DAD Series: A Reflection on Loving Your Partner as a New Parent0
We are happy to continue our DAD series with this post written by Chris Praedel. He is a loving husband to Erin, and father of two sons Lincoln and Simon. As Director of Events in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at Western Michigan University, he also remains involved in the community of Kalamazoo where he resides. Chris is especially passionate about education and literacy advocacy.
It's nearly 7 p.m. and our tiny family is all strapped in the car, the arctic blast has us parked until the windows de-ice with windshield wipers rhythmically scrapping across the ice-coated glass. It's been a long day at work and daycare, dinner is later than usual and our two boys, 2 years and 6 months old are screaming at the top of their lungs from the backseat of the car. In these instances of parenthood, my wife and I are far from perfect, yet sometimes all that we can do overcome those moments and embrace them, is a glance over at each other from our seats and squeeze each other's hands.
In those small moments, it's a subtle reminder that we only get to enjoy these two precious babies for such a short span and regardless of the many moments that push us to the edge in a chaotic symphony, we are in this together. Being a parent is hard, maintaining the steady bond between your spouse is much harder.
In an ideal world, my wife and I would daydream of opportunities to spend more time with our close friends, at the gym or yoga class, having a Sunday afternoon for a Netflix marathon, or handing off the kids to grandma so we can fly to some sunny Caribbean oceanside resort for a few days. As much as we dream, those opportunities just aren't very realistic between work, kids, and involvement in the community. Like many new parents, we are thrilled when the rare opportunity arises for an hour or two away, to grab a beer somewhere and catch up. Heck, even catching up on the couch to watch a couple of our favorite show with some Oreos and a glass of wine sounds pretty amazing most days.
Too often, in society, I think new parents beat themselves up, dreaming and hoping for big wins and aspirational escapes. We beat ourselves up for not keeping the house clean, being more organized, getting through our unending checklists, not spending enough time with friends or family, or ourselves for that matter. We beat ourselves up over things largely beyond the scope of reality or our control, given the demands as working parents and raising small children. Even worse, we beat ourselves up for even thinking about an occasional break from the kids.
Rather than lofty aspirations, my wife and I have somehow mastered the art of nurturing our relationship in lots of small yet meaningful ways. In this vein, we somehow manage to always unexpectedly build each other up and show how much we love and care for each other without breaking the bank or devoting tons of time away from our little angels.
As new parents, there is no grand escape. Besides, when we are away for too long we miss those cute little faces. Somehow the most difficult days as a parent, tend to be a welcome notice to our sweet little boys to lose it themselves. Let's face it, as new parents, there are not many opportunities to be fully human.
There are so many paradoxes as a new parent. Being a new parent is hands down the most amazing experience of my life, yet one of the hardest. It is often the most calming, yet can trigger your blood pressure. There are moments that seem to stop the clock and times when you wish you could reclaim more hours in a day. However, the one constant between it all is the partner you have chosen to help share the load and work as a team to get through it all.
My wife and I have both found that the small and unexpected yet meaningful ways to show how much we care are also often far more memorable. It's the shopping trips where you unexpectedly return with your partner's favorite snack. It's leaving a card and a cup of coffee at her front desk at work. It's texting funny emoticons and "how's your day going" messages throughout the day with goofy pictures of the kids.
In the sum of it all, these small things add up quickly and really matter. In fact, I would argue that they do far more than any extravagant gift, exotic vacation, or Netflix marathon could ever offer your relationship.
In this season of love, take time to do something small and unexpected for your sweetie.