We Love Each Other, But… – A Book Review

Review of We Love Each Other, But from hdydi.comI’m divorced.

It’s a little awkward to be recommending a marriage advice book when my own marriage failed. Clearly, I’m no example of how to make a marriage successful, so perhaps my endorsement itself makes you swear to never look to this book. I hope not, though. We Love Each Other But… Simple secrets to strengthen your relationship and make love last is an easy-to-read book chock full of practical and effective ideas for making your partnership the strongest it can be, despite the challenges that life brings.

I feel like I’m the exception the proves the rule when it comes to the effectiveness of the approaches discussed in We Love Each Other But… I believe that implementing some of Wachtel’s advice gave my marriage an additional two years we wouldn’t have otherwise had. Over those two years, I saw my husband abandon the positive practices described in the book, one by one. I suppose his desire to leave the marriage was making itself apparent, but I didn’t see it until he said those words. “I want a divorce.”

but

What’s in We Love Each Other But…

When I read the book, I was embarrassed to look at the chapter headings and realize how typical I was, having allowed my marriage to grow weeds through neglect:

  • We Love Each Other But … Every Decision is a Tug-of-War
  • We Love Each Other But … We Get into Really Bad Arguments
  • We Love Each Other But … We Don’t Have Much of a Sex Life
  • We Love Each Other But … But I Have a Hard Time Dealing with my Partner’s Emotional Hang-ups
  • We Used to Love Each Other But … Now I’m Not So Sure
  • We Love Each Other But … Life with Children Isn’t Easy
  • We Love Each Other But … Is This It?

Wachtel’s advice is straightforward. Her writing is very readable. My ex, who is NOT a self-help seeker, read the book from cover to cover and recommended it to anyone who would listen. We read it together, each with our own copy, while he was deployed in Iraq. We wrote to each other with our thoughts and reactions.

The author mixes advice with case studies of real couples.

An example of her advice is the author’s recommendation of turning potentially explosive arguments into productive discussions by walking away from the conversation when either partner gets emotional or defensive, returning to it after 10 minutes or an hour. Agree to accept it when someone calls a time out. Equally important, don’t forget the point of contention when tempers cool; find a mutually agreeable solution after the emotional component has been removed. When my ex and I were practicing this take-a-break-then-deal approach, we pretty much eliminated unproductive disagreement. After having found a space in which to think, not feel, about the conflict, it often seemed less important to have our own way. In many cases, a creative compromise became apparent.

A Criticism

Wachtel’s claims that her practices can be used effectively even if only partner chooses to use them. I disagree. When my husband and I agreed to discuss points of conflict after we’d overcome any initial emotional reaction, communication was stellar. We had fun together, looked forward to our time together, felt loved. When he abandoned that practice, things fell apart.

In the most extreme instance, we were in disagreement over something. I don’t recall the topic of contention. I determined that the escalation of emotion was unproductive and decided to take a shower to take a break from the conversation. My husband waited a few minutes, but then couldn’t wait to address the issue any longer. He came into the bathroom, shouting. Let me tell you, cornering a rape survivor naked in the shower is a great way to trigger a paralyzing flashback.

That whole rape issue was addressed very well in the chapter in emotional hangups.

Applied to Parenting

There are a couple of ways that the content of this book speaks to parenting. First and most obviously, there’s a chapter devoted to making room for your marriage in light of the demands of raising children. Secondly, I think that it’s worth noting that there are a number of parallels between sibling relationships and marriage, particularly if you have particularly close multiples.

We Love Each Other But… Life with Children Isn’t Easy

Wachtel starts this chapter by confronting the guilt that we parents feel for any feeling of frustration or resentment of the changes and challenges that our children bring. She reminds us that our children need their parents to project felling fulfilled as much as they need our time and attention. It’s okay to spend time and energy on your partner and marriage. After all, as my ex used to say, ours was the relationship that would still be there after the kids had moved onto their adult lives. (Oh, the irony.)

The author’s tips from this chapter are:

  1. Develop a ritual for you and your spouse to spend fifteen to twenty minutes alone together every day.
  2. Go out together.
  3. Have romantic “dates” at home.
  4. Break the rules.
  5. Steal a sexy moment.

She also addresses the anxiety we often feel about leaving our children in a babysitter’s care, resolving conflict over the division of child-care responsibilities, the stress of kids’ bedtime in particular and family time in general and other common concerns.

Relationship Advice that Applies to Siblings

You may have seen me write about the parallels between marriage and the twin relationship. I think that a lot of the same conflict resolution techniques work in both types of relationships.

Three of We Love Each Other But…’s basic truths about lasting love apply to siblings:

  1. We love those who make us feel good about ourselves.
  2. Most of us know what will warm our partner’s heart.
  3. Criticism erodes love.

I encourage my daughters to communicate the positive things they see in both each other and their friends. It’s so important, I think, to communicate those things. Both my girls make daily gestures to bring joy to Sissy’s heart. For instance, M spent half her saved up allowance to buy her sister a stuffed toy she fell in love with at the store as a Valentine’s Day gift. We don’t do gifts in Valentine’s Day. She has no expectation of anything in return beyond the joy in her sister’s heart.

We talk often about choosing what points of criticism to raise with Sister. M struggles more with this that J. J is very protective of M’s feelings, but M is more likely to be on a mission to help everyone find their best selves, which can include some brutal critiques. We’re working on it.

The fourth truth Wachtel identifies, “There is no such thing as unshakable, immutable, affair-resistant love,” is only partly true of siblings. The “affair” part isn’t really relevant, although I do recommend talking with your multiples about sharing their sibling’s affection with friends and other family members. Fortunately, my kids see no conflict between loving their friends and each other. However, my daughter M did once find herself calling a friend to task when this friend asked her to choose between J and the friend. Sibling love is as strong as it comes, but it cannot be taken for granted. I think often on a coworker of my ex-husband’s who hasn’t spoken to her identical twin in years because she felt that her sister was unable to accept her as she was.

For most of us, our multiples will have each other long after we are gone. We must teach them how to nurture their relationship for a lifetime. This book’s techniques can really help.

Great Wedding Gift

I give copies of this book as wedding gifts. Love isn’t what makes a marriage work. Love is why you do the work that makes a marriage work, and We Love Each Other But… helps make that work more manageable.

If you decide to pick up this book or have already read it, stop by and tell me what you thought.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Finding Time for Romance When You Have Kids

Marriage. Complicated at best even before you have kids. Add some multiples in the mix, and hey, let’s just say ‘ain’t nobody gettin’ lucky for awhile ’round here’.

LifeHacker.com recently posted an infographic with some interesting statistics on what makes a marriage happy, so this is definitely a hot topic. In fact, they said that the happiest couples are the ones without kids and that satisfaction levels in marriage drop for 67% of married persons.

Ouch.

So, when you have multiples (or kids in general), how do you keep your marriage relationship healthy? How do you find the time for romance? Well, with today being Valentine’s Day, we here at HDYDI figured we’d offer up some advice.

Before we dive into the juicy tips, I want to share a few resources we’ve found that can help in spicing up your marriage (did you see our giveaway today!?!) and having a healthy marriage after kids.

Healthy Marriage Resources

Books

{affiliate links}

Internet Resources

Alright, let’s get to the tips!

Romancing the Marriage…

Ldskatelyn was sick of not going on regular dates with her husband, and tired of asking the question “what should we do?” when the opportunity for a date night did appear, often resulting in the super over-done dinner and a movie date. So, for Christmas 2012 she planned out a year of date nights for her husband – 24 dates, 1 date night in and 1 date night out each month. All he had to do was pick the day! While some of the planned dates didn’t happen on schedule, or were switched with other dates, or included the kids, she ended up having way more date nights than she would’ve had otherwise. She especially found that date night ins were a great thing to have planned, especially since you can’t always afford the time or the cost of getting out, and it sure beat just watching movies or TV shows every night. For a look at what date nights she planned over the course of her year and how you can make your own ‘year of dates’, check out this post.

Not having family close-by, or a budget to hire a sitter very often, MandyE and her husband enjoy date nights “in” to stay connected with each other. For inspiration, they often think back to what they enjoyed together before their girls were born. While they haven’t made it to a college football game in the past five years, one of their favorite “dates” is to set up a tailgating event, complete with all their most-loved appetizers… even if it means watching the big game on tape delay. They find it’s a meaningful way to relax and remind themselves how much they enjoy each other’s company. See more of her date night ideas here.

SarahP understands that some people have a hard time leaving new babies. She says you should take people up on their offers to watch your kids and get out with your spouse (she’s really big on regular dates). Hanging out at home is great too, but actually leaving your home to do something together is also really vital. She encourages parents to change up their dates too. Do you want to be adventurous by exploring food you’ve never had before? What odd-ball Groupons are available? If you always go out to eat, maybe do something like ice skating or bowling. Do things that help you get to know the area you live in better. She’s very adamant that married couples should be spending quality time with their spouses, and it’s made a big difference in her marriage.

DoryDoyle shares an article on her blog about Love and Marriage and Parenting Twins. This is her first year of marriage with babies in tow, and she wanted to reflect on how to keep her marriage strong while raising twins. She shares that the statistics for couples raising multiples isn’t encouraging, and that it’s important to keep an eye on your relationship-meter. She gives 9 great tips on things she and her hubby do to have both a solid marriage (including romance!) and have fun parenting.

Marissa explains that because of her situation (complex medical needs), she and her husband really couldn’t both be gone that first year. So they did the next best thing – had a sitter come over and stay upstairs while they enjoyed take-out and a movie downstairs. No baby monitor to distract them either, because they were still right there in case of a medical need.

One of our newest contributors, MariTherrien says it’s the little things that matter. A quick backrub or playing with her hair the way she likes. Remembering your first date-iversary with a card, getting your partner’s favorite coffee or little treat at the store. Romance doesn’t always have to be movie-like grand gestures. When you do the little things you send the message that s/he matters!

They’re right. Going out on dates with your spouse – finding that time time bond – is pretty important. But, today is Valentine’s Day already, so how are you going to put together something that will show your spouse you’re serious about this romance thing?

Here’s what I did this year (see pic below). I made mine on HeritageMakers.com, but I also designed some free printable coupons where all you have to do is fill in the blanks and give  it to your spouse. It’s a cute idea that will start getting you on the right track towards adding that romance back in.

valentines gift love coupons

More Than Just Romance…

Now, romance is great and all, but let’s face it, there are other things that are also important to keeping a marriage healthy, like communication.

Sadia emphasizes that a marriage takes two, and it’s about more than just romance (although, that certainly helps!). She gives these tips:

  • ALWAYS say “I love you.” And always mean it.
  • Listen to understand, not just to respond.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s efforts, no matter how small.
  • Choose to be in love every single day.
  • Nurture your partner’s values, even if you don’t share them.
  • Don’t try to be everything to your partner. It’s okay for them to have friends to share certain interests with.

RebeccaD has one add-on to Sadia’s list above: figure out how to manage your own stress. Raising twins is STRESSFUL, especially the first year. If you don’t know how to manage it positively (or if you’re in need of new strategies now that time for workouts, spa dates, and sleep is nil), it will come out negatively at the nearest available adult—namely, your spouse.

I agree with them. Ever flown before? In the event of an emergency, you’re supposed to put on your air mask first, then help your children. Why? Because if you pass out while trying to help them, then you’re both doomed. And that’s the thing. The biggest piece of advice we can give you today:

Take care of your marriage first (or at least make it a strong priority), and parenting will fall into place.

When Romance & Marriage Just Aren’t Working…

This couldn’t go without saying, so here’s a side note from us HDYDI moms that have had a marriage end: We realize that not every marriage is a happy one, even if you’ve tried the above suggestions. So, if one spouse decides that they want out and has no interest in making things work, it’s time for both of you to put the children first and minimize the anguish of what is an unavoidably heartbreaking situation. Don’t get vindictive. Don’t get mean. Help your children know that they will never have to choose between their parents. You can’t convince someone to stay in a marriage after their commitment and heart have left it.

How do you keep your marriage strong and your romance alive? Tell us your tips and let’s all have a happier Valentine’s Day!

How the Twin Relationship is Like a Marriage

My daughter, J, was sitting in the bathtub this morning when she said to me, “Sometimes, I think M knows more about me than I do.” (We have the best bathtime conversations. Seriously.)

“I used to feel that way about Daddy,” I responded. (While I’m not one to seek pity for my divorce, I do want my kids to remember good things or at least have a positive attitude towards the marriage.)

“But not any more,” she retorted, “because now you’re dee-vorced.”

“This is true, pumpkin. My point is that you’re probably right. There are probably some things about yourself that M genuinely understands better than you do.”

This wasn’t the first time J and I have been struck by the parallels between her relationship with her twin and my former relationship with their dad. When she was 3, she asked me whether M was her wife. When she was 2.5, she proposed that I was Daddy’s sister.

Photo Credit: 96dpi

Photo Credit: 96dpi

My daughters fall on the twinnier end of the twinniness continuum. (Yes, I just made up the term “twinniness continuum”.)

twinniness

At this end of the continuum, the twin relationship can look a lot like a marriage. To start, husbands and wives share a room, as do many twins; this was the source of my daughters’ youthful confusion. They make decisions together and must constantly compromise. They share resources. They may pursue other deeply meaningful relationships, but the husband/wife or twin/twin one comes first.

I once had a stranger tell me that the secret to saving her marriage was to stop expecting her husband to be her twin. The relationships and expectations are similar, but not identical.

Have you observed any similarities between your marriage and your twins’ relationship?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Why the First Year is Hard

Parenting is no cake walk, nor should it be. Raising a child to be a successful adult, regardless of how you define success, is hard work. I’m not one to shy away from labour (pun mostly accidental) but the first year after my daughters’ birth was difficult to a degree that belies words.

What hard about the first year with twinsI’ve been through a lot in the intervening years, including the dissolution of my marriage and the loss of a son I had hoped would be mine, but it is surviving that first year of twins that I wear as my badge of honour. It’s making it to J and M’s first birthday that proved to me that I could survive anything. It was knowing that I made it through that year that gave me the strength to pick myself up and brush myself off after I watched my husband abandon me, my beloved mother-in-law turn her back on me, and my sweet nephew removed from our family.

Some of what made Year One so hard was unique to our family, but many aspects of the challenge are common to new parents. Each of the reasons below could easily deserve its own post.

I Didn’t Know My Kids Yet

The biggest influence in my parenting is my children’s personalities. Knowing their strengths, weaknesses and triggers helps me parent them.

M doesn’t deal well with change or the unexpected. She tends to lash out when she’s overwhelmed. She gets grumpy when she’s hungry. She experiences the world through words and numbers, and is energized by social interaction. She thinks out loud and needs to feel heard. She knows she’s brilliant and sometimes needs help finding humility.

J’s understanding of others’ feelings is near genius. She needs to talk through her emotions and those of others, and doesn’t take it well when people try to baby her to protect her feelings. She gets lost in imaginary worlds, both on screen and in books and needs a moment to snap back into reality. She’s usually very confident, but will confess to insecurities far beyond her age. She’s a more private person than M or I are.

Why the first year of parenting is hardDuring that first year, I didn’t know these things about my children. I was getting to know them at the same time that I was learning incorporate parenting into the other responsibilities of my life. It took me days to learn that M would cry because she wanted to be held, while J would cry because she wanted to be put down. I didn’t realize that J wanted my eye contact while M wanted to hear my voice. It took a while to figure out that J preferred Daddy to burp her while M was a burpless wonder.

The shortcuts I have at my disposal now, just from knowing who my kids are, weren’t there the first year. The first year, however, was when I learned who M and J are at their core. That M was a chatterbox, I figured out by the age of 4 months. That J was aware of and mirrored my emotions, I knew by the time she was 6 months old.

Infants Can’t Speak

Babies are incredible sponges of knowledge, and they start learning the cadences of their native language(s) in utero. They don’t, however, come out talking. They can’t tell you what they want or where it hurts. They can’t tell you that they’re crying because you held them too long (J) or not long enough (M). They can’t tell you that they like to be swaddled with one arm free (J) or that their favourite song is Row, Row, Row Your Boat (M). The slow process of elimination to figure out what would make each of my children comfortable each moment of the day was exhausting, and I had it relatively easy, since my kids were remarkably unfussy.

More than once, I remember saying to one child or the other, “I don’t know what you want!” after I’d checked her diaper, fed her, held her, walked with her, bounced her, sang to her, added more layers of clothes, removed layers of clothes and tried everything else I could think of. It took me months before I realized that wanting to be within reach of Sissy was a basic need both babies shared. I don’t believe that babies “just cry.” I firmly believe that crying is a means of communicating discomfort.

I was fortunate to be surrounded by parents whose approach to their babies was like mine. They didn’t assume their infants were drinking-and-pooping blank slates lacking in personality. Like me, they learned the meanings of their children’s different cries. (Tangent: my kids used the same cries for the same things, speaking the same language of cries. Their hunger cries were similarly urgent and shrill; they had the same whiny cry for, “I want to change positions;” they had the same hiccup-y cry to indicate that they were tired. Other babies used the same repertoire of cries to mean different things. My kids’ tired cry was another baby’s hungry.)

Baby Sign was our saving grace. It doesn’t work for everyone, but at the tender age of 7 months, my itty bitty babies could tell me if wanted milkfood, more or Mama. By 9 months, they could sign please and thank you.

It Was Wartime

The US was at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, when my babies were born. They were conceived and born between my (now ex) husband’s tours in Iraq. He needed to be in a constant state of readiness. We had a general idea of when he would be expected to go overseas, but he could be called on at any time.

As a practical matter, this meant that I needed to be on call for the babies all the time. If one of them was sent home from daycare with a fever, I could try calling Daddy to see if he could pick them up, but the answer could very well be, “No.” He might be scheduled to take them to a doctor’s appointment, only to have some sort of last-minute work obligation. Our choice would be between rescheduling the appointment or my taking time off work instead. We always chose the latter. If I was with one child in the ER in the middle of the night, I needed to be ready to take the other because Daddy might get called into base in the wee hours of the morning.

Here’s a concrete example: J and M were born at 33 weeks old. A few days after they were born, my husband’s unit left Texas for California for desert training. He got to stay behind with us. When the girls were 10 days old, his army paternity leave was over and the doctors told us that they were out of the woods. Thankfully, they were no longer at risk of dying when my husband was required to join his unit. He didn’t return home until several weeks after our girls came home from the NICU. I figured out how to care from them solo before he made it home. His dad had been staying with me but needed to go back to Washington State well before my ex returned.

Once Daddy left for Iraq, of course, there was no question about who would take care of the babies. Sleep when the babies sleep? I’m sure that advice works for moms who are home with their singletons, but it wasn’t for this working mama of twins when the twins’ sleep schedules got out of sync! I slept while I breastfed.

Kids are Enormously Expensive

Our daycare payments for two infants came out to be more than our mortgage. Thanks to the 10% discount on the second child, we “only” paid $1650 a month for childcare. That was 7 years ago. Inflation has taken its toll, so I can only imagine what the cost is now.

Daycare took up my salary, so we had to live on my husband’s. Trust me when I tell you that soldiers don’t earn a whole lot. We couldn’t afford to contribute to our retirement that first year, and that was okay.

I cut corners where I could. I made my own baby food to avoid baby food costs. I breastfed for as long as I could, which helped cut down on formula costs. I would have loved to cloth diaper, but our daycare required disposables. It was a while before I discovered Amazon Subscribe and Save, and I kicked myself for all the money I could have saved.

We bought things second-hand. Our girls’ high chairs were hand-me-downs from a twin mom at work. I returned the high chair we received as a baby shower gift and spent the money on formula. I watched my Freecycle list and pounced on clothes and toys others were getting rid of.

I didn’t eat out. If people at work wanted to lunch with me, they could buy something  and I would bring food from home. My splurge was an occasional $2.14 meal from Wendy’s.

Feeling like I couldn’t afford the occasional babysitter was scary. Budgeting without any wiggle room was awful. After a promotion at work, things became less tight. Daycare costs fell as the girls got older. Although summer camp pricing is comparable to infant care, it’s only for 3 months of the year.

I spent the extra pay that my ex got for being in combat on a lawncare service and a biweekly cleaning lady.

We were incredibly fortunate to have military health insurance. No premiums. No deductible. No co-pays, except (at the time) $3 for generic prescriptions and $10 for name brand. The girls’ birth, complete with ambulance ride, C-section and NICU time cost us $6. I had two prescriptions for painkillers.

If we’d have normal medical coverage, I honestly don’t know how we would have made ends meet. I feel like we had a decent middle class income. When you crunch the numbers, it’s a little insane.

I Had to Learn to Let Go

The perfectionist in me got slapped around, and hard, by that first year. I had to let go of all my highfalutin goals of motherhood and dig down deep to decide what really mattered. Did I want to read to perfectly clean babies with lullabies gently playing in the background in a neat and tidy home where all the laundry was folded and get a shower every day? Sure I did. Was that going to happen? No way. Not the first year.

I had the TV on. I dressed myself and the kids straight out of the clean laundry hamper. I ate pre-prepared meals. I slept on my lunch break at work, right on the floor of my office. My social calendar consisted of phone calls cut off mid-sentence and life in the blogosphere.

Being someone who processes through the written word, I devised a parenting credo to carry me through. I set achievable goals and didn’t look more than 2 weeks out. I learned humility and prioritization. I learned that being a super mom has nothing to do with being SuperMom.

Breastfeeding is Hard. Breastfeeding Two is Harder

I’ve told you my breastfeeding story recently, but both breastfeeding and formula-feeding are hard.

My Reproductive Years are My Career-Building Years

I came to conclusion that there wasn’t enough of me to meet my parenting ambitions and my career ambitions. That understanding didn’t come quickly, but it did come easily and organically. I spend my time at home managing children; I don’t have any desire to manage adults at work. Fortunately, since my girls were infants, my workplace has begun to allow for career paths that don’t lead to management. At the time, though, I made peace with motherhood and my military marriage costing me career progression. I liked my job and still do, but I would never again be a superstar.

I Need Sleep

We all need sleep, and there isn’t much to be found when you’re raising kids. My babies didn’t sleep through the night until they were well over a year old. I somehow managed to survive on 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep per night. I’m sure I could have been a much better parent if I weren’t constantly exhausted. It’s a miracle that I didn’t have an accident. I fell asleep while driving to work more than once.

Did I ever tell you about the time I showed up to work with my pants on inside out? Or the time I forgot to button my shirt after nursing and needed my daughters’ teacher to tell me to put my boob away before I got back on the road? Sleep deprivation does that.

It’s hard to have perspective when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s hard to have hope. I would say that the lack of the sleep is the biggest challenge of the first year with a new child or children.

“Wife” and “Mother” are Distinct Roles

This is a huge topic, but suffice it to say that being a wife can take as much energy, time and effort as being mother. The two are not the same thing. My co-parenting relationship with my husband had little overlap with our marital relationship. It’s easy to get so focused on meeting your new babies’ needs together to forget that there are other parts to your marriage.

A C-Section is Major Abdominal Surgery

For those of us who have had caesarean births, the recovery required seriously complicates the first days. Perhaps we can’t lift our kids and it’s painful to nurse them because they kick the incision. Perhaps you cannot physically walk to the NICU to see your baby. I may have pulled out my stitches a few times in my efforts to get to my babies. A C-section may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s not major.

If ever someone tries to tell you to suck up the pain, remind them that the doctor pulled your uterus (which she’d just sliced open to remove a human being) out of your body to examine it before putting it back and sewing you up.

I’ve never had a vaginal birth, so I honestly can’t speak to how that recovery process might impact the first few days with your baby.

Hormones

There’s a reason that post-partum depression and psychosis exist as medical conditions. The changes that your body is going through as it goes from your pregnant to your non-pregnant state can wreak havoc on your brain chemistry. This is no flippant, “it’s just hormones” issue. Post-partum psychosis can be fatal.

It’s Completely Worth It

I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat. If I had the financial capacity, I would love another child. I’d love another set of twins. You know what? Hand me a set of newborn triplets. I’m in my element with babies. I love how they sound and how they smell and how they act. I love the way a baby will grasp my finger, babble to himself or seek out her own feet. Crying doesn’t faze me, although it has been known to make me lactate. I love that I can love on a baby without any fear of over-coddling him. I love the feeling of complete trust that a baby has when he’s sleeping in my arms.

(Seriously, I’m a baby whisperer. Ask Wiley.)

That first year gave me everything I needed to be able to figure this parenting thing out.

Is/was the first year hard? What made it (or kept it from being) hard? What did you learn about yourself and you babies?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Marriage and Multiples

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about how having multiples effects marriages.  There seems to be the idea that parents of multiples are more likely to divorce, though there aren’t any easy statistics specifically on this topic.  In response to this media coverage, parents of multiples are responding:

  • The website Mothers of Super Twins (MOST) is conducting research to a survey to better understand multiples and marriage. Please take a few minutes to participate in their survey.  I’ll post an update when the survey results are available.
  • Multiple Births Canada has released an information circular on the topic outlining studies on the topic.

I’m not planning to share the intimate details of my marriage with you, but here are few ways that having twins has impacted our relationship:

  • We’ve spent a lot of time talking about our values and priorities. Our decisions about spending money are more considered now that we are living on one income. We are now planning to sell our house and move to a larger house in another part of the city as we seek the right balance between work, family, money, school, childcare and community.
  • We have less time for ourselves and for us as a couple.  When our son was young we traded babysitting with other couples so we could have regular date nights.  Now that we have 3 children and many of our friends now have 2 children, the thought of caring for 5 children for an evening is overwhelming. As the girls get a little older and less reliant on breastfeeding, we might be able to arrange a night out more often.
  • We have to be more explicit about what we need (i.e. help with the children, time for a project, a few minutes by ourselves, etc), and we need to rely on each other more for support.
  • More of the physical space of our house and the space of our relationship are occupied by children. They demand our attention and our energy when we are with them and when we are away from them too.  We have to be more conscious about taking time away from being parents to being partners.
  • Parts of our lives are more structured as we make plans while considering our children’s schedules, the time and hassle associated with getting everyone ready, the stress versus enjoyment of the activity, and the other demands on our time (doing laundry every 2 days, preparing meals, keeping the house clean, etc).

Now many parents with more than one child, whether they are multiples or not, probably feel these pressures.  I think what makes these challenges unique to parents of multiples is that they are unexpected (going from 1 child to 3 children meant unanticipated changes for everyone) and they are more intense (having to feed, change and soothe 2 babies is the middle of the night is different than caring for one baby and one toddler).

Please take a minute to complete the MOST survey: Divorce and the Multiple Birth Family.  And, share your comments about how being a parent of multiples has impacted your marriage and your suggestions for parents of multiples.

Guest Post: The Bundles of Joy That Bind You

Mommy, Esq lives in the Boston area (where the winters try their best to get her to move South) with six month old Ned and Penny, and her husband of six years. She is a corporate lawyer by trade, but would love to attempt being a wedding photographer. She says “I love taking photographs and doing storybook photographing – which is why blogging is perfect for me!”

Spending time with my sister and her daughter last week brought back some memories of our newborn days. I can’t say it brought back many memories because frankly I don’t remember a lot – and that is probably for the best. Having a newborn (or two or more) is hard on your marriage. Usually when I cried – which was not that often thankfully – it was about my husband. Husband and I have found a good groove now that I am back at work and things feel more equal. But those early days were all about what I had to do and how I wasn’t feeling supported or appreciated or understood. Here are a few lessons that I have learned along the way…

 1. Roadmap. There is no roadmap for new moms – no matter how hard you know breastfeeding will be, how many classes on childcare you take or even if you have hired a baby nurse (as we did) it is The Mommy who is in charge. The Mommy is expected to know everything – how to change a diaper and sooth a cranky baby. How much and when to feed The Baby. When The Baby needs to sleep. If The Mommy is stubborn (ahem) the road the newly created family travels will be that much harder.

2. Mindreading. Husbands can’t read minds. But The Mommy is expected to know everything so why can’t The Husband be expected to read The Mommy’s mind? Can’t The Husband understand the nuances of when The Mommy is about to break-down because dammit The Mommy didn’t want him just to swaddle The Baby she wanted him to hold The Baby and make The Baby STOP CRYING. Or just sit next to The Mommy and talk about how wonderful the kids are while The Mommy breastfeed even if The Husband hates the HGTV/SoapNet show she is watching. Communication is really hard when you are sleep deprived, when you are burning more calories breastfeeding than a marathon runner and when your mind is consumed by details of poop and last feeding times.

3. Changing Roles. The Mommy was (just) a Lawyer, Wife or some such person 10 minutess before the baby(ies) popped out. Now The Mommy is supposed to be 100% about her kid(s). See #1 – where is the instruction manual? How come The Husband can complain about being sleep deprived when he is only getting up once a night (or not at all)? Suddenly The Mommy is supposed to cook dinner when it used to be all take out; do the laundry when it was a 50-50 job in the past? The Mommy does NOT = Housewife. The Husband shouldn’t be worrying about paying bills or opening mail or anything not 100% baby-related when he is home with The Mommy – that can wait until The Baby is asleep.

4. Worst Time of Day. The Mommy will be calling Husband every 10 mins after 4 pm asking when he is going to come home. Because the time from 4 pm to bedtime is a Soul Sucking couple of hours. And if you are pumping and breastfeeding (or trying to) it is even worse because you are so exhausted from the life being sucked out of you. If someone else tells The Mommy she should be sleeping when the babies do she will probably kill them.

5. Learning to Accept Help. Husband and I were rockstars in the hospital. The nurses told me that they never worried about us – I seemed so together and strong despite a C-Section. The kids roomed in and we did it all with a cheery waive to the nurses – “all under control, thanks!” My sister was smarter – she sent Cameron to the nursery because after all, Cameron wouldn’t be rooming in when they brought her home. Damn, good call. Stacey though can’t let go of the cleaning/picking up of the house. Husband had already trained me in that department. Sort of like #2 it took a while before I was willing to accept help – even from the baby nurse we were paying! Stupid stubbornness. The Mommy needs to be in control and make all the right choices. I found it easier to limit the interactions with the wider world to once or twice a week so I could appear completely in control during those times and let myself be crazy the rest of the time.

6. Nothing Stays the Same. The Husband always complains to The Mommy: “Why do you keep changing things?” See #1 – The Mommy has no idea what she is doing. The baby changes every day. The Mommy will try out a multitude of routines before she “picks” one that will last for about 2 days. This was so hard on Husband. I think he loves that the kids have been on the same routine for more than 2 months now. Hmmm…that must mean it is time to shake things up. This walk down memory lane hasn’t dampened my desire to have another child but it does remind me how friggin’ hard the first kid(s) are on a marriage. I would like to think I would handle things better the next time around but frankly I don’t think I will remember enough so we’ll be back at #1 reinventing the wheel. The Husband will probably helpfully ask at multiple intervals: “Is this what we did for The First Baby(ies)?”

What was the hardest thing in your relationship with your partner when you brought home your bundle(s) of joy?
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Read other HDYDI posts on marriage and multiples:

The State of the Union

Absence

The Man in Your Bed

Keeping the romance alive…

I have to admit that one of my biggest fears (among many) when I first found out we were expecting multiples was the suffering that my relationship with my husband would endure.  I know how much stress a new baby can place on any relationship, especially a marriage, so I was concerned that 3 new babies would do triple the damage.  And they did…sort of.

After the first couple of months of having 3 premature newborns at home, the sleep deprivation began to take its toll and each evening would find our family in a funk, often with my husband and I snapping at each other over the tiniest little things.  And then it got to the point where I was becoming more and more needy and my husband was becoming less and less present…which of course led to an enormous disconnect between us and very little satisfaction.  But, thankfully we recognized that things weren’t quite right and we made a decision to do something to make things better.  It took quite a bit of work, but I can honestly say that our relationship now is better than it has ever been.

We now try to go out once a month, alone.  No kids in attendance, no kids in conversation.  We don’t always make that goal, but we do try.  And our biggest relationship saver has been that we set aside every Wednesday night (our older daughter heads off to Nana and Grampy’s for the evening) after the babies go to bed for date night.  They aren’t always glamorous evenings, but it brings back memories of our early days of dating and the days before the triplets were born.  Oftentimes, we make dinner together, enjoy a bottle of wine and play a game of scrabble.  Or we stick in a movie and snuggle on the couch with some popcorn. Sometime we just spend the evening talking about the things we don’t have time to discuss in our day to day chaos. But it helps to know, that no matter what, we have at least one night to ourselves, when we can be a couple instead of parents of multiples.

I am curious to know if other MoMs experienced the same funk, and if so what have you done (or do you do) to keep the romance alive?

The State of the Union

Recently, while checking in on one of my favorite blogs, Amazing Trips, I came across this post: Better Than A Pep Rally.

In this post, the author (Jen) speaks candidly of the changes that have taken place in her marriage:

“We have issues. Most of them (if not all) surrounding the offspring that we wanted and prayed for since the start of our marriage. You know, those little things we call children.”

She continues:

With very rare exception, every couple that we know who have gone through a divorce have done so once they have had children. Of course the parents will tell the children as they grow older that it was not “their” fault that mommy and daddy split up.

But quite often, I believe it is.

Not the actual child’s fault perhaps, but the introduction of children in to a marriage and the subsequent inability of the parents to successfully manage the change. They are unable to keep the focus, the priority, on the marriage. Because there are only so many hours in a day and so much laundry to do and bills to pay and blogs to read and shows to watch – the marriage is put on the backburner, indefinitely.

For several weeks I pondered what Jen at the Amazing Trips said. Was she right? Is it the introduction of children into a marriage, along with the inability to manage that change, the root problem behind many divorces?

I have many dear friends who are also parenting small children. I hear the stress in their voice, see the eye rolling when they talk about their husbands inability to multi-task, or bemoan the work load of these small humans and overworked husbands. And believe me, I understand! I empathize with my girlfriends when their kids get sick twelve hours before their vacation. I complain back to them that yes, my husband also works long hours, and isn’t it so exhausting to do this parent thing, often alone?

But here’s the thing.

I realized that I often see myself viewing my husband as my employee. Or at best, my co-worker. I love my children with as much ferocity as any mother can, yet, they stress me out! When the whining, crying meltdowns begin, or when they sit on each other’s head during diaper changes, or shut each other between two doors, I can feel my blood pressure rising. And more than I would like to admit, my coping mechanism is to bark orders at my husband. I guess I think if I can control him, at least I am controlling something!

My husband and I will be celebrating our 5th Anniversary on November 1st. We are planning a long weekend away, which I am really looking forward to. I relish our time to reconnect with each other, to reminisce about falling in love, to look at our dating pictures and to remember what it was that caused us to start on this amazing journey together. I need to be reminded that my marriage and the long-term health of our relationship is vitally more important than expending every last ounce of energy on my children, house or other relationships.

Walking toward my Beloved

(Walking toward my Beloved.)

In writing this, I was thinking about how awful it would be if my husband saw me as an employee, or as mearly a co-worker…wouldn’t that be awful if everything about me that made me the most important woman in his world was erased by this new title of “Mommy?” If my main purpose in this relationship was simply to keep the house running and the kids cared for?

I want my husband to value me, just for being me! I fell in love with him because he thinks my little quirks and flaws are cute rather than annoying. He like to watch me eat, and to hear my latest hair-brained ideas. He likes that I laugh at his jokes, and that I remember some of his ’80′s movie trivia.

The challenges of raising small children are not going anywhere. The difficulty level, the stress, the crying, whining and hitting will be here with us for quite some time. That, I cannot change. But I think I am going to try harder to see my husband as the amazing man he is, rather than just the other parent of these children!

And I promise, to at least try harder, to keep the order barking to a minimum!
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Share with the HDYDI readers your thoughts! How have your relationships changed and been challenged by becoming a parent?

See Also: The Man in Your Bed