The following is a guest post by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, authors of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, which I reviewed here.
Hollee and her husband, John, started regular date nights when their firstborn was a newborn.
Before becoming parents, the two had spent weekends lounging in bookstores and bagel shops, catching whatever movie was playing, and eating out whenever they felt like it.
Complete and total freedom.
So when Gideon was a week old, John decided that he and Hollee shouldn’t have to give up their old ways just because they had a kid. So they took a 9-day-old baby to Steelers training camp in the 90-degree heat. Hollee still remembers trying to nurse the baby on a bench before he’d even learned to latch on properly.
It was a disaster.
A few days later, John had another idea. They couldn’t go to the movies anymore (they weren’t going to be like those people), so they took their newborn to a 9 p.m. showing at a drive-in. Hollee slept through Austin Powers, the baby cried, and John was frustrated.
Finally, they decided to suck it up and hire a babysitter for weekly date nights. Dinner with friends, dinner and a movie … anything not involving the baby.
They’ve kept it up for nearly nine years now, and it has helped their 12-year marriage thrive.
Nurturing our marriages is a big piece of finding a peaceful fit between work and family. The frustrating irony, of course, is that having kids makes this harder than ever. And modern marriage can be a tricky affair: Our roles as men and women are no longer strictly defined — which means we need to figure out for ourselves what it takes to be a “good wife” or a “good husband.”
In the nationwide survey we conducted for Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood (Harlequin Nonfiction, April 2011), more than 1 in 10 mothers said their greatest sacrifice had been their marriage or partnership.
But it was clear that working to prevent that lag was important: Those who described strong marriages were also the ones who were most satisfied with their choices.
These couples had learned to:
- · Be honest about how having children had changed things at home;
- · Stop blaming each other for conflicts that were really caused by a lack of time;
- · Make deliberate choices to address the time crunch;
- · Allow each other to be less than perfect;
- · Share parenting, housework and other duties more equally;
- · Value the contributions of each partner;
- · Become conscious of deeply ingrained gender biases and avoid falling into roles that created inequality or tension;
- · Re-adjust as their family evolved.
For Becky and her husband, Pete, things became much easier when they acknowledged the toll that his 70+-hour workweeks as a lawyer took on their home life — and the toll that her “I’m-the-expert-parent” attitude had on his ability to participate when he was at home. And it became even easier when a new job enabled him to spend more time at home. They began to truly share duties as parents, and found themselves calmer and happier than ever.
Of course, these kinds of changes are rarely easy. It often takes trial and error to hit a good stride, just as it took Hollee and John multiple attempts to figure out “date night.”
But those dates are a sacred ritual now, and one that makes Hollee and John better parents. They enjoy peaceful nights out as a couple, and when they go home and kiss their sons (grateful that someone else did the bathing and medicine-ing and reading), they smile.
They know that the effort it took to get it right — and keep it up — has been worth it.
Becky and Hollee’s new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, is available at http://amzn.to/newperfect . They blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.