What Happens When Parenthood Overtakes Marriage

How to bring back that loving feeling in the whirlwind of parenthood

By Elvira Tan | 25 July, 2017

As a young child, I recall my mum and dad’s occasional public displays of affection — like a full kiss on the lips or a long embrace — made me feel all warm and tingly inside. As a teenager, I cringed in embarrassment at their affection, yet I was secretly pleased to see my parents being loving.

It made me feel safe, and confident that I would not lose this steadiness founded on their love; that I’d always have a stable home.

The strong bond they shared also meant that my brother and I had no chance of playing them against each other. They were a force to be reckoned with — a tag team of sorts. Their resolve to have each other’s back was impenetrable. As a result, boundaries were clear to my brother and me.

While we hated it then, my brother and I knew we had our rock-solid family to rely on if we faced any challenges. In our minds, our parents clearly looked like they knew what they were doing and I personally felt incredibly secure as an adolescent.

They were a force to be reckoned with; their resolve to have each other’s back was impenetrable.

After I got married, I started reflecting on my parents’ almost-telepathic connection in their parenting. What really stood out for me as I thought through my growing up years was the fact that their marriage always came first, before us kids and our needs.

When my husband and I became parents, it dawned on me that what my parents achieved was no mean feat! In the early years of parenthood, my husband and I were in the midst of developing our careers — his in the banking sector while I co-founded and ran a business. Those years flew by in a flash; while I was aware that it was crucial that we prioritised our marriage, we got so caught up with urgent work and parenting responsibilities that we let the important things slide, like our relationship.

We began to function like a business partnership, efficiently managing our parenting duties between us. Conversations became transactional, and the marriage focused on the needs of our son, L.

“Will you be able to drive L to daycare tomorrow?”

“Have you replenished his milk powder?”

“Can you make time this Saturday afternoon to take L to the zoo with me?”

We did our best to make sure our son had all the creature comforts and childhood fun we could possibly give him, but we stopped having heart-to-heart talks or going out on meaningful date nights. We went to bed at separate times and left each other to our own devices. I stopped being intentional about showing my husband love. I was overwhelmed and swamped, I didn’t stop to think about our marriage.

We stopped having heart-to-heart talks or going out on meaningful dates. We went to bed separately and left each other to our own devices.

At first, since we rarely argued, I assumed that things between my husband and me were fine. The reality was far from that — we were so out of touch with each other. We eventually grew increasingly impatient with each other. Resentment had set in. When we differed on parenting techniques, conversations could grow heated. After a massive argument one day, it hit us that we needed to work on our marriage. It was make-or-break then.

It wasn’t easy and we had to start over in many aspects, but we started expressing love in ways that made the other feel most loved. My husband and I worked hard at pleasing each other, looking for ways to show love and kindness every day. From a simple routine of a goodbye kiss each morning when we left for work, to a mid-day text to say “I love you”; we didn’t need grandiose acts of love nor fancy weekend getaways. It was the little things that helped our marriage the most.

We didn’t need grandiose acts of love nor fancy weekend getaways. It was the little things helped our marriage the most.

Additionally, date nights weren’t just about watching a movie or having a romantic meal. On our dates, we asked each other questions to intentionally understand how we felt about things and issues. We talked about personal dreams and goals; as trust and emotional intimacy was built up again, we were empowered to broach difficult topics without fear of conversations blowing up into massive arguments again.

Almost 10 years on from those dicey years, we have gotten the hang of it and our children — now two of them — hopefully feel the same way I felt about my parents and experience the same joy and stability that comes from having parents with a strong and loving marriage.

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