Marriage After Baby is HARD: An Honest Conversation

If you’re a parent, you probably are well-aware that marriage after baby can be very tough. You also probably know that this is something that’s not often talked about.

I met a friend of a friend: a woman in her early 30s who has been married for two years and doesn’t have kids. She doesn’t know if she wants them. This woman is pursuing an impressive career which causes her to move around quite a bit right now. She loves her husband, loves the work she is doing, and loves her life.

She and her husband are not sure if or how kids fit into the picture. She told me she’s worried that having kids will cause relationship problems. I told her I wasn’t surprised about her concerns, and said that kids will rock your world (in good and not-so-good ways), and that they can also rock your marriage. HARD.

I appreciated her honesty about her concerns, and that she was so willing to open up about a topic that can be hard to discuss. Her openness allowed me to be comfortable opening up to her, though we had just met. I felt like I had a green-light to share something that many don’t seem willing to talk about.

Though I’d met her less than three hours before this conversation, I told her that my husband and I had a fantastic relationship for eight years. Then we had our first son. And for a while, our relationship was no longer “good” (and for a longer period of time than I’d like to admit). I shared that our relationship, which had been so strong, loving, and fun had pretty much turned to shit (from my postpartum perspective, anyway).

I shared with her about the night that I told my husband that I thought having our son was a mistake because I felt like our relationship had been ruined. (I’m tearing up as I write this because there is no way that our son was a mistake- we tried for him, he was wanted, and is loved. But in those dark moments after he was born, I felt like maybe we made the wrong decision).

At the time, I was heartbroken that what had been so wonderful, and was such a solid foundation, seemed to come tumbling down. It didn’t make sense. We thought we were prepared. We knew it would be tough, but we thought we would be okay. For a while, we weren’t.

And what I didn’t realize while I was in it, is that these feelings are normal. And that my thoughts and feelings were being influenced by hormones that I didn’t understand and honestly wasn’t aware of. It just seemed like this was the new normal and that it wasn’t good.

I was very honest.

She appreciated my honesty.

She told me that’s what she was worried about with having kids: her relationship. She wondered if that’s what most people experienced. I had to say that while I didn’t know how many people’s relationships suffered in the beginning, my hunch is that a lot of them do suffer; that marriage gets tough after kids. I also told her I think that though women experience this, not enough are willing to talk about it. And if we did talk about it with our friends, if we helped to normalize this experience, perhaps it wouldn’t feel as big.

And this, I think, is the bigger problem: not that marriage gets tough, but that we don’t talk about it while it’s happening, or beforehand. And here’s the thing: we thought we talked about it. But you don’t get what it’s like to have a child until you have one, and no one challenged us to really consider what it would be like. It’s like people were scared to say anything.

Marriage gets tough after kids, but that’s not the big problem.

Of course you experience relationship problems after a child- you go from a family of two to a family of three or more, overnight. And in that instant you’re redefining yourself and your roles. You experience love (and hormones) racing through your body, and chances are, you are sleep deprived. Very, very sleep deprived. This colors everything.

If you’re also nursing, this can add another layer of complexity. So, it’s no wonder that the relationship with your significant other changes, possibly quite dramatically and quickly. This can be very unsettling. The fact that we don’t talk about it is what needs to change.

Marriage after baby truths | The challenges baby can bring | Tips for improving relationship after baby | Honesty with friends
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More honest conversations about how hard it REALLY is might help prepare new parents for the fact that shit WILL get hard for a while. And chances are, it will also get back on track. However, I think it’s so easy to get stuck in a downward spiral. If you know that this is normal, maybe you’d get back on track quicker.

We need to know that we’re not alone in how we feel; we need to be able to talk about the fact that relationships get HARD after kids, and that they also get better. We can begin to take care of ourselves and learn how to communicate more effectively.

We can help others be better prepared by being wiling to share with not-yet-parents about the nitty-gritty reality that parenthood can be. I know it’s not like this for everyone, but I also know my experience is not unique. I have fantastic mom-friends who have also been willing to open up that they have faced challenges and changes too. And yet, we tip toe around this a lot of the time, and don’t open up until we’re on the other side of it. And then, we commiserate to those who have also been through it, but keep quiet around those thinking about having kids. This needs to change.

Honesty is essential

In the moment when I shared my experience, my new friend appreciated this honesty. Though I confirmed her fear, I think I was also able to calm those fears a bit. I helped her understand it’s normal that marriage changes  when you have kids and that you can get through it. It’s not to say we should lay it all out there to anyone who will listen, but if you have a genuine friendship, or sense that someone is looking for honesty, don’t be afraid to give it to them.

Whether this woman decides to have kids or not is up to her and her husband. I hope she does have kids. In the short time we talked, she seemed like she’d make a great mom. I’m glad we were able to have an honest conversation about the idea that marriage gets tough after kids. Being able to talk about it was helpful for me too.

As moms (and women) it’s easy to feel like we have to handle everything well. It’s too easy to stay quiet and feel like we’re the only ones dealing with struggles that are very normal and common. I’m here to tell you- you are not alone. In any of it. So don’t be afraid to reach out or to speak out- there are huge benefits for both talking and listening. It may be scary, but give it a try.

What would you share with others about parenthood if you were being totally honest?

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  • Very well said! Marriage definitely changes and that’s ok. Having mom friends to share and talk with is so important too.

    • I agree that change is okay and it is often for the better but it can be SO HARD when you’re in it in the beginning. And I 100% agree about mom friends (we’ve got a post coming up soon on that!)- the big challenge I think is that new moms don’t realize it’s normal and aren’t comfortable talking about it. We need to make this a topic more people are willing to talk about.

  • I love that you shared your thoughts with your new friend, and how honest you were about everything. Most people just share highlights of their lives, but forget about the little things. The dirty little secrets no one tells you about, and you eventually come across (like how much your marriage/relationship in general changes after you have children. Sometimes you think one child is enough, and then you add a second, third and maybe even a fourth. And no matter how much time you spend trying to convince yourself that you need to place your family first, you forget to save time for yourself.

    Being a parent is tough, but once you realize how to make time for everything and everyone, you’ll be able to get the most out of the relationships in your life — family and friends included.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Fatima. I think you’re right that as moms (and people) we often hold back on what’s really going on. It’s unfortunate because we connect with people when we’re being honest and genuine. So, I think we miss a lot of opportunities for connection when we don’t share the truth. I mean, we don’t have to share EVERYTHING right away, but when the moments feel right, I think we shouldn’t censor ourselves as much.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Having my son (our second) completely upset the balance in our lives and took a toll on our marriage. To complicate matters further, my stepdaughter came to live with us full time when he was 5 months old. It’s now a year and a half later, and we are finally getting into a better rhythm. I wish I had been better prepared for this possibility, so hearing other mothers’ experiences (good/bad) is critical.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I now know that I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. I wish that more moms would be willing to talk about it because it actually ends up being quite common. I think if we knew that it was common, and a natural part of how your family and relationship evolves (and that you’ll likely come out of it!) then it’s not so upsetting when it’s occurring.

  • This is truth and my currently reality. Trying to balance and readjust since having my daughter 16 months ago. Thank you for this post. Feel good to know I’m not alone.

    • Thanks so much for sharing how it’s going for you, Aleida. I know it’s so hard to admit that it’s WAY harder than you think it will be. And, it can take a while to get things back on track and feel good about the “new normal”. Hang in there 🙂

  • Totally honest? A friend told me after the baby was born don’t be alarmed if you hate your husband. I thought she was crazy but it’s true. I don’t hate him but I do find myself getting very upset which sleep deprivation has something to do with. Mostly I can’t stand when he says he’s tired or had a long day when he hasn’t done half the things I have.

    • Love the honesty- and, there have been times where I feel like I hate my husband. But basically yes- it’s the sleep deprivation, and hormones, and the new situations, and the changes. It’s often not “real” but it feels like it is, and it feels shocking because no one prepares you, so I love that your friend said this!! We need to be talking about this more so that we can also help each other (and ourselves) through it!

  • Marriage definitely gets more difficult after kids. My daughter is 14 months old and we are still a little awkward at times. I love my husband and I think that he is a wonderful father and I know he loves his family, but I was convinced for almost an entire year that he was a self centered A-hole that DIDN’T care about his family. Turns out birth control made me a little psycho… my husband wasn’t being selfish, he was just hiding and praying that his wife would come back some day.

    • Thanks for sharing Erin- it definitely takes a while…that’s a great point for moms to remember. And you’re so right that it’s hard on our partners too!! And we are often so quick to interpret their actions and words in negative ways that just fuel the negativity we’re feeling. It becomes such a hard cycle to get out of, and it’s so great that you realized there was a contributing factor! Thanks again for checking in 🙂

  • I like this article alot and i agree we do tip toe it alot. But my question or concern is why does it still feel this way when u have your second child. Is it no longer just having children make it harder but something else? and what about the man in the relationship. Not much they can read or learn from , for their own feelings. It seems like they have a harder time to communicate these feelings. Any advice?

    • Oh, the second baby!! Everyone will be different, but I think there are number of reasons that make it hard (either again, or still). You’re going through the new-baby/no-sleep phase again, plus you have another kid/baby to focus on also. You’re both figuring out how your family is changing, and I think that there can be more challenges/resentment because you (as a mom) feel like there’s 2 parents and 2 kids and that it’s best to divide and conquer- but that’s easier said than done! I do think that there can be lingering issues from the first that aren’t resolved, or you’re thrown back into the challenges again. I think that dads can probably be more sympathetic to us because we don’t even realize how much our world is rocked, or how much hormones are impacting the situation. Probably the best way to handle this, no matter if it’s the first baby or after is to communicate- opening and honestly, and to get support or someone else involved if things have become so challenging that you don’t really hear each other. Hang in there- we’re almost 18 months into life with number two and it does get better. But, if it doesn’t, then that might be an indication you have to dig a little deeper and do some harder work. Thanks for checking in 🙂

  • Completely agree! My daughter will be 2 in just a few days and we still haven’t gotten it back!! I love him to death but he thinks being a stay at home mom is rainbows and sprinkles 24/7!!! He does work 60/70 hours a week but doesn’t seem to realize how exhausting it is to have a toddle ever day all day for 2 years all but a few hours here and there when someone watches her. Mainly when I just need to get something done and can’t accomplish it with her because it’s unsafe ( mowing the law)

  • I am so glad to have found this! My husband and I just had our first child… together for 12 years and finally this tiny little human has turned our world upside down! It is refreshing to know this is all normal. Thank you so much for sharing 💜

    • Aww- thanks for your note. Isn’t it amazing what a small person can do to a couple?! The great news is, you have a long foundation together and chances are, it will come back around. But- it will take time and effort…and yes, totally normal!

  • Thanks for this post! It makes me feel a lot better knowing there are others out there. I feel like I’m the only one and I feel guilty for feeling this way. Feeling like my relationship with my husband will never be the same. We were only married for a year when I fell pregnant. It wasn’t planned. I didn’t want kids yet, wasn’t sure if I wanted kids at all. Having my Olivia is one of the most amazing precious gifts from God. I don’t regret it at all. But I feeling like my relationship with my husband is alway on edge and it feels like it’ll never be the same. We hardly had time together, just us, only being married a year.
    I do feel most of what I’m feeling is hormones. But how do we get passed this stage?

    • You’re so welcome, Kirsty! You are definitely not alone- this is one of my most popular posts, sadly! Honestly, your relationship may not be the same, but chances are, it can be even better! It’s got to be so hard for all of these changes to happen when you’re so early on in the relationship, and yes, don’t underestimate the power of hormones to amplify everything. Every couple is different, but try to find time for each other, even if it’s at home, after your daughter is asleep. Get help where you can, like having someone come over to watch her, or if you’re not ready for that, maybe have someone come in for a cleaning every now and then to take some of the stress off so you can focus on each other a bit more. And, communicate. I think things get even worse when no one is saying anything. There is usually light at the end of the tunnel- it’s just hard to see it in the beginning, and it might be far away. Thanks for saying hi and sharing your experience.