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We’re going to have a baby!” The words rolled off my tongue with excitement and ease. I had no concept of the real meaning of the words beyond the fact that the little stick I was holding in my hand promised a future full of joy. But nine months later, reality hit.

Parenting came easy to my husband, who has an older son and adores children. He seemed to have endless energy, creativity, and patience. I looked at him in awe as I struggled to stay awake during midnight feedings and tried to keep my patience during two-year-old tantrums.

Our first child, Griffyn, was born just before our first wedding anniversary. Initially, the idea was romantic and exciting. However, the rigors of parenting quickly took over our marriage. Before long, we were so busy working to make ends meet, playing with Griffyn to keep life fun, and sleeping to prepare for yet another day of the same, that romance flew right out the window.

Gwendolyn, our second child, arrived four years later, just before our fifth anniversary. This time, we were much better prepared for what would follow. We also were not in denial of what it means to be a parent. However, if we struggled to maintain our relationship with one child, it became tense with two. Now the question was, Could our marriage survive the kids?

We’re probably not alone in asking this question. Two people get married with dreams of perfection, romance, and bliss. These same individuals hope their marriage will lead to days full of happy adventure, and they fantasize that their relationship will be better for having children.

Although all this is possible, the devil is intent on making sure you cannot experience it here on earth. He’d be happy if he could destroy romance even before the altar and then complicate child rearing through financial pressures, health issues, and staying too busy to care.

There’s no doubt that children bring more happiness into your life than you might imagine, yet these same children bring struggles that must be dealt with head-on before everything dissolves into chaos. There are many things you can do to ensure that the children you bring into the world will increase your happiness and enhance your relationship with your spouse (see the sidebars).

And there‘s more

While the lists aren’t exhaustive, they will set you thinking. Spending quality time with your spouse is the key to a happy and healthy relationship, especially if you have children. And your children should enhance your marriage.

Each stage of development goes by fast, so a “must” is scrapbooks and photo albums! Record the good times you have with your family, and revisit them often. The memories will carry you through the more stressful times.

Remember, it isn’t our children’s fault if we as adults cannot manage our time wisely. Rather, it is up to us to help them have memorable and special childhood experiences with parents who have a loving marriage relationship.

Manage Your Time

  • Each day has just 24 hours, so be realistic about what you can accomplish in that time.
  • Sleep is vital to your sanity, disposition, and happiness, so make sure you get enough each night.
  • Create simple and enjoyable menus for your family. This will aid you in shopping and meal preparation, keeping both to a minimum.
  • Set aside at least 15 minutes a day to do something you enjoy, such as gardening, bouncing on the trampoline, or drinking a hot drink while reading.
  • Cut down on the number of errands you run by combining tasks away from home. Ask yourself, “Does this have to be done today?”

Time With Your Spouse.

  • Wake up ten minutes earlier so you and your spouse can have a few minutes to review the day before the kids wake up.
  • Set aside a specific time each week when you and your spouse do something together: a walk, drinking a smoothie, even just doing the shopping. And stick to it! It’s the quality of time more than the length of time that matters.
  • Find someone you trust to look after your children, and go on a date at least once a month. Keep it within your budget, and make sure it’s just the two of you.
  • Make a list of things you enjoy and admire about your spouse and share this with him or her.
  • Meal preparation has to be done, but it’s more fun when it’s done together
  • Find a hobby or sport you both enjoy and do it together.

Time for Your Kids

  • Read to your children, together or individually. They will love it, and you will be investing in their education for life.
  • Make a “date” with each child at least once a month. I had a friend who took each of his daughters on one date a month—anywhere they wanted to go. This made their relationship much stronger.
  • Support your children’s hobbies or sports by watching, cheering from the sidelines, volunteering, and where necessary, driving them to and from events.
  • Spend time with your kids on their homework. Even on a busy day, sitting with your child will encourage him or her, keep them focused, and remind you of when you were in school.
  • Make shared memories: holidays as a family, cooking and baking, gardening, house cleaning, doing a craft, or just coloring.

How to Keep Your Home Happy

by Elizabeth Kapao
From the May 2009 Signs