Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It was Regan’s 39th birthday. All he wanted for his birthday was to have his girls and I around and enjoy some quality family time. Leading up to the day I had teased him relentlessly about going clubbing instead. I booked a surprise mini-break, thinking at the time, that it would be exactly what he wanted. I was also planning Sophie’s 4th birthday party. And then his dad a major stroke. A week later it was Sophie’s party. And the next day Regan’s dad passed away. A week after that we buried him and my well meaning plans turned from a celebratory weekend at the beach into a necessary escape to reset our souls.

We arrived in Paternoster the day after Regan’s dad’s funeral. We unloaded the car, ushered the girls inside and unpacked all the food that needed to go in the fridge. Regan went outside on to the stoop and lit a cigarette. He stood there smoking and staring at the ocean… Completely unaware of me, staring at him. Here was this man I loved so desperately. This man that I created two brand new people with. This man whose presence was written all over every part of my life. And the emotional weight of losing his father was etched all over his face. In that moment, while I stood in the doorway of this little house, watching him, witnessing his pain, I realised that while I had done my absolute best to be there for him during this incredibly difficult time, I was doing it all wrong. His needs, his pain, this challenging road he needed to walk, came second to our children.

While we were in Paternoster to reset our souls, I found this need to reset our relationship as well.

Like most parents, we often get stuck in this trap of putting our children first. It feels like a natural thing. After all, if you tallied up the needs of your kids versus the needs of you as the parents, they’d win hands down. I find myself battling with this internal dialog every few months, when I suddenly realize that we haven’t had a date night in ages or when we find ourselves only talking about the girls. I tend to momentarily hit the pause button on my mom life and embrace my relationship. But then it fades away and I go back to obsessing about my kids.

The danger is that when your relationship slips from the number 1 spot, it doesn’t always automatically show up as second. Most of the time it’s closer to 10th or 11th place in the list of priorities. And before you know it, you start to feel more like roommates and less like 2 people who love and care for each other. Isn’t this how relationships fall apart? Cliché as it is to say: the simplest way to have a strong family is to have a strong relationship. In order to create that, you need to put each other first. By hook or by crook. Because life is hectic and putting it off is infinitely easier that actually making time for each other.

One thing I know for sure is that if my relationship depended on date nights in order to flourish, I’d be a single mom right now. Thankfully I have discovered that there are many ways to grow as a couple and carve out time for each other without trying to find a babysitter or make a dinner reservation. Here are 6 things Regan and I are doing to strengthen our relationship:

1] Noticing the effort we put into our family and saying thank you.
It may sound like a no-brainer but individually we do a lot for our kids and each other but sometimes it feels like it goes unnoticed and after a while this can lead to resentment. As soon as we notice we say thanks. Even if it’s for something small like doing the dishes or sorting out bath time.

2] Stay in touch.
No matter how frantic it gets at the office or how many times Gracie cries during the day, we make a consistent effort to check in. Just a little message to say “Hey babe, I miss your sweet ass” or “What are you having for lunch?” or even a random “I love you” makes me feel like we’re always on each other’s minds.

3] Don’t go to bed when the kids do.
This one is more for me than Regan, After Grace was born I often fell asleep when the girls went to bed and often it was without even saying goodnight to Regan. Now I make an effort to spend time with him in the evenings whether it’s to quietly watch a show together or listen while he tells me about work or annoy him by recanting all the crap I read on the internet that day. It’s time that we can share everyday without exerting any extra effort.

4] Revive the art of the PDA
Good parents gross out their kids. I’m talking about make out sessions on the couch, hugs, random kisses just because and hand holding. This kind of physical contact is relationship gold.

5] Parent as a unit.
Even if I disagree with what Regan is doing when he’s in dad mode, I am trying not to contradict him in front of Sophie. It creates unnecessary arguments and only opens the door for Sophie to push the boundaries.

6] Compliments not complaints.
Guys, life has this habit of interfering with our intentions and we get stuck in a rut of moaning and nagging and forget that we are in this together. If it sucks for me, it probably does for Regan too. So instead of wasting all that time and energy on talking about negative things, we’re trying a new approach: “yes xx is a shit show, but your bum looks really nice in those chinos”. It’s working wonders.

6] Don’t talk about me, talk to me.
It’s so easy to reach out to your mom or sister or best friend when you fight with your partner and while I think venting is important, it can go too far. The more we talk to other people, the more we alienate our feelings for our partners. At least this has been my experience. Having a fight, feeling angry and then venting can sometimes just cause those negative feelings to grow and morph into monsters. If we fight and we’re still feeling a little raw, we go back and talk it through, or fight some more. Either way, we are making communicating with each other a priority.

I’ve always thought that the real, forever kind of love feels like the easiest thing in the world. You meet a guy, you fall in love and you feel like he’s been there forever. That’s how you know. But even though falling in love is easy, our life experiences (kids, work, stress, money, death) tend to erode those early feelings of contentment, so staying in love takes a bit of elbow grease. And that’s ok, because at the end of the day, when it makes you happy, it’s not really much work at all.


- Main image via  


  1. This is awesome! We're in the process of moving, finding a house four my mother in law (otherwise she lives with us in a house that won't accommodate all ofnus comfortably) and things are pretty stressful. These are things i think we coukd give a go ;)

    1. It's always difficult when things are stressful because it seems like there are so many more urgent things than letting your partner know you love them, but maybe this a the time when it's most important? So glad you liked the post.

  2. Wow, touching post. Sorry to hear about Regan's dad.
    I have a bad habit of sleeping when my child goes to bed. Great points you have here. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much Melissa so glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Love your post, so true hey relationship should come first.

    1. Thank you lovely! I'm so happy you enjoyed it.

  4. I totally agree with you. This is something I blogged about a while back. Having a child centred marriage. I have one but the minute I realized that it was the case, I started to do things a bit different. Strange enough, my husband noticed it before I did and luckily we are on the same page now.
    By hook or crook...We are doing it!

    1. Oh awesome. Please share the link to your post? It's would love to read your thoughts on it. ❤️


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