Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 9-year anniversary. Looking back at those late-20s versions of ourselves, I can’t help reflecting on how things have changed. Before having kids, my husband and I used to spend our time strolling through art galleries, biking through the countryside, and jet-setting to Paris for wine and baguettes. Well, okay, we didn’t really do any of those things. But we did spend our time differently than we do today: relaxing, going to the movies, engaging in conversations that didn’t involve diapers or sippy cups.
These days, just as parenthood has changed us as individuals, it’s changed us as spouses as well. As such, certain new aspects of our relationship have developed over the years.
Negotiation. My husband and I used to be completely in tune when it came to how to spend our free time. After all, when your Saturday is comprised of sleeping until 11 and then going to lunch and a movie, there’s not much to disagree on. These days, it often feels like we should have a team of contract attorneys present when planning our weekend. A conversation may go something like this:
Him: I’ll take the kids to soccer if you take them present shopping for the five birthday parties they have this weekend.
Me: Negative. Since I’m taking them to aforementioned parties, you go gift shopping while I stare at the TV and pretend I can still follow plots that don’t involve the Scooby gang.
Him (deliberating): What if I take them to three of the parties?
Me: Throw in a burrito and you’ve got yourself a deal.
Entertainment. While, in all honesty, we were never the jet-setters we remember ourselves to be, we did occasionally leave the couch to explore the outside world. We enjoyed dining out, or walking around Central Park, or spending time with other child-free friends (since our friends with kids seemed to have joined a cult with strange rituals and a 5 p.m. curfew). Today, our free time is spent jet-setting from one bounce-house birthday party to the next, with the occasional Disney movie or trip to Chuck E. Cheese thrown in the mix. And yet, when we’re together, these things are actually fun. There’s no one I’d rather share popcorn with at a G-rated movie—even if one of our kids inevitably dumps the entire bag all over the floor.
Conversation. Back in the day, my husband and I had some lively debates, about everything from politics to pop culture. These days, conversations over romantic dinners out tend to go something like this:
Him: So, what did you think of last night’s Walking Dead episode? I personally thought…
Me (trying to focus): zombies, zombies, zombies, zombies…mind wandering…did my daughter remember to brush her teeth? Is my son sleeping? Did I take out enough money for the babysitter?
Him (looking at me expectantly): Well? What did you think?
Me: I liked the part with the zombies.
Romance. Dinners at French restaurants. Weekends in the country. Staying up all night talking on our Manhattan rooftop. Nine years ago this constituted romance. Today, it’s the little things that keep the romance alive. Holding hands for a moment at the movies, before our daughter cries out “I gotta go potty!” Sharing fries at a fast-food place. Magically coordinating both kids’ naps so we can have an hour alone together. No, it’s not what we envisioned on our gondola ride through Venice on our honeymoon. But strangely, in some ways, it’s better.
Love. Perhaps the change I was least prepared for was falling in love with a new man: the father of my children. Parenthood changes us as people, and suddenly that person you fell in love with is kissing his daughter’s boo-boos, tossing his son in the air, working to support a family. Just as I fell in love with my spouse, every day I fall in love with this man who is traveling with me on this crazy adventure called parenthood.
And so, as I look back on 9 years of marriage, and 5-plus years of parenting, I can see how our relationship has changed. And while I miss the romantic dinners and bed and breakfasts of our past, there’s still something romantic about locking eyes at the playground, or going out for family pizza night. Because that person I’m sharing these moments with isn’t just the man I married. He—and we—are much more.