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When I was pregnant, I had so many ideas of what motherhood would look like. I was scared of the responsibility and scared I wouldn’t measure up, and I was scared of what effect a baby would have on our marriage.
So I watched.
I watched everyone around me who had kids. I wanted to see what I thought worked and what didn’t, and as a result, I had a running list in my head of the things I did and didn’t want to do.
I’m not going to lie – there was a lot of super off-base ideas. Like the idea that I’d never use chocolate to bribe my kid to behave? Or that I’d never let him eat junk food or sleep in our bed? Or that I’d use cloth diapers until he was potty trained? They’re all things that totally didn’t pan out.
But some of the bigger ones, the ones that had to do with the relationship between myself and my husband and myself and my child? Those were pretty accurate.
I posted before about a bulletproof law enforcement marriage – but how can you babyproof your law enforcement marriage?
5 Elements of a Babyproof Law Enforcement Marriage
“It’s your turn.”
There’s something about that phrase that always turned me off. I mean, I get it. I remember looking at my husband in the middle of the night with his clean sheets, snoozing peacefully, while I had milk and spit-up all over my side of the bed and a grumpy baby who would only sleep while being held. Times like that, I definitely thought, “it is your freaking turn.”
The thing is, it’s not about turns. Once there’s a kid in the mix, there’s honestly more to do than can be done by two people. So even if you’re both putting in 100%, it’s not going to be enough. Both of you are going to feel annoyed, overwhelmed, and occasionally resentful of one another, and it’s totally, completely normal.
What that means is, rather than focusing on trying to make things fair, you just have to put your head down and work. That’s not to say you shouldn’t communicate feelings of annoyance or resentment – that’s not true at all. But you might be surprised how many times you complain to your spouse about something and they complain about the exact same thing.
There have been countless times I’ve come to my husband and said, “I can’t do it anymore! I’m so overwhelmed and I need help.” And he’d say he felt the same, just a little different.
I mean, I feel jealous of the fact that he gets “alone time” (even if it’s just driving in the car) – but he gets jealous that I can sometimes nap in the middle of the day. Both our roles have perks and drawbacks, but neither one is “easier.”
The key here is to focus on being a team. You’re in this parenting game together, even if you have different roles. Talk to one another, help each other out, and appreciate the sacrifices you each make. Make sure to say thank you often.
And remember that it’s all a season. If you’re in the newborn stage and wondering when you’ll ever sleep (or consistently shower) again, it’s normal. It doesn’t last forever. It will pass.
The “little kid” phase of life is a season, too. Sometimes it feels like there’s just not enough of you to go around, and that’s okay.
It’s tough, but by focusing on coming together as a team, you can make your marriage stronger than ever.
A Sense of Humor
Story time: I was dying to get a workout in the other day. I’m starting a new at-home program and was itching to get to it. I assumed my son would be entertained enough if we both went outside and I streamed the video out there, especially because it’s only a 25 minute video.
About halfway through, I saw him sneak inside. I could see him through the window playing at the dinner table and I just assumed he was playing with his trains, so I didn’t bug him.
When I got inside, I discovered what he was actually doing was “painting” with the butter using my paint brushes he’d stolen from the counter.
In situations like this, if I can’t figure out a way to laugh, I’d be crying instead. Which totally happens – but I try really hard to find the humor in it.
Some days, parenting is just ridiculously hard. Whether it’s messes like this, or sleep issues, or tantrums, it just ain’t easy. But if you can find the humor in the situation? It’s much easier.
If you can have a sense of humor and help yourself not get so worked up about the stresses of parenthood, you’ll have a lot more energy for your marriage.
An Outside Support System
I’m very much an introvert. I love my alone time, which is well-suited to life as a police wife, but the downside of that is I find it really hard to make friends. Especially because I loathe small talk – so getting over the initial awkward hurdle in friendships is a trial for me.
But as a mom, I’ve really had to get over that. Since my husband isn’t reliably there, an outside support system is absolutely necessary.
The thing is, parenting is really hard. Oh my gosh, so hard sometimes.
If you have someone who you can talk to, who can commiserate with what you’re going through, who cares? It makes the tough things a lot easier to cope with.
Note that this doesn’t just include friends and family. We live in a time where there’s an expert in everything, so if there’s a particular area you’re struggling with, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
We actually hired a sleep consultant this week and it’s amazing. And much cheaper than therapy for myself, so there’s that.
Sense of Perspective
There is so much information out there on how to be the perfect parent. What you should say, what you shouldn’t say, how you should say it, what you should do or shouldn’t do, how to feed your kids, how to get them to sleep… For every parenting choice you can make, you’ll find a ton of people for it and a ton of people against it (and boy, people are loud on both sides.)
With all that noise, it’s not surprising we’re anxious about how we’re doing as parents. It seems like one misstep and your kids are ruined for life.
Thankfully, that’s totally not the case.
Kids can be raised a multitude of ways and be just fine.
This is one perk of being a police family: you have a constant reminder of who the bad parents actually are. They’re not the parents who occasionally yell at their kids, or feed them McDonalds, or (heaven forbid) formula feed. They’re the parents who beat their kids, humiliate their kids, or neglect them in favor of drugs/alcohol/any number of vices.
Don’t ever forget this perspective. Keep that in mind every time you feel the urge to be down on yourself as a parent, because if you’re worried you’re not good enough, chances are you’re probably doing just fine.
That’s not to say you should never seek to improve as a parent – but it’s important to remember you’re probably not doing as terrible a job as you think you are 🙂
Children require an enormous amount of patience. I mean, a ridiculous amount of patience. Inhuman patience.
Like the other day, when bedtime took 2 hours? And my husband came home and I was in tears, telling him it’s his turn? (Hey, nobody’s perfect.)
But I’m not necessarily talking about that kind of patience (even though it’s important.) I’m talking about patience with one another.
As I said, kids can be raised in so many different ways and be totally fine. That’s true of different parenting styles in each parent as well.
I’m going to throw out there this is possibly most important for you as a mom. Because most baby duties will probably fall on you, you’re going to get the feeling you’re the only one who knows how to do things “right”. It’s normal – but make sure you give your husband the opportunity to learn and grow as a parent.
While it’s good to give him a heads-up on new developmental stages and likes/dislikes, don’t nitpick every single thing he does. I’m saying this because it’s really hard sometimes to bite your tongue, but if you’re constantly pointing out the things he does wrong, he’s going to lose confidence.
Instead, let him make mistakes. Let him develop his own parenting style in his own way.
I promise, as your kids get older it’ll very much come in handy. They’re going to appreciate you and their father in completely different ways, which is a good thing.
I’m not going to lie – the baby stage is hard. But done right, it can be an edifying, strengthening time for your marriage.
Veteran LEO moms: What advice would you give new moms on “babyproofing” their marriage?