Sure, you’ve got more responsibilities now, but that doesn’t mean you have to kiss your relationships goodbye. First Things First President and CEO Julie Baumgardner offers this sage advice for expecting parents.
I remember 22 years ago anticipating the birth of our daughter. Jay and I had been married for four years. Our marriage was strong, and we were looking forward to starting a family.
Society tells you that once the baby comes along, your focus should be on the baby, not your marriage. However, research indicates that the marriages most at risk for distress are the ones that are child-centered. How do you balance taking care of the baby, nurturing your marriage, and keeping up with friends when you feel like you are running on empty?
First and foremost, the best gift you can give your child is to continue to nurture your marriage. If you don’t have extended family close by, ask a friend if they would be willing to take care of the baby while you go out on a date. While you and your spouse are together, avoid constant talk about the baby or anything else that creates stress in your relationship. Designate this as a time to play, enjoy each other’s company, and nurture your relationship.
Second, being a parent is a wonderful gift, but it doesn’t mean you let go of meaningful relationships with people who encourage you, make you laugh, and hold you accountable. Talk with your spouse about ways you both can stay connected to friends. Perhaps you take turns doing a friend’s night out every other week.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you married your spouse and made your friends before the baby arrived. Your child will grow up and eventually leave the nest. I’ve had many couples tell me, “if only people knew how awesome the empty nest was, they would invest more time in their marriage and friendships in the midst of raising children.” As an empty nester myself, I am in complete agreement!
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