4 things I learned to do for my marriage after having children

#1—Read each other’s stress cues and be gentle.

4 things I learned to do for my marriage after having children

? Cliché Alert! ?

“Being a parent is the most important job you’ll ever have.”

Before I had kids, when I heard people say stuff like this I would roll my eyes. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe that parenthood was going to be the most important thing I’d ever do. It’s that I already knew it.

My wife and I have been together for 15 years and married for six. We are always asked, “How do you guys make this work? What’s your secret?”

Well, we don’t have a magical answer. The thing about life is that when you’re younger, things seem easier. I remember things getting a tinge stressful while planning our wedding, but in hindsight, that process was so easy compared to, say, buying a house or raising two children under 4 years old.


Are you scared yet? Let’s talk this through.

Here are 4 things I’ve learned to do for my marriage after having kids.

1. Read each other’s stress cues + be gentle.

After years of being together, my wife and I have learned how to determine each other’s stress levels and the cues that things are off. We’ve also learned how to work with each other based on what level of stress each of us is feeling.

Learning your partner’s stress cues doesn’t mean marching home and asking them why they can’t read your stress and anxiety levels better. It means, simply, to pay attention. Try to notice things and be aware of your partner’s mood and signals, and then respond accordingly.

A photo posted by J Jenkins (@johnmjenkins) on

For example, recently our son started a new preschool. After a few days, we started to notice what we thought was a change in his personality—he was acting more physical with his younger brother and was melting down much faster than normal. He was more protective of “his” things. He was having a very hard time communicating what he needed from us.

Now we’re able to see his stress levels rise and his personality start to change, and we can immediately ask him, “Hey, I noticed that you’re trying to tell me something. What is it that you’re feeling?”

Okay, so this also doesn’t mean, “Go home and talk to your partner like they’re a 3-year-old.” You can modify this technique pretty easily. You can stop what you’re doing and say “Hey, what’s up?” Then leave it alone for awhile. I usually see if my wife comes around to explaining why she just blew up at the kids about wanting a second breakfast first before asking again. I don’t like to push the issue.

2. Communicate with one another + figure out what method works best.

Yes, this same thing comes back my way when I’m losing it as well. Sometimes I have a harder time letting go than she does. However, figuring out how to best communicate with your partner is key. Communication doesn’t need to be this dramatic intervention or a disruption from everyday life.

A photo posted by J Jenkins (@johnmjenkins) on

For me, it needs to be done consciously, but also casually. Connecting with my wife without feeling like we manufactured some sort of understanding. The casual discussion about the day, or our sons, or sometimes just quietly standing together in the same room. These things build communication between us daily.

3. Enjoy alone time—you both deserve it.

We also need to experience time apart from one another. We need time to recharge, whether that means an hour or two for working out, a night out with our individual friends or a class that we want to take. When we lived in San Francisco (pre-babies), my wife decided she wanted to take ballet. This was different for me because she’d have these experiences without me—with friends I’d never meet and a connection with her class and teachers that would have nothing to do with me.

A photo posted by J Jenkins (@johnmjenkins) on

I’d often joke, “When is the recital? I want to come see you dance. I want to be a part of this.” However, in hindsight, it was totally fine that I wasn’t a part of it. In fact, it was probably for the best that I wasn’t. It allowed my wife to hold on to a sense of independence, but also realize I was always there for her as her partner. This was really hard for me to navigate at first.

4. Get to know your partner + never stop learning.

So how do you prepare your marriage for all the amazing things that child-rearing has to offer? You get to know your partner. You don’t have to take 12 years like my wife and I did, but I do think that it’s very important to communicate efficiently and understand you are each unique human beings.

A photo posted by J Jenkins (@johnmjenkins) on

We need our space to be able to find, grow, learn and expand our horizons. There’s a Muhammad Ali quote that I’ve been referencing a lot since he passed away.

He said:

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Allow for growth and change to happen.

You have to be willing to grow with your partner, talk through the changes and adapt together. If you can, then you’ll be well-prepared to welcome a new addition to your family.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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