I’m not talking about when you bring a newborn home and the world suddenly seems very big and very scary. Or when the weight of responsibility for a beautiful helpless human lies heavy on your shoulders. You feel so alone because you think you don’t know what you’re doing (when really you do!) I don’t mean when the excitement of the first few weeks dies down and suddenly friends and family visit less and the house is quiet and looms large with its multitude of tasks. And I’m not talking about the loneliness that comes with being somewhat isolated on maternity leave when you wish after the old norm of the daily grind which included adult conversation and hot cups of tea with colleagues.
What I’m talking about is the sometime lonely and sometime empty feeling you get one year down the road, three years, maybe even ten years down the line in your relationship. It seems that when babies and children enter your lives a quietness can seep into your relationship.
It’s impossible to assume that things will stay the same when the wonder of a baby appears. We all expect and accept these changes. But this transition felt lonely to me. Gone were the nights of cuddling up beside my husband with popcorn and a movie. Evening walks in late summer, when we would spend an hour or two solely in each others company talking about the weird and the wonderful, couldn’t be done anymore. Those nights drifted off and no longer happened. Dinner dates and nights out disappeared. Random, spur of the moment outings or days in bed vanished. Being together almost felt like a privilege as time together was taken from us.
Life changed all too quickly and I wasn’t prepared for the drastic move in a relationship that was rock solid. But rock solid it was and rock solid it still is.
Lonely but together
Even though I often felt lonely as we sat in the sitting room together – both of us exhausted from the mechanics of a stressful day at work and a busy evening at home – neither talking nor sitting beside each other, doing our own thing, relaxing in our own way, I knew that somewhere in the midst of the chaos of parenting, we were together.
It took me a while to understand why I felt lonely, and why it happened. There may as well have been neon lights over the front door spelling it out for me, but I hadn’t switched those lights on. Becoming a parent is difficult. Your life changes in a million and one ways. In ways no one ever tells you, in ways no one could ever tell you because everyone is different and we all react and cope differently. More often than not, we don’t share how something as amazing as parenting can affect our lives in a negative or sad way.
Missing The Simple Things
I felt the sting of loneliness as conversations slowed down, time together disappeared and contact became minimal in those first days, months and dare I say years. I have on occasion missed the simple things in our relationship which became watered down.
- Holding B’s hand as we stroll along the harbour in Howth.
- Looking into his eyes for more than three seconds without being interrupted by a mini me.
- Having a conversation that lasts longer than twenty seconds and doesn’t involve bowel movements or how many scoops of formula or ice cream.
- Simple things like kisses and hugs can be forgotten about when a two year old vies for your attention.
- Saying goodnight before drifting off to sleep because you are beyond exhausted and asleep before your head hits the pillow.
Without B, I dont feel whole. We are together fifteen years. Almost half my life we’ve been B and G. How can I feel myself when I’m distanced from an important part of me? Let me throw the cheesy line in “You complete me” B.
The Magic Quick Fix
There the loneliness sat as parenthood took over and we grew a new part of our personalities and became different people, but the same. Somethings got to give right? There is no magic quick fix for keeping your relationship on track. It’s hard work but worth it. You know it’s worth it. This is the person you love, admire and cherish. This is the person you want to grow old with. You want to watch the grey hairs dash his hair and the wrinkles burrow into his forehead. You want to see the wisdom in his eyes as he walks your daughter down the aisle. His is the hand you want to hold forever.
So what do we do?
How do we creep out of the silence and the loneliness that parenting can bring into your relationship? How do we regain the spark to trigger those moments you miss?
Talk – keep your hearts and minds open. Communicate. Try not to sit in silence as you both ponder the world and wonder why things are harder in your relationship. How is your partner to know how you’re feeling unless you tell them?
Love – love and respect each other. It really is as simple as that. It started with that and it will end with that. The middle is what’s important and knowing you’re loved and showing your love is a cornerstone of your relationship.
Date – a first baby takes your breath away and if you let it, your romantic life. Date little and often. Nothing major, nothing fancy. No pressure because that kills the romance and the point of having time together. A romantic home cooked meal and the tv turned off. Conversation and laughter hides any silence buried in your heart.
Have you felt this way? I’m happy to say these feelings are not as prominent for me anymore. And I feel that closeness with B again. Tomorrow is our first date night in what feels like forever… or rather date day as we’re going for lunch and to the cinema in the afternoon. I can’t wait if I’m honest. I won’t let go of B’s hand at all tomorrow.
Getting through these early years of parenthood can be trying but once you recognise the changes and the upheaval that occurs you can refocus your relationship through honest and open communication or couples therapy if necessary.