Paging Twiniversity: Parenting After Baby (or Babies!)
Well-known twin parenting expert Natalie Diaz, founder of Twiniversity, gives us her thoughts on how to baby-proof your marriage, whether you’re preparing for one baby or 5.
As a twin parenting expert I’m fascinated by this scary statistic: The rate of divorce amongst parents of multiples is HIGHER than the national average? Yup. Thanks to the amazing amounts of stress from pregnancy, financial strain and sheer lack of sleep, parents of multiples often turn to the dark side and can’t get themselves back to the light. Because a strong partnership is the most important link in parenting, as I explained in the final chapter of my book “What To Do When You’re Having Two,” (titled “Batman and Chocolate Milk” which is a code for my husband and me), this is a troubling statistic on so many levels.
Problems in marriage after a baby aren’t isolated to the multiple birth community though, and whether you have multiples or singletons, your first priority should be keeping your marriage solid. Many folks are surprised that I say that, because so often the priority is placed on taking care of the babies. But, in the big picture, your marriage is critical to their development so by taking care of your relationship, you are taking care of them. Unfortunately so many couples don’t even think about this until it’s almost too late. Hear me out…
I’m sure you have taken the time to carefully pick out the crib your baby will sleep in. I’m sure you have thoughtfully researched the right stroller and car seat. I’m sure you’ve had in-depth discussions about organic mattresses vs. conventional, but have you taken a moment to think about how your relationship will change? How the new addition will affect your roles as husband and wife? This needs to be an open discussion before your third trimester. You need to have an open communication about your spousal roles to make sure that they will still work after the babies are here – and if not, to reevaluate how things need to look after labor and delivery.
Maybe you have a marriage that resembles something out of 1942 (like mine) and your hubby might need some coaching on how to help since you’ve been the one doing the heavy lifting since you said “I do”. Perhaps you have a spouse who has been more on the disconnected end of the universe and needs to be a bit more tapped in. Maybe you even have a high maintenance spouse who needs to make adjustments to their shopping budget so you can afford diapers. ANY and ALL issues need to be put on the table before anyone says, “Congratulations it’s a girl (or boy)!” so that any conflicts can be addressed head-on before you are stretched thin from lack of sleep and new responsibilities.
Of course, that doesn’t always happen. And even if you do have an open line of communication with your spouse, things can change rapidly once children enter the picture and that arrangement you agreed to during month 7 may seem pretty undesirable 6 months postpartum. If you do find yourself losing your way in your relationship, here are some tips to bring you back from the dark side:
Are you the person that you want your kids to marry? When it’s 2am and you are fighting over a crib because you say SHE was supposed to pick up formula but she insists that YOU were supposed to do this, STOP. Step away, take three deep breaths and ask yourself: What am I doing? Am I proud of the way that I’m behaving? Think about how you would feel if your child (whom you are fighting above) married someone just like you at this very moment? Sometimes this will snap you right back into the moment and the argument will end.
Love and respect. It’s as easy as that. A poll of married couples recently found that the majority of men just want to feel respected, and most of the women just want to feel loved. Sounds so simple, no? Yet, why do we have such a hard time with it? Think about ways that you used to show each other these key elements to humanity. Did you buy her flowers before you became a dad? Did you consult him more before making big decisions before you became a mom? Go back to a moment in your marriage when you were both the happiest. Think about things you did then and try to reinvent new ways to recreate those old moments.
Never forget that all eyes are on you! YOU are the one that is setting the example of what a good husband or wife should be. Lead by example. If you taught your child NOTHING MORE than to be a gentle, loving, patient, understanding and flexible person, you’ve succeeded at being a parent. If you are bitter, snippy and constantly defensive, what lesson are you teaching there? If you constantly bicker with your spouse over tiny, insignificant things, what lesson are you teaching? Always remember that even the tiniest of eyes are always upon you and you need to set a good example.
Turn the lights down and snuggle (or more). Intimacy is a CRITICIAL element of marriage. After a good roll in the hay, men will feel like the king of their kingdom again and women will be floating on cloud 9. The chemistry of lovemaking is healthy on so many levels that this post can’t contain the words. When your doctor gives you the green light to jump back in the saddle, do it. Take it slow at first and, ESPECIALLY if you had a vaginal delivery, be prepared for things to be a bit different. Arm yourself with some good lube and plenty of patience and you’ll be back to your old tricks in no time.
And finally I leave you with: Don’t lose prospective. The baby(ies) won’t be small forever and, before you know it, will be grown-ups with spouses of their own. Make sure that your spouse stays a priority so that, when your tiny tot grows up and moves out, you are sitting on that porch swing together entering your twilight years hand in hand.
For more tips on marriage pick up my book “What To Do When You’re Having Two” which covers topics through the first year of your babies lives.
Good luck, and never forget: Love and respect….keys to a happy life and marriage!
Natalie Diaz, founder of Twiniversity.com, the world’s largest online support community for parents of twins, and author of “What To Do When You Are Having Two,” which will be on the shelves nationally in late Fall 2013. Natalie also teaches classes exclusively for expectant and new parents of twins, and speaks nationally on twin parenting issues. For more information visit www.Twiniversity.com, follow on twitter @twiniversity or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Twiniversity