In real life, happily ever after is only the beginning. Some couples get married. Some choose to start a family. Everyone’s journey is different, and every journey is beautiful in its own right.
Some couples grow together and some grow in different directions. The sad truth is that some relationships fall apart (including my parents’ when I was growing up).
While there’s no way to know what time or circumstances have in store for any of us, I’ve come up with four questions that I think every couple should ask themselves before choosing to raise a child together:
1. Can you fart in front of one another?
I’m totally serious. I know couples that have been together for a long time (and some have kids) who don’t fart in front of each other. I’m not sure how or why they do it.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: parenting is really, really gross sometimes. It starts in pregnancy, with the multitude of sounds and smells your body produces, rears its head in childbirth (see what I did there?) and keeps a steady pace for the next few years until you experience the joy that is potty training.
There will be a day when your child poops in the bathtub and you have to find something to retrieve the turd, making a point to listen to the voice in your head saying, “Not your hand. Don’t use your hand. Don’t be a hero.”
The time will come when you’ll have to decide who will clean the puke off the car seat, and you’ll have a legitimate argument about which one of you is most likely to vomit from the smell of vomit.
See where I’m going with this? In the grand scheme of things, farts are the least of your concerns. You have to own the gross stuff in life and find the humor in it. The first rule of surviving parenthood is that you learn to laugh about the good, the bad, and the ugly — together.
2. Do you travel well together?
It doesn’t get much more stressful than traveling. I don’t mean once you’re actually on vacation. I mean the art of getting ready, packed, parked, through security, and on the airplane before it takes off.
Do you bite your partner’s head off about how you should have left 20 minutes earlier? Do you complain about everything from the weight of the luggage to the seemingly endless lines?
Or are you the partner that runs to the airport Starbucks to grab food and coffee before either of you get to that point?
Parenthood is stressful, and you have to build each other up, especially when times get tough. If you don’t travel well together, you probably aren’t going to do well when you’re both running on no sleep with a crying baby.
If you’ve never flown together, try going to IKEA on a Saturday. If your relationship can make it through that, it can survive anything.
3. Are you both OK with your sex life being put on the back burner?
I’m not saying you’ll never have sex again, but it will take a while before either of you lies in bed without immediately passing out.
It takes time to adjust to your new roles as parent and spouse. Co-sleeping, nursing, and healing all take their toll on a sexual relationship.
Turns out it’s not that easy to feel sexy when you’re not 100% sure when your last shower was. Luckily, intimacy and attraction can be expressed in infinite ways. Flirting, flowers, hugs, kisses, babysitting while partner takes a night out, buying partner booze for babysitting during your night out …
As long as you’re open and honest with each other about your wants and needs, you’ll do fine. But having kids will put a serious damper on your do-it-like-rabbits-in-every-room-of-the-house ways. For about 18 years, give or take. I can only assume this is why Viagra was invented.
4. Are you happy to help?
My husband has a story about an exchange he had with his coworker, who was expecting his first baby:
Coworker: “Do you change diapers?”
Coworker: “Well, I’m not going to change diapers. That’s gross.”
Brandon: “Are you married?”
Brandon: “Well if you plan on staying married, believe me, you’ll change diapers.”
Teamwork is an essential part of parenting. And yes, I think taking turns changing poopy diapers is part of that. (Or knowing when it’s a two-person job, like when you have to change the diaper in the backseat of the car and someone needs to hold the damn bag.)
A little reciprocity and communication go a long way. Take turns doing chores or split them up in a way that works for both of you. Be willing to ask for help and be happy to give it in return. I say “happy to help” because I think everyone should want to help their partner. You should help out of love, never out of resentment or obligation.
Be fair, but don’t keep score. Be compassionate and kind. You won’t always agree, but you should always hear each other out. That’s how you build the best team.
Assuming that you answered “YES” to all of the questions above, you have my blessing to hurry up and get to procreating.
And even if you didn’t, go ahead and do it anyway. Because let’s face it — babies are the cutest.
Related post: 5 Tips for Surviving a Flight With Young Children