I have a good marriage. Happy. Solid. He’s good to me, I’m good to him. As Maren Morris would say, “the bones are good.” We have three kids, and each and every one of them was in our plan. We desperately wanted the exact family we have. Two of us, three kids, a couple dogs. We asked for all of this. Every bit.
But I’m not too proud to admit that, even though my marriage is what I would call a “good” one, marriage plus kids equals hard.
If anyone says that the day-to-day grind of having children while attempting to nurture an adult relationship doesn’t present about a billion challenges, they’re fucking lying. You’ll never change my mind on that. Between all the beautiful, enriching, incredible parts of raising children, there are a lot of monotonous, frustrating, stressful parts, too. It’s absurd to pretend that the stress of parenting never, ever bleeds over into your marriage. BS. I just don’t buy that.
Can’t we keep a realistic conversation about marriage and parenting going? It should be the norm for us to be able to freely admit to our friends, family and even on social media that the years we spend raising children with our partner are pretty much equal parts amazing and difficult. Shit gets tough, and that’s totally normal. We need to be able to do this without feeling the obligation to add disclaimers about how much we love our partners, or how wonderful they are as parents. The glossy topcoat we paint on our very normal problems is isolating and phony.
Especially on social media. I mean, do these influencer types honestly think that they are convincing anyone that as a couple with three kids they actually spend their time doing precious shit like kissing in a field of sunflowers or getting matching wrist tattoos that say something like “To Infinity” and “And Beyond?” We’re all wiping butts, applying sunscreen, air frying chicken nuggets, and complaining that the trash can is full. Let’s get real.
It’s totally okay to just say, “We are going through some tough marriage shit right now,” and not wrack your brain for a list of things you love about your partner before you say it. The difficulty is universal for a lot of reasons.
Marriage plus kids is EXPENSIVE.
My husband is in the military, and I’m a freelance writer. Neither of our careers lend themselves to immense wealth. We do fine, and we never need anything, but there’s not always money for a lot of extras, let alone marriage enriching activities.
We can’t jet off for a weekend to reconnect and unwind. We can’t just routinely book a hotel room, or even hire a sitter and still afford a really nice date. That is not a thing for us. We have to handle our hard times together at home in the thick of it. Sometimes that means that our “hard” might last a little longer or be a little tougher to work through, and that’s okay.
Kids make it impossible to always prioritize your marriage.
I can’t always be the partner I used to be because there’s just not always time right now. In my heart, keeping my marriage healthy and on track is a priority, but kids have pressing, immediate needs. I can’t ignore a dirty diaper, a fever, a school folder full of permission slips or a skinned knee in order to spend quality time with my husband instead. Our kids need meals, rides to their activities, baths, and time to play with us. We have to oversee chores, lay out school clothes, and keep our house in order. Even a regular day without extra activities is just busy when you’re trying to keep human children healthy and happy.
We can’t always sit down and work through every disagreement, argument or frustration until it’s completely resolved. We handle the big shit, and ignore the small shit. Even when there is time, we don’t always have the mental energy. When our kids are all asleep or otherwise occupied, sometimes I just need to sit on my bed and mindlessly scroll through TikTok for twenty minutes. My husband just wants to finish up some projects, or watch TV and unwind. We can’t always be doing something productive. It’s too soul-sucking to never have one fucking minute to zone out and do nothing. Sometimes, we are just too tired to hash out the minor annoyances that crop up during the day.
When we are both exhausted and busy, sweeping little things under the rug is just necessary.
There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. Yes, I admit that leaving those small frustrations to simmer without addressing them can lead to some rough patches. It doesn’t mean we don’t love each other as much as we always have, and it doesn’t mean we want out. It doesn’t really mean anything at all for the overall prognosis of our marriage.
It’s just the way it is when two people are doing something huge and important and HARD together. Small annoyances add up. Perceived imbalances of kid duties can cause resentment. It’s not always going to be a honeymoon. Sometimes, when parenting gets messy, you just have to put your head down, fight the good fight alongside one another, and when you come up for air, you can try to iron out all the wrinkles.
I always call the few months after we have a baby the “scratchy patch.”
It’s not quite a rough patch. We aren’t in any danger of splitting up or falling out of love. But it’s not smooth sailing, either. Adding a baby always makes things a little stressful—scratchy. Raising those babies can do the same thing. It’s not always marital bliss—and that’s okay.
Literally every single marriage feels some strain when kids are involved. I am happy to admit it without feeling the need to defend our relationship or reassure people that during the tough times, we aren’t on divorce’s door. Even really loving, solid marriages go through some shit. Yours, mine and even that glistening couple on Instagram with the matching tattoos and the sunflower photos.
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