Sometimes as parents we have days or in the case of today, just an evening, that makes you feel like you are going crazy.
I have three kids, all of which are 3.5 years and younger. My oldest is going through a stage where fear now seems real so he contemplates everything. I recognize this is just where his brain is developmentally. My middle child will be 2 on Thursday and besides piggybacking off of my oldest sons neediness, has decided he can’t go a moment without my wife’s or my attention. Then there is my 3 month old daughter, who is extremely chill and patient, except for when she needs to feed or sleep. When the evenings hit, which is when I am home, all three of their craziness levels seem to be at peak.
Let me just stop for a second to mention that I am well aware that my wife has situations like this unfold sometimes multiple times per day while I am at my office writing code and listening to music. I am no where near as resilient as my wife.
So, as my wife and I crawl into bed this evening she opens her laptop and we start looking through old photos and video clips of our oldest when he was the age of our youngest. Nothing reverses the stress and anxiety faster than watching our big boy smile and laugh at 3 months old.
Sometimes I feel bad for holding a camera or a phone up to capture what seems like every single thing my kids do but having these moments to reminisce on like we did this evening quickly reminded us of how much we love our kids. The short spurts of craziness may temporarily overwhelm us but we have countless reminders saved on our computers and phones to remind us of how lucky we are to be parenting three fantastic little children.
So I have three tips for you:
1. Take a lot of short video clips of your kids. With smartphones, this is easy. I love using Google GLASS to capture little 10 second video clips of my kids.
2. Back up these moments to your computer. Sync them using iTunes, iCloud, Dropbox or whatever you can get. Just make sure they are backed up. I would die a little inside if I didn’t have these precious moments available to play whenever I wanted.
3. Take time to watch them often. We have all of our photos play as a screensaver slideshow on our AppleTV. Whenever we have the tv on and a show ends or is paused, within 2 minutes the photos start scrolling by. Sometimes my wife and I just sit there and watch photos instead of watching another tv show. A couple of times we have sat there for an hour looking at them and laughing about those moments. It helps keep the memories fresh and our hearts full.
Here is a short video clip of one of my boys at 3 months. Just melts my heart even if just an hour earlier he was melting my soul.
Pardon my writing. I thumbed this out on my Nexus 5.
After reading my post yesterday, my wife came across this video and share it with me.
My favorite part is at the end when a couple gets a dog to try and fill that need in their life to be responsible for something. You would be surprised how many times in conversation people have tried to compare having a dog to having children.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with deciding not to have children. It’s a responsible decision to know that you don’t want children.
Anytime you put two people together in any situation, there will be ups and downs. It’s how you react to them and how you treat each other through the downs that allow you to have more ups. I saw the below infographic on Lifehacker and as I read through it, I felt proud and frustrated at the same time. So I thought I would break down each section of the infographic with my thoughts and experiences from my own life and marriage. Beware, there will be rants…
1. Happy Couple Ratio: Anybody with any level of intelligence knows that when you keep communications more positive, than they should stay that way. I don’t understand how people let themselves get so negative with their spouse. People are so selfish these days. I hear interactions that some people have with their spouses and I just want to slap them. You chose who you married. Nobody held a gun to your head. You made a choice. Treat that person the way you treated them when you were dating. Treat them the way you wanted to treat them because they were something special that you just had to have in your life. Hopefully this is why you married them in the first place. If you married because of financial reasons, then you were being selfish in the first place. I know so many selfish spouses who seem to only be nice to their wives so long as their own needs are being met. Men like that need to get punched in the face. I know that men are not the only ones who put themselves first but I do feel like we were the ones who did it first. In my experiences, selflessness comes easier to woman than it does men.
You need to communicate more with your spouse and keep it positive. I have three kids under the age of 4 at home. Sometimes they run my wife into the ground. It’s hard work raising three kids so close in age. Do I dare try to put my day on the same level as hers? No way! I know that my day can be tiring, but it’s not the same kind of tiring at all. I compliment my wife on the job she is doing and remind her of how amazing of a mother she is to my children.
We laugh and enjoy moments new and old as often as possible. All of the photos we take with our smartphones play through our Apple TV. At least a few times a week we just sit there and watch photos of our family scroll by. It’s a happy time that I would not trade for any show that could be playing on our TV.
2. In the Bedroom: Yes I agree that intimacy is important, but I don’t think it is “the key” to a happy marriage. It helps, but no amount of intimacy can make up for a selfish spouse or a spouse that does not appreciate the other.
3. Appreciating Each other: My wife and I love to share personal triumphs with each other. When I land a new client, I celebrate with her. When she creates something with her bare hands, I celebrate with her. When our kids hit a new milestone, we celebrate together. My wife knows that I take pride in my work and when I triumph, I get excited about it. That makes her excited, and it makes me feel good that she gets excited. When she creates something, or someone asks her to create something for them, I get excited because I know my wife enjoys it and is good at what she does. I like seeing her happy. That makes me happy. It’s as simple as that.
4. Sharing New Experiences: I love experiencing new things with my wife. I am a few years older than she is so there was some catching up to do, but now we experience new things together. We get away for a weekend and try new restaurants. Sometimes “new” doesn’t even have to enter the situation. We love going to Dewz, which is an upscale restaurant in Modesto. Most of the time, we order the same items, but it is an experience that we enjoy together. The TV shows that we get into are shows we both like, that way we can laugh together.
5. Marriage and Our Happiness: This part of the infographic I did not agree with. Sure everything is easier at the beginning because you have not experienced any difficulties together. This tells me that much of the world does not do a good job dealing with conflict together. My wife and I are not the best at conflict resolution but we respect each other enough to let things go. We don’t hold on to things and let them eat us away. I am sure there are countless things about me that my wife would have never imagined having to deal with when she got married one day, but she deals with them and most of the time I don’t even know it.
Having kids has definitely added stress to our lives but we both agree that our lives are vastly enriched because of our children. If you are less happy after having children it is because you are a selfish person. I would gladly adopt your child and let you go back to your selfish ways. If you did not intend on having children yet got yourself into a situation where you now have a child, you need to suck it up and stop being selfish. Your time of selfishness ended when that child entered the world. Hopefully you realized this when you got married. This does not mean that you can not have the things that you want to have. You just have to recognize the order in which things should happen.
My wife’s happiness is my #1 priority under the sun. When she hurts, I hurt. I know that my life would suck exponentially if she was not in it. Because I recognize this, I will always strive to make her happy. I may fail at it at times but she knows how imperfect I am. My kids come second to her. Yes they have needs that may seem more immediate. I do make sure to take care of those needs and I do not neglect my children. I always check in with my wife to make sure everything is good. I put aside things that I may want to rather be doing to be with her and make sure she is cared for. It is my job alone to care for her and to make sure she feels safe and loved. I took that job from her father the day I married her.
6. Why Get Married? I can honestly say that I come across more people that shouldn’t have gotten married than I do people who I am glad did get married. This is a sad fact. Those who I have been close enough to know enough about their situations I know for a fact that selfishness comes down to the root core of their problems.
7. Kids Impact on a Couple’s Happiness: Sure kids add a new dynamic to a relationship. I am not going to lie and say that it does not make it hard. My wife definitely snap at each other more often now than we did before we have kids, but I have much more satisfaction with my marriage to my wife now that we have kids then we did before. Before we had kids my wife and I had never created anything together. There was nothing that we did that had much of an impact on anything. Sure we took some fun trips and experienced a lot together (we were married a little over 2 years before having our first child), but none of that compares with bringing our children into this world. The Infographic below says that couples are unhappiest when their kids are in preschool and that their happiness levels do not return until after their kid graduates. That is sad and it sounds like a lot of people just can’t seem to let go of their own selfish ways and take joy in their families.
Let me tell you why my marital satisfaction has increased since we had children:
- I get to watch my wife mother my children. This is truly amazing. We made the decision together to make sure she could stay home and raise our children. I didn’t want my children to be raised in daycare. I feel like our nation is going to hurt big time because of the decision of parents to put kids in childcare rather than make sacrifices that would allow the mother to stay home.
- We are investing ourselves into something together that is greater than us. Though it is hard and some days are all about staying sane, we love investing our time into our children. My wife and I both want nothing more than to raise children that will grow up and be a responsible part of society. We both know that our greatest work in life here on earth are our children.
- We also remember to invest in ourselves. My wife and I both allow each other to occasionally take part in hobbies we enjoy. She loves to craft and create things with her hands. I love my work and racing. We don’t go overboard on our personal activities. Sometimes months go by without making a trip to the race track. Sometimes a month or so go by without my wife having time to touch her craft area. We both have set out priorities and make choices to put others first in our family before ourselves.
Is it easy? NO! It’s not easy, but if you think that easy is better than your parents raised you wrong. If you are going to be happy as a married person and happy with having children then your mindset needs to change. You need to be able to find joy in other people’s happiness.
I love taking my wife places and experiencing things with her. I love teaching my kids to do new things and watching them experience new things. God willing, my kids will not know what it’s like to grow up in a daycare. My kids will know what it’s like to grow up with their mothers love and direction. They will know what it’s like to have a hard working father. They will know that their mother could have done great things in the world as a professional of her choosing but decided to stay home and raise them because her love for them was greater than other worldly achievements (plus I remind my wife all of the time that she will still be young when our youngest reaches age 18).
The Michelangelo Effect: I agree that the happiest relationships come from those who bring out the “ideal” selves in each other. Everything about my wife makes me a better person and even though I believe that my wife is just an amazing person regardless, I am sure I do things that make her want to be a better person as well. My wife and I encourage each other to grow. I want her to become the person she wants to be and she wants me to achieve that as well.
Final Thoughts: It all comes down to respect. If you do not respect your spouse, you will be unhappy. You will never be able to put your selfish needs and desires aside if you do not respect them. I respected my wife enough not to live with her before we got married and I decided that when we got married that it was not going to be all about me anymore. My struggles did not need to become her struggles. If you think that your spouse is the selfish one, take a look in the mirror first. My guess is that you are probably more selfish than you think. Happiness is not science nor is it difficult to understand so long as you can make yourself the type of person who can put others before yourself.
Enjoy the Infographic.
The audio this video is set to has re-inspired me countless times when I find myself back in that “Gap” that Ira Glass explains so well as a place where our expectations for our work is not aligning with our taste. Though the Gap has closed to become more of a crack for me, on occasion I do find myself tripping over it.
I think that all creatives can relate. We are our own harshest critics.
Ok, so I ditched more school than I would like to admit and I’m not really sure if this video would have got the point across when I was an adolescent, but it sure made me laugh as an adult. The only part about this video that actually frustrates me is that it looks like it was done by an organization that is probably funded through grants from the government. At least this video plays (Insert failed healthcare.gov launch joke here).