love that they still have…even if it’s burried under stinky diapers, sleepless nights, and food splattered on the walls xo

    • I think you’re right, Kim. A LOT of people quit when shit gets hard. It’s sad. Instead of seeing it as a challenge to tackle together, they forget why they loved each other and wanted to bring life into the world to begin with.

  14. Being married after having kids has been the hardest part of being married. Period. Nothing says “Who are you, again??” quite like parenting through a child-induced crisis.

    • And nothing makes me simultaneously love the snot out of him and hate his guts at the same time as a child-induced crisis.

      This ish ain’t for the weak, yo.

  15. In our house, I tend to play bad cop to my husband’s good cop. But when our daughter goes whining to him after I discipline or tell her no, he always backs me up. So, I think we present a pretty good united front in that regard. We’ll also reign each other in when one is getting overly frustrated and/or harsh with Lil’ Bit. We both used to be a lot more sensitive about that and it would lead to arguments, but we’ve somehow mellowed over time. It’s strange in light of the challenges of toddlerhood, but we seem to be more in sync with our parenting now than ever before. But the first year… oh, that first year nearly broke us. Granted, we had other issues going on at the time, on which we’ve also made great strides. In fact, as we approach our 7-year anniversary, I feel like maybe we’re finally hitting our stride with this whole marriage thing – parenting included. But it’s been a bumpy road at times.

    • I’m the good cop to my husband’s bad cop with Eddie. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because he’s a boy and I am a girl or if it’s because he is SO much like me, I just KNOW why he is sad or upset because I can remember it all. I am finding we are better when we are rested (Ha!) and don’t have other crazy going on in our life (again, HA!). Our first year of parenthood was the hardest year I have ever had in my life. That is one thing I know for sure.

  16. Yep. This was us last night, too. Abby was being a tiny fuss bucket and my last nerve was shot. Crying is a HUGE trigger for me, and while I can usually control it, last night it got the better at me when she refused to nurse and I practically ripped Tim’s head off for not running to Abby’s side immediately while I fixed a bottle. Or when Tim says “no” to Aric for a stupid little thing that I totally would have allowed him to have/do and we argue over what things we should/shouldn’t say “no” to.

    In a sociology of the American Family class I took in college, we learned that most married couples report the most dissatisfaction with their marriage during the child-raising years, bottoming out when the kids are teenagers. Thankfully after the kids move out, satisfaction jumps to levels higher than newly-weds 🙂 So basically I’m saying we have to stick it out for another 20 years, and it will all get better 😉

    • You and Tim are SO very much like Cort and me! Crying has always been one of my most massive anxiety triggers too stemming back from Eddie’s colicky newborn days. When I am all twitchy from it it can drive me crazy when Cort doesn’t just jump to action and handle it. Or when Cort is the “bad guy” with Eddie over stuff I think is ridiculous. But we work on it. And I love that we will be all newlywed when these kids leave the house. Phew!

  17. It is hard to communicate well All The Time. What’s good though is talking about it after, not for a who did what wrong, but just a let’s figure out how to be better at this. And you’re both doing it right and you’re doing it together, so hold onto that. I have to laugh too because sometimes I will say to my husband, just TELL me what’s going on in your head because when you just sit there after I’ve asked you to do something or one of the kids needs/wants you, I can’t help but thinking you’re either deaf, dumb, or you want me to swing this cast iron pan so far into your frontal lobe you forget your own damn name.

    • YES! Sometimes I wish he would just tell me what he is thinking…then I could relax and let him carry on (or not, you know…I still need to worry).

  18. So honest and true. My husband and I argue about money more than anything, which is probably the dumbest thing to argue about! But as you said, we are also committed and in for the long haul, and that makes all the difference when you know one is not suddenly going to walk out the door.

  19. Wow, what an awesome, real post. Thanks so much for sharing! My fiance and I aren’t ready for kids for a few years but as a soon to be married person I’m trying to soak up all the info and knowledge I can on married life!

  20. I can relate to this way too much! It is the most challenging thing in our marriage by far as well. I was a sociology major in college, studied family sociology for years in grad school, and I could name dozens of academic studies that say clearly that early parenthood is one of the toughest — if not THE toughest — time in a marriage. Marital satisfaction plummets. Even though I thought that I was aware of that, the tensions involved in raising a fussy, demanding kid still shocks me every day. But it does help to think in terms of the “long haul,” as you say.

  21. Thank you for such a fantastic post, my husband and I are trying for children at the moment and regularly discuss how we will parent etc. I’m a primary school teacher and have worked with young children been a nanny etc all my life and Tim has 0 experience. I know I will find it hard to not think I know best but also I am so much more reactive in the moment. Thank you for posting about normality and for the other commenters!