Becoming Parents Changed Our Dynamic
Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed about becoming a wife and mother. My parents set the best example of love and wholeness to my young, impressionable eyes. I not only saw their love for one another and us (their children), but I felt it with every fiber in my being. I wanted to give that to someone, my someone, my children, and even the people around me. The impact that my parents had went beyond their household. They impacted the world for many generations to come. I won't say their marriage was perfect because nothing is, but they were perfect for one another, and that is what set the foundation for their marriage. In their 17 years of marriage, my parents brought forth three children; Kenneth, Jr., Christopher, and Christina.
Growing up in the Douglas household set high expectations of what love should be and we have all carried that into adulthood. It wasn't until I was much older, like 20's, when I found out my parents marriage wasn't all warm sunny days, even though we did live in Louisiana lol.
I met my husband in 2012. Like most "old" people, we still can't come to a conclusion of how we ACTUALLY met. According to James, he saw me at a basketball game and he approached me to tell me I had a good game (I don't remember this at all...) A year later he claims saw me working out and again at CC's Coffee. Apparently a few weeks later my Facebook profile popped up in his suggested friends list. This is how I know he is lying! You guys.... Didn't Facebook just come out with that feature? How-be-it-ever, as the old folks say, my memory picks up to the day he sent me a Facebook message saying that he thought I was the most beautiful woman in the world and how he would love the chance to get to know me better. The rest is history. Here we are seven years later, we've been married for four years and have two (yep... twins) beautiful girls!
March 1, 2018 we became parents to the most perfect little babies! I changed and I admit that. My focus shifted to the two beings that needed me for their well-being. James worked out of state at the time and he would come home on the weekends and between jobs. I was so used to taking care of the girls that my wife hat was placed on the top shelf in the closet and my mom hat was on 24/7. "James is a grown man, he can fend for himself!" I thought. This way of thinking helped me survive the first year of motherhood but it did the exact opposite to our marriage. Looking back, I now see how I placed my husband on the back burner. During the day I was SSgt Douglas-Williams and at night I was chef, maid and mom. I had no time nor energy to give to anything or anyone else and it showed. We struggled. Everything that made us “us” had slowly disappeared. We lost communication, intimacy, connection and everything in between. I asked James what the first year was like for him and this is what he had to say:
*throws head back*
It felt like I was living on another planet. Becoming a parent was stressful. Knowing that you now have two innocent lives to care and provide for. When you go to work, its simple. You're trained for the job. You have instruction manuals, tutorials, mentors... Being a parent isn't like that. I was constantly worried about how I was going provide the best life for my family. When it came to our marriage, I wasn't prepared and didn't understand the toll kids would have on my wife. But who would prepare a man for this? Who's responsibility is it to teach us these things? I didn't understand what my wife went through physically and emotionally and it was exhausting trying to figure it out sometimes.
Becoming parents changed our dynamic and we are stronger because of it. We are different people now. We were attempting to connect with the childless Tina and James and those people simply didn't exist anymore. We had to take a step back and learn one another again. Here are a few notes that I've gathered through my journey in marriage and parenthood.
1. You are not the same person you were before you had children and that is okay! As a matter of fact, it's perfectly normal. Take some time out and get to learn who you are. You are more than just a mother, father, wife or husband.
2. DATE! DATE!! DATE!!! In the words of the young folks these days, "Keep that same energy, boo!" The same energy you put into the relationship in the beginning, its time to start that again. Dating was the hardest thing for me. When we had free time, I wanted to sleep! I started doing things like taking off of work and sending the children to daycare to have "day dates" with James. This really gave us the time we needed to reconnect. We did things like play NBA 2K together, went to nice places to eat, went to the movies or just relaxed together. Dating isn't over rated, its necessary.
3. Those assessments test work. Take them! I love assessments like The Five Love Languages. When you're figuring out who you are, it can be a bit difficult to find what you like. You may go to war you are familiar with but is that what you are desiring now? Taking assessments like these help you pin point where you are now. Maybe last year your love language was gifts but today it can be acts of service. After having the twins, my love language changed to acts of service. You love me? Show me... by folding that laundry bae!
4. It's okay to not be okay and reach out for help. At one point I felt likeI was going insane. I went to counseling and guess what the therapist told me? What I was feeling was 100% normal and she gave me some ways to help cope with the anxiety and stress I was feeling.
I spoke with my mom, Avis, about writing this and got a bit of what she thought about the topic.
Q: How do you feel having children changed your relationship dynamic?
A: My focus shifted from my husband to the children. All of my energy went to the needs of the children and I also had to figure out how to maintaining being a wife, working mom and balancing ministry which I thought took priority. We struggled financially and having children didn't help that at all but we made it work.
Q: What do you think kept your marriage strong?
A: Belief in God, resilience and teamwork. We had to work together every day whether it was taking care of the kids, helping around the house, at church or even in our business. We would not have made it if we weren't "One Flesh". We also had to take time for one another. We would drop the kids off with our parents and do a weekend getaway. This was our way to recharge and we were better because of it. We were better individuals, we were better spouses and we were better parents.
Q. What were some ways you were able to unwind with the family at home and recenter?
A: We didn't have a lot of money but we never let the kids see that. We didn't have the money to bring three kids to waterparks and amusement parks so we bought a pool and put it in the backyard. The fun and exciting things about vacationing, we made the experience at home.
Q: What advice do you have for first time parents?
A: Make time for you! You are no good to the people around you unless you are good to yourself first.
Make time for your spouse/significant other. Take the time to get to know one another, treat one another and love one another.
My father passed in 2002 but the love he and my mother shared will live on forever through their children.