Okay, so far we’ve talked about some different factors that affect how your child adjusts to becoming a big sibling (age, developmental level, personality, other changes going on), and about the role that parent-child relationships can play. Now, what about the role that your marriage plays?
Point 6: Adding to your family may also change your
relationship with your spouse.
For a lot of couples, having a first child brings them closer together. They revel together in their adoration of this amazing person and do things as a threesome. When baby #2 comes along, many couples start feeling more like partners, in a practical sense rather than a romantic one. A lot of families with two or more children use the divide-and-conquer approach, which means less time together. Research suggests that, on average, marital satisfaction goes down with each child added to the family! Eek! (But Jim Bob and Michelle seem so darn happy with 19 kids! What is their secret? No, really… what is their secret?)
I remember that when Zippy was a baby Hubby and I would often just hang out together watching him drool, oo-ing and ah-ing over him. But when Bee came along, there seemed to be less time to relax together, basking in the glory of our amazing offspring. I’d bathe Bee while Hubby bathed Zippy, then we’d part ways while we put the boys to bed. Or I’d stay home with the baby while Hubby took Zippy to a birthday party or to run errands.
What I take away from this is that it is really, really important to make time for yourselves as a couple, maybe even more so after the second child. Hubby and I started date nights soon after Bee was born – much sooner than after we had with Zippy. I think it was because it had taken us a long time to get “back on track” after having Zippy, in terms of getting back to being a couple instead of just Zippy’s parents. I know I didn’t want to lose that connection again. But it seems it was also a smart move because it gave us time to connect as a couple, which was hard to do at home while taking care of two small children.
Research shows that disagreements about how to share childcare responsibilities and household chores is a big contributor to marital dissatisfaction after baby #2, so it may also help to talk before baby arrives about how you’ll divvy up the responsibilities and have a plan to sit down every so often to talk about how it is working out. Another thing couples often fight about is money. It is always smart to have a clear plan for your finances and to take a look at that plan anytime there is a major change (baby = major change, I think!). If you need to, meet with a financial planner to help. And, if you need to, meet with a marriage counselor to help you sort through any unresolved conflicts.
Oh…so why am I mentioning this in a post about kids’ adjustment? Because the quality of a marriage has a big impact on the kids, of course! HUGE! For instance, one study found that having a more positive marriage corresponded with a better sibling relationship when baby was 6 months old, and there is lots of evidence that the more couples fight, the more their children fight. So, if you want your kids to have a great relationship with each other (as most of us do), step one is to have a great relationship with your spouse!