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Ways Marriage Changes After Children

Every married couple with kids knows that having children is a thankless job. It can be incredibly challenging and rewarding to raise children together, but most couples don’t realize that marriage changes after children. Some of these changes are easily anticipated, while others are somewhat unexpected. 

If you’re a married couple and are thinking about having kids, it’s important to know what you should expect. If you’re married with kids already, you’ll relate to what we share here! Having children is not easy, and it can take a toll on a person’s mind, body, and spirit. 

Introducing children into the family dynamic can also put a strain on a marriage, but with each challenge comes the opportunity to learn something new about yourself and your spouse. Ultimately, way that your marriage changes after children can be difficult to cope with, but they can also shed a positive light on how well you and your spouse work together. 

Marriage changes after children

You may have thought you’d experienced big life changes before you had kids. Introducing a new human being into the world changes your life and marriage in ways that you could never have anticipated. Having children is quite literally the biggest life change you can make because suddenly, you’re entirely responsible for another person’s health, well-being, and happiness besides yourself.

Before you had kids, you only had to worry about taking care of yourself and your spouse. You had to make sure your basic needs were being met at the very least. Now you have to do all of that and more for your children. Plus, you have to teach your children right from wrong. It’s a lot of pressure for anyone to be under, and that certainly impacts your marriage. 

You can try to explain how different your lives are now that you have children, but words just don’t seem to do it justice. Your marriage may feel different for several tangible reasons that most married couples with kids can relate to. There are also changes that your marriage goes through that you couldn’t even describe. Only couples that have been through the same thing can relate. 

Small gestures have big impacts 

Marriage changes after children in major ways. The change isn’t always so glaringly obvious, though. Married couples who decide to have children know that the small things count. Imagine that it’s your turn to drive your oldest child to preschool, and you’re running late. You don’t even have time to think about yourself, and you’re scrambling to get your kid dressed for school. You feel completely frazzled and on edge, and you know that your boss will be upset if you’re late for work again.

As you’re heading to answer the door to let the nanny in, you see that your spouse is already there answering. Your spouse also packed a bag lunch for you and your oldest kid. You know that you and your spouse are both running a bit late, but the fact that your spouse packed you a lunch for you is an absolute lifesaver. 

After you have kids, you realize the little things make all of the difference in the world, like making a bag lunch for your spouse or preparing a cup of coffee for them. Making a cup of coffee was not a big deal before, but now that there are kids involved, it’s a godsend when your spouse hands you a cup of freshly brewed joe. 

In the hustle and bustle of your family life, it’s nice to slow down for a minute and do something thoughtful for your spouse. You feel an immense amount of joy over a small, kind gesture that you wouldn’t have appreciated if it weren’t for your children being introduced into the mix. 

Life feels a little boring

When you’re married with kids, life can feel a bit monotonous. You may reminisce on a time before your children were born. Maybe you and your spouse were adventurous and would always find new and fun things to do. Perhaps you were outdoorsy and would go on frequent hikes or camping trips. Maybe you were party animals and liked to go out on the town, or maybe you were gamers that liked to stay in and play games on your favorite console. Whatever the case may be, you’ve found that your life revolves a lot less around your hobbies after having kids.

You may miss your life when you were married without kids because you miss the more fun and carefree times. You and your spouse can still do the fun things that you’ve always enjoyed doing together, just not as often. Even though you miss the spontaneity of booking a same-day hotel room in a different city for the night or deciding to go for a last-minute adventure around town, you feel comforted by the stability of family life. You feel relief because, for the most part, you know that your life will be the same from one day to the next.

Your marriage gets neglected

This one is a bummer. It’s almost inevitable that when you have children, your marriage will get neglected. The stress and pressure of constantly taking care of your babies weigh on you so heavily that you can’t even hardly think about caring for your spouse. With the lack of sleep, you especially don’t have the energy to focus on your spouse. You don’t go on date nights as you used to, and you hardly have time to connect.

Whenever you have time to chat, you’re usually just talking about the kids. 

Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for marriages to go through a rough patch, especially when a baby is born. It can feel like the first few years of your kids’ lives are an extended rough patch in your marriage. 

When marriages start to break down, it can take so much more time and energy (and even money!) to repair the marriage than it would have taken just to maintain it. There needs to be room for your marriage even when you have kids. It’s easy to get sucked into the all-consuming world of childcare, but it’s important to focus on your marriage as much as you can.

Lack of sleep gets to you

All parents understand that starting a family while married automatically means sacrificing your sleep. We’re not talking about a little bit of sleep deprivation on occasion. We’re talking about waking up in the middle of the night Every. Single. Night. for years on end. The exhaustion that new parents feel is beyond comprehension to those that have never experienced it. 

The sleepless nights can take a toll on a person and the marriage. When you haven’t slept through the night in months, you’re bound to feel a little bit on edge. This leads to more frequent bickering or full-on arguments in a marriage. It can be especially frustrating in marriages where one person wakes up easily and the other doesn’t. If there’s an imbalance in how often parents wake up to take care of the kids, this can also cause issues. For example, if your spouse is a heavy sleeper and you are the one waking up frequently throughout the night to feed the baby, you may develop some resentment towards your spouse. 

A lack of sleep is no joke! It can have serious effects on a person’s mental and physical health. It’s no wonder that a lack of sleep can have dire consequences on a marriage. You and your spouse must take equal turns waking up at night to take care of the kids. It’s also helpful to allow each other opportunities to sleep in and take naps.

Identities shift

Marriages change after children because of the shift in identities among the married couple. Husband and wife are now daddy and mommy. Your lives now revolve around your children, so it’s no surprise that you will feel a shift in your identity. Many married couples find themselves lost in their identities as parents and forget that they can be both a spouse and a parent. 

Having children is such a colossal change that completely alters life as you know it. Shifting identities can be hard on your marriage because you and your spouse may drift apart from each other and forget why it is that you started a family in the first place. You get so wrapped up in your children’s lives that you lose sight of who you both were before you had kids. The truth is that your identities as individuals and as married people remain. It becomes a balancing act to make sure you’re honoring all of your identities at once.

Though shifting identities can be tough on the marriage, it’s also quite beautiful. Your new role as a parent can feel empowering and give you a new sense of purpose. You experience life as a human being differently that only people with children can understand. Parenthood is unique because it can allow you to open your mind to new experiences. Growing into your identities both as a parent and a spouse is truly wonderful.

Less focus on sex and intimacy

You’re not getting a lot of sleep, you’re caught up in your role as a parent, and you probably are not getting too much alone time. You’re probably having difficulty getting any time just to yourself, so forget about having alone time with your spouse. Sex and intimacy are what brought your kids into this world, but ironically enough, your kids are what seems to take that intimacy away from your marriage.

You give your kids so much time and attention that you just don’t have a lot left for your spouse. Plus, the hardships of parenthood can strain your marriage and cause issues in the bedroom. It’s very common for new mothers to experience postpartum depression, which is not to be taken lightly. The stress of raising a child does not exactly lead to an increase in the desire for intimacy. It does quite the opposite.

Intimacy is an important aspect of all marriages, regardless of whether the couple has children. It’s a good idea to try and make time for intimacy in your marriage, even if that just means cuddling on the couch for now. Staying connected to your spouse intimately is part of what makes the glue that holds the marriage together so strongly.

Your instinct will be to give all of your love and attention to your kids, but they will start to notice if their parents just don’t seem all that loving towards each other. Putting effort into keeping the intimacy alive will make a difference in your marriage and the family dynamic. 

Love for your baby outweighs all else

Marriage changes after children in ways that you may not have anticipated. You used to love your spouse more than anything in the whole world, but now you love your kids even more. You lose sight of your spouse’s wants and needs because your love for your children is great. Meanwhile, spouses can become jealous or even resentful.

It’s not a bad thing to love your kids more than life itself and to want to go to the ends of the earth for your children. It’s quite a good sign that you’re a wonderful and loving parent. The problem arises when you start to ignore your spouse and make them feel unimportant in comparison. You have to consider the entire family unit. Your spouse is just as much part of the family as your children. 

If you feel like your spouse tends to disregard you now that you have children, it presents the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation. You can let your spouse know that there has to be some balance. Finding that balance can prove difficult, especially in the face of a jealous spouse.

You might think to yourself, “Of course, I love my children more!” But if your spouse is feeling neglected, you need to be able to empathize. It’s not easy when your lives revolve around each other, but now that you have kids, you and your spouse are the two least important people in the family unit. It’s a big change and can be difficult to adjust to. It also provides the opportunity to have solid communication with your spouse as you’re navigating through the adjustment.

Not a lot of downtime

Your marriage changes after children because suddenly, your life is non-stop. Whether you’re waking up constantly to care for the baby or keeping a toddler entertained for hours on end, it feels like there’s hardly any room for downtime and no end in sight. This takes a toll on your marriage because let’s face it – you’re both worn out and exhausted every day! 

Downtime is a necessary part of rest and recovery. It keeps you going and allows you to be your best self. Without downtime, you may start to feel more like a shell of your former self, a corn husk of a human being, if you will. Any parent can relate to this feeling, especially new parents, because there’s just so little time to relax. When you’re both not feeling like your best selves, it’s more difficult to be present in the marriage. 

Without rest, you may be more on edge and have more arguments with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Marriage changes after children can be hard, but you and your spouse deserve downtime now and then. You can hire a babysitter or ask family to take care of the kids so that you can both relax. You’ll be able to appreciate the still moments much more than you used to before you had kids. 

You become more financially savvy

Children are not only loving bundles of joy, but they’re also huge expenses. Not to mention the price tags these days on diapers, baby food, formula, childcare, and the list goes on. If you weren’t super into budgeting before you had kids, you’d find that budgeting is necessary once your children enter the picture. The financial stressors can, of course, strain a marriage, but they can also make a marriage stronger. When you and your spouse are facing financial issues, it’s an opportunity to work together as a team to break down that budget.

Many parents find it rewarding to spend money on fulfilling their kids’ needs instead of buying trivial things like they used to (before they had kids). Increasing financial responsibility acts as a motivator for budgeting and being more on top of your money spending habits. Being more financially savvy is a positive change for a marriage to go through.

You share the joy

There’s no denying that your marriage changes after children, but it’s also a joyous experience. You and your spouse are there for each other through the incredibly difficult moments, which means that you’re also there to relish in the joys of parenthood. You’re there to witness your baby’s first step or say their first word. You experience watching your children grow up, and you’re there to help guide them in the right direction. You and your spouse are there for all of the joyful moments, and you can do it together. At the end of the day, you both know that all of the hard work and sleepless nights are worth it for the smiles that your kids put on both of your faces.

Through all of the changes that marriages go through after having children, sharing the joy is one of the most rewarding. Watching your kids explore all of the wonders this world has to offer gives you a new perspective on life, and their existence gives you a better appreciation for what you and your spouse can create. 

The marriage is stronger in the end

You know that managing a marriage with kids is not easy. There may be moments of complete frustration where you just want to give up. You think to yourself, “Why did I think starting a family while married was a good idea?” You struggle with figuring out how to have kids and have a happy marriage. It may not be easy, and there may have been times of absolute hopelessness, but you and your spouse always pull through. Marriage changes after children–but not all change is a bad thing.

One day you’ll be lying in bed together and having a sweet pillow talk about the lives you’ve both lived. You’ll think back on the years you spent raising your kids, who are now all grown up, and you’ll be able to laugh about many of the memories. Most of all, you’ll feel proud that you both raised some pretty amazing kids together and are now stronger for it in the end.

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Sofia Bolanos

Sofia Bolanos has over seven years of experience in the mental health field and is an avid peer support counselor and volunteer. She also works closely with homeless populations in the San Francisco Bay Area and provides resources and support to vulnerable individuals within the community. Her goal is to utilize her gift of insight to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. As part of her commitment to that goal, she facilitates a monthly support group in which couples are strongly encouraged to attend. She received a B.A. in Sociology from San Francisco State University and is on track to continue her graduate studies in 2023. In addition to her passions for writing and helping others in their healing journeys, she enjoys oil painting, contemporary dance, plant care, and spending quality time with her dog.

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