"It felt like breaking up with myself," says Lisa-Jo Baker, describing the challenge of becoming a parent. "Because there are all these things you used to love about yourself and your life without kids—things you didn't even realize were special at the time. Those late-afternoon naps. Those spontaneous movie nights. Uninterrupted meals, sleep, bathroom breaks."
Mom of three and the author of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom, Lisa-Jo continues, "And then the kids arrive and they huff and they puff and they blow your life down. It can be a disorienting experience that takes a while to wrap your head around—how you are breaking up with yourself for someone you love so much more."
The reality of parenting is that along with all the amazing joy, blessing, delight, and soul-deep love can come some heavy tolls: emotional struggles, stress, exhaustion, frustration, and a sense of lost identity. These are serious matters that are tough to grapple with. But these tolls don't just cost us as individuals—they can exact a dangerously high price from our marriages as well.
Time and time again, counselors and family experts report that parenting conflicts are a huge source of marital problems—and time and time again, our experiences bear this out. If you've got kids, then you know this to be true: It doesn't take much for parenting challenges to boil over into relationship struggles.
Completely and utterly drained
For Leslie Burke—mother to a two-year-old and a four-month-old—one of the main parenting struggles that has led to challenges in her marriage has been how transitioning from working full-time in a gratifying job to the often thankless daily tasks of stay-at-home motherhood has affected her own emotions and energy level. "When I worked full-time, I achieved daily goals and made tangible progress on projects. I experienced success," Leslie explains. "But now, as a full-time mom, I struggle daily—trying to get kids to sleep, trying to get them to eat, trying to keep the house in reasonable order."
Leslie's experience is a common one—full-hearted parenting involves a lot of tending, serving, and giving . . . which invariably means it can feel like there's not much left to give to one's husband. "I can easily become short with my husband Pat, inadvertently showing little care or concern for his needs," Leslie candidly shares. "Over a long stretch of time, this really wears on our relationship and it feels like all of our interactions are ungracious or contentious."