We have always prided ourselves on having a thirst for adventure and spontaneity, and continually want to “go with the flow” in our daily life. Since having twins this has become even more important for us. We want our journey as a family to be focused on chasing our “wildhoods” so to speak. To us this is about reclaiming a childhood for our kids that ditches the progression towards tech addicted, clean, perfectly “behaved” children in overly structured environments. We want our children to explore who they are in the outdoors, in a messy and unconventional way … we want them to be a little wild. This remains important to us; however, the romantic ideal began to become more important than being vulnerable and attuning to what we really needed as a family. We were trying to keep up with the Joneses, as they say, or a wilder version of them.
We have put a lot of pressure on ourselves to fulfill this ideal. Within the last three years, we moved across the country, bought three houses (sold two), got a dog, and had twins girls. Following the birth of our girls, now 21 month old toddlers, we did not slow down. Both of us come from extremely wonderful and supportive families, but none of our parents live in our immediate vicinity. While completely self inflicted, this has been hard for us. There has not been much room for us to spend time as a couple alone without our kids, and eventually this absence of couple time caught up to us. Our thirst for intensity and adventure began to put too much pressure on our family.
Our most recent transition was my (Bethany) return to work this past September. This raised the intensity in our household and further exposed a lack of self care and the space that had grown between us. We suddenly found ourselves in an adopted pattern that was responding to stress in a way that was critical, defensive, sometimes mean, and this began to distance ourselves from one another. On paper, and from the outside, we were high functioning, happy, busy and social. Yet, at home we were stretched beyond our capacity and our relationship was suffering. We were decent, maybe even great parents, but sh*tty partners.
“That’s what you call a wake-up call. That’s a change-your-life, start-right-now moment. And so we did. Because I was on that path … It’s easy to be liked by strangers. It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it. And many of us are too exhausted from the work to get down on the floor with our toddlers, or stay in the second hour of a difficult conversation with our spouses” Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
This realization brought us to seek counselling as a couple. This was not an easy decision. Whether real or personally assumed, there’s a stigma around marital strife, particularly in Christian circles. As such, this is actually the first time we are sharing our intimate, yet probably common, struggles during this transition into parenthood. I am a pretty private person when it comes to being vulnerable with my personal hardships as I have always felt the need to strive for perfection. However, I feel this is a reality for many and it needs to be talked about. The transition into parenthood is hard. You’re learning to care for a new life form (two in our case), and through this you inevitably find you’re changing not only as an individual, but for some you’re also learning about what this means for you as a partner. As you change, your relationship also must change; and we needed support in that transition.
Counselling helped us to identify a negative cyclical pattern of communication that became second nature to us. We were moving too fast to be able to identify it gracefully without support. The process offered us an outside mediator. It created a time and a space to simply focus on us as a couple, and further helped us communicate to each other that we love and care about one another. Most importantly, this invited grace and vulnerability back into our partnership. Maybe this seems simple, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
Other things that have made a difference for us have been:
- Biting the bullet and paying for a babysitter
- Less escaping after the girls go to bed
- Adding in more alone time and reading in order to facilitate a sense of calm
- Less technology and more purposeful engagement as a family
- More grace for each other and ourselves
We by no means have figured everything out, and will likely continue to seek counselling into the new year. But there is the realization that this will be a daily journey, which is overwhelming but also kind of beautiful at the same time. After all, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
– Written by Bethany in collaboration with Hans