How to argue with your partner when you've got kids.
Of course, we shouldn’t argue with kids around. We should be grateful to have them, and walk around in a fuzzy warm haze, congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, ensuring we wear matching Boden, and post #blessed images on Instagram. The problem is, nobody has slept through the night for weeks, 5am is a familiar friend for all the wrong reasons, and the only conversations you have with your partner start “Have you seen….?” Occasionally you mix it up by discussing what’s for dinner, but that’s as in depth as the chat gets.
When that connection that brought you together in the first place is diluted by toddler tantrums, Lego masterpieces and differences of opinion on screen time, it’s inevitable that the cracks start to show. But relationships are like elastic bands, they can stretch a long way before they snap, and there’s every chance they’ll ping back to where they started before too long. (Fingers firmly crossed. With two toddlers our elastic band is very extended.) But in the meantime, you are going to have some monster blow outs. And, frustratingly, you might have to have them in hushed whispers.
1. Learn how to spell, and quickly. You can’t swear anymore because the kids parrot it back, and if you have to grab a pen to work out what insult is being whispered at you – “Hang on, W-A-N-K…. ohhh..’ – the moment is somewhat lost. However, if it ends in you both giggling at the ridiculousness of the situation, then that’s all to the good.
2. Remember that you need time away from the kids to survive. You’ll fancy each other much more if you make a bit of an effort, go out for dinner, and get a bit squiffy. Be careful though – if you get too friendly you’ll be up the duff again and have more socks to wash. Order something with garlic.
3. Keep your life! Don’t stop seeing your single mates who think it’s a bit gross that you have sick in your hair but love you anyway. Don’t stop hanging out with your mum-mates and exchanging notes (nb, it’s essential that these are non-judgey mum-mates who have a similar appetite for booze to you). I’ve started this blog since becoming a mum. Another mate is training to be a pilates instructor. It’s so very important to have a life outside of your kids. And they’ll grow up knowing you are superhuman for fitting it all in, and strive for the same. And it keeps you sane, which stops you losing it with your partner for all the wrong reasons (in my case, leaving jumpers liberally sprinkled around the house. Annoying, but pick your battles, right?!)
4. Is your partner pulling their weight? It is NOT OK to be on maternity leave and be expected to do all the household chores. It is NOT OK to be both working full time but only one of you ever cooks dinner. My feminist hackles, always poised at the best of times, rise right up when I realise that some of my clever, beautiful friends have married guys who don’t get that a Velcro baby means you can’t have a pee, let alone bake a sponge and mix a martini for his arrival home. That you have to share nursery runs. That parenting works best when everyone plays their part. And that by doing this, you set a fab example for your kids to aspire to when it’s their turn.
5. You are not alone. Every couple is having the same arguments, at the same time, over the same thing. Who gets to go out more, who does the washing, who ate the last Babybel (hang on, that’s the kids). Be kind to one another, because when you whisper to your clever lawyer husband that he needs to use his pea-sized brain to work out how to operate the washing machine, he may not like it. And that’s not going to get the socks washed. (True story. Sorry babe.)