Our goal here at Perelel is to always take care of you, just as much as you take care of your little ones. So we brought in one of the top experts in reproductive psychiatry, Sarah Oreck, M.D., to talk about a hot topic that a lot of mamas have questions about: relationships. Whether you're married, single or dating and co-parenting, prioritizing your life outside of your kids is important and, in doing so, you can set a healthy example for your children. Plus, prioritizing your relationship can actually make you a better parent. How? Sarah Oreck explains and shares her tips in our interview below.
Perelel: When you get into the groove of managing a household, kids and maybe a career, your relationship with your S.O. often can take the backseat. But why is it critical to devote some attention to your relationship with your partner?
SO: Your relationship with your partner is what started it all. It's the founding relationship upon which your household and relationship with your children is built. If your goal is to remain in that relationship longterm (after your children are in college and making their own lives), it's essential to invest time and effort into this primary relationship. Additionally, the functioning of the relationship with your partner is of great importance as it serves as our children's first blueprint for an intimate adult relationship. (No pressure!)
P: Makes sense. What are some common relationship pitfalls we often fall into once we have kids?
SO: We often fall into routines around our children's needs or that prioritize work, neglecting our needs as individuals and as a couple. With how much care children require, couples can become focused on role distribution and to-do lists and it almost feels mechanical or work-like. In relationships where there is an uneven distribution of work around child care, which is most relationships, there can also be an element of resentment. If unaddressed, that can present challenges for the partnership. Our lives are hectic, especially these days, but there is time for our relationship—we just have to learn to carve it out, have the difficult conversations and spend quality time even if it's in mundane ways, like doing the dishes together after dinner when the kids are asleep, asking how the day went and having a laugh. I also think we can feel burned out taking care of busy households and it's okay to let our partners know that. You can sit on the couch together and have quality time. Quality time doesn't always have to mean an elaborate or well planned date night.
P: Many of those are so relatable. Are there any tips you can share that will set your relationship up for success?
SO: Devote time together as adults without the children. I know this can be extremely challenging, especially with young children and during the pandemic, but while the children take a nap or if you're lucky enough to have childcare, take time to eat with your partner, plan a picnic or just walk around your neighborhood together. If there is something on your mind or you're feeling overwhelmed with your childcare responsibilities, talk to your partner about how you're feeling without blaming and ask for what you need. It's often the way that couples navigate conflicts that make them stronger. Once these are out in the open, it can free you up to spend truly enjoyable quality time together.
P: How can women who are single, co-parenting or dating also set themselves up for success?
SO: Yes, thank you for including this question! It's exciting to see how family structures are evolving and these new structures present their own unique challenges. If you are a single parent or a co-parent, it's important to determine whether you want to date at all. It's okay to take some time to focus on yourself and your children. If you are ready to date, then it's important to allow yourself the time and space to do it. I often encounter a great deal of guilt among single parents that want to date but struggle "sacrificing" time with their children to spend with someone they are just getting to know. This should not be presented as a "sacrifice," however, it's simply part of self-care and continuing to develop our lives as individuals and adults independent of our children. One of the most important things as a parent is for our children to see us thriving and content in our own lives. If we pursue what we want, it gives us space to be better parents.
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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.