Let’s be honest—being a parent can challenge anyone’s mental health and can take a toll on even the best of marriages. And, if you have young children (let’s say anyone in your house under the age of 8), then things are probably more difficult now than they will be in the future. What I am saying is that things will get easier. Yes, they will! But…a caveat is that you must try not to inadvertently make things harder now by piling on the stress simply because you cannot imagine that things will get easier.
Here is a list of five stressors to avoid—and remember, we are talking only about two factors here—your sanity and your marriage:
- Get a dog/another dog. If you think this through objectively, you probably will not ladle this pooping, eating, barking, non-sleeping, undisciplined little being into your already busy house—no matter how cute they are.
- Have babies super-close together. Whatever the reason for having more than one infant living in your house at the same time (twins notwithstanding), it is not a decision made in loving support of your sanity or your marriage.
- Move again/move twice to move once. Moving is hell on your sanity, which makes it hell on your marriage. Be careful not to put the convenience of the buyer or the new job or a little cost savings ahead of the sanctity of your family life. Moving is brutal—try to limit the need for it as much as possible.
- Schedule yourselves to death. A friend of mine who is the mother of four children instituted “no-drive Wednesdays” when her children were little. It was a big deal then, but now none of her kids can even recall the stuff they missed on all of those Wednesdays. Sometimes it’s best to just stay home; say no to an event or activity; or block out sacred time for doing nothing.
- Cheap-out on childcare/housekeeping help. Childcare is not expensive. Getting your house cleaned is not expensive. It only feels expensive because it feels like a luxury you don’t deserve. You do deserve it and you need it. Get it. Pay for it with pleasure—not grudgingly. And if you still cannot afford it—downgrade your smart phone or your cable package to cover it. You will be glad you did.
If you think about it—what is more important for raising your family than your own sanity and your marriage? And if you lose one or both of those things, doesn’t that make things even more difficult and complex? Consider making your sanity and marriage at least part of the decision-making process.
If you have already done the deed on any of the above, then don’t feel bad—instead give yourself one date per month with your spouse, and one extra therapy session/yoga/Pilates or hour alone per month for each of the above you have already done.