My husband and I got married pretty quickly after meeting and had kids as soon as we could manage it. When we were in the midst of wedding planning and nursery decorating and OB visits, I often had a niggling feeling of “I don’t know this guy all that well.” But frankly, having kids so soon after meeting might have been a blessing: It tossed us right into the fire, and we found out pretty darn quick if we were going to make it or not. In fact, I think the kids have made us better partners, and I firmly believe that having children will make (an already good) marriage even more solid. Below, nine ways kids will make your marriage better.
1. You have a shared goal. In the beginning, the goal is both simple and profound: Keep this kid alive. As the children get older, every moment feels less life-and-death, but the shared goal is still there—to make sure they’re well fed, educated, happy and healthy. Basically, you two and only you two are working on this project of raising up the best kids you can. And sharing this goal will make you feel more like a team than anything else.
2. You will laugh a lot. A lot of people told me how hard parenting would be, but no one told me how funny it would be. Watching our 2-year-old dance has made us cry with laughter. I have never laughed as hard as I have since I’ve become a mother, and this shared laughter has bonded us in a way that no other experience could.
3. You’re in a club of two. Sometimes my husband says jokingly (I promise, jokingly!) “Do you think everyone else is sorry their kids aren’t as cute as ours?” and I say “I know! Everyone else must be so bummed.” We’re the only two people in the world who are so besotted with these particular kids. That makes us a totally besotted club of two.
4. Limited time makes your time together better. Our daily life sometimes feels like a relay race in which we pass the baton repeatedly throughout the day and week: He handles breakfast, and I handle drop-off; I make dinner, and he takes over for bath and bed. Our time is scheduled to the minute so we can fit in work and kids and not spend a fortune on paid childcare. But the time we do manage to carve out for ourselves is so sweet because it’s, well, rare. A dinner out or an afternoon lounging around talking feels like a luxury.
5. You get to know a different side of your husband. Before you have kids, you see your husband in a lot of roles: friend, son, co-worker, spouse. But watching him take on the role of dad, learning the ropes with you, is a completely unique experience that you get to watch in real time.
6. Dads are hotter. If your husband is an involved, present father, that means he’s pretty darn selfless. And men who aren’t all about themselves are pretty sexy.
7. If he’s a good dad, he’s a good husband, because you can’t be one without the other. In the first, awful newborn days, when we were exhausted and struggling to figure out the breastfeeding, my husband peeled clementines and poked the sections one by one into my mouth while I nursed. He hovered nearby with a glass of water (and a straw, after an early incident in which he accidently waterboarded me). He knew that caring for our kids also meant caring for me—that our family is an ecosystem. That support was kind of a trial by fire for the rest of our marriage. If we could get through that, we can get through anything.
8. You enjoy your experiences together in a different, richer way. When we were kid-free, we spent a lot more time going out drinking. Vacations might have been built around the kind of adventures you can’t really do with young kids—water-skiing, for example. But the fun of dawdling along the street, poking at leaves with a 2-year-old, is an experience I never thought I’d enjoy so much. Our lives are more constrained now, but that means we find joy in unexpected things, like buying a $2 pumpkin at the grocery store.
9. Kids give you the long view. When you have a kid with someone, you’re linked to them forever. The horizon opens up with a vista of graduations and weddings and grandchildren. In my experience, this adds a certain gravitas to the relationship that makes it bigger than the two of you. You’ve made a family, and that family is going to continue on long after you’re gone. It’s a profound undertaking.
Marriage is sacred, sure, but having kids is even more so, because you’re now jointly responsible for a couple of people who never asked for any of this. Our marriage before kids? It was fun, a good time. But after kids? We’re in it to win it, one passed baton at a time.