I’ll be honest, romance and new parenthood aren’t two things that usually go hand-in-hand. During my first Valentine’s Day as a new mom, my daughter was 14-weeks-old and barely sleeping. My husband and I, both exhausted, did our best to make it through an overpriced, super rushed prix fixe dinner at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. When we got home, we relieved my parents, and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. All the heart eyes, right?
Before baby, romance was easy: weekend getaways, spontaneous date nights and the clarity of mind to order “just because” flowers now and then. Since settling into motherhood, I now consider brushing my hair to be a real attempt at romance.
Like so much having to do with new parenthood, maintaining a connection with your partner is so important during those early days, but is often one of the last things a new mom or dad has time to think about. With that in mind, I wanted to offer some practical tips to keeping the spark alive between you and your partner during this huge transition…
1. Redefine romance.
The biggest mistake new parents make is hanging on to pre-baby expectations of “romance.” As much as you may want to believe that having a baby won’t change you that much, the sooner you accept the inevitable—that it changes everything—the easier things will be. Prior to having our baby, my idea of romance was a lazy weekend on a beach in Mexico, drinking margaritas and sleeping in ‘til 10. Who wouldn’t love that? That being said, the best date I’ve seriously ever gone on was to the grocery store date with my husband when our daughter was still a newborn. It sounds so silly, but it was on a day when I needed him the most. We leisurely perused the aisles while catching up on each other’s day and may have even opened a bag of chips before we checked out. I realized that real romance isn’t about flowers or margaritas (although I still enjoy both), it was about feeling seen and appreciated. He knew I needed a break and he gave that to me.
2. Show appreciation.
Oftentimes, the disconnection many new parents feel is due to the fact that baby is serious work. Sure, it’s a rewarding life journey that we’re blessed to go on, but it can be challenging. I, for one, am totally guilty of being overtired, irritable and, at times, a bit irrational (I once got so upset at my husband for getting the flu when our daughter was seven-weeks-old that I threw a shoe at him. Admittedly, it was a real low point.). Then, I decided to shift my focus. Instead of being annoyed at the socks on the floor or the dirty dishes, I tried to focus on the small gestures he made to make our day a bit better and thank him for it. Remember what your mother used to say: you’ll catch more flies with honey. As simple as it sounds, kindness begets kindness, and the more appreciative we were towards one another, the more connected we felt.
3. Set an alarm.
I read one blog that suggested setting a “middle of the night” alarm for some impromptu romance. They’re kidding, right? That’s sort of laughable. As a new parent, you’ve slept for maybe four consecutive hours since your child has been born… And here is this person wanting you to willingly wake up in the middle of the night? Stop it right now. All cynicism aside, the alarm idea is actually pretty genius. My husband took it upon himself to set a monthly “check in” alarm on his calendar. To this day, he will call or email me out of the blue, in the middle of the day, just to ask me how I’m feeling, how work is going, and how he can help me. He also uses it as an opportunity to compliment something I’ve recently done. It may sound less meaningful because he has to remind himself to do it, but I actually feel the opposite. He made it a promise to himself to do this, decided the best way to keep his commitment is to set a reminder, and he always follows through. It’s now a tradition I look forward too, and I’m always happy to hear from him.
4. Respect the learning curve.
It is so easy to criticize your partner during the early days with a baby, especially if you happen to be the one at home with your little person. But criticism can quickly lead to disconnect. As much as we need to show “appreciation,” we also need to take the extra step of understanding that our parenting journeys are not going to be on the same timeline. The hormonal part of me didn’t want to necessarily feel the need to praise my husband for swaddling the baby correctly (finally). After all, he should know how to do that, right? But since I was the one doing it 95% of the time and usually correcting his errors instead of letting him figure it out for himself, how could I expect him to learn? One girlfriend gave me the best advice: Let him do bath time every night. From day one, I always let my husband do bath time with our daughter. It became their ritual and something he felt super confident about—not to mention it gave me a good 20-minute break to eat dinner with two hands. Afterwards, I felt a small recharge, he felt proud of performing his dad duty, and we were all better for it.
5. Date your partner, not your baby.
Everyone knows that “dating” your partner is important. As soon as you feel comfortable leaving your child for an hour or two with a family member or caregiver, it’s important have those small dates, whether it’s dinner, a movie, or even a trip to Target. However, my husband and I often fall into the trap of going to dinner and then staring at photos of our daughter. It’s so stupid and happens pretty much every time. Even if we put our phones away, we will somehow end up telling funny stories about something she did. We know that the conversation will eventually lead to our little human, so we really try to make an effort at the beginning of dinner to talk to about what’s going on with one another, away from the baby. So much of romance is about feeling that your partner actually sees you, and sometimes reminding each other of the people we are outside of parenthood is a great way to reignite that spark.
Do you have any other tips for couple co-parenting together?
Share them below.
P.S. You can follow along with my wild and wonderful parenting journey on Instagram.