I remember the excitement of expecting our baby. Naturally we were a little nervous since it’s our first time, but generally speaking we were both thrilled about becoming parents.
Now, being a dad to a 10 month old little girl, I can say that overall it has been very rewarding experience. It has also been surprisingly challenging and has affected different areas of my life in unexpected ways.
It has been one of the biggest catalyst of growth in my adulthood. Because of it I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my wife, and about my priorities in life. It’s been in those lessons that saved my marriage.
According to the Gottman Institute more than two thirds of couples experience decline in marital satisfaction. I certainly can relate to this because it hasn’t been a joyride all the way.
I will share the two realizations that I had that served as wake-up calls and pushed me to take action. If you’re a new dad and have felt similar emotions, I have a link to a bonus worksheet in the end. It helps you get an idea where you’re at right now and gives directions what to work on.
What’s so stressful about parenthood?
For me, there hasn’t been any single major shifts that have been hard to accept. It’s the everyday grind that’s tolling. All the little changes that wouldn’t make much difference if they were just on their own. But they’re not.
My wife’s sleep deprived and emotionally drained, we don’t have the time for each other that we had before the baby, our sex life is sporadic at best and non-existent at worst, the amount of chores has almost doubled, and then the financial pressures – feeding an extra mouth with one less income. These are just a few things that we’ve been juggling with.
Needless to say, patience can run short in our household.
These everyday things just kept adding up to the point where “all of a sudden” I felt stressed out.
Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been all bad. We have had some wonderful times.
On good days it is a bliss and truthfully I wouldn’t change being a dad for anything. On other days it’s a different story.
The Self-Awareness that saved my marriage
I had sensed that things are not right for quite some time, but I didn’t want to face the reality. Ignorance is a bliss, right?
I was stuck in the everyday life and was drifting in a wrong direction.
It took two separate occasions to finally understand that the situation won’t change for the better before I will. I had to take action and gain back the control over my life.
Wake-up call #1 – my poor physical health
Ever since my wife became pregnant, the focus was on her.
I pampered her and took care of her. I also used that as an excuse not to take care of myself and picked up a bad habit or two. I gained about 20-25 pounds and I hated it. In a way I also detested myself and my laziness.
I ignored the extra weight for a long time, thinking that it’s temporary. Until this one time when I couldn’t any more.
I had just come out of the shower and I looked at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t get my eyes off of my …. love handles!?! I couldn’t believe my eyes!
“Have I had these for a long time,” I asked my wife and she replied: “Pretty much since the birth of our child”.
Talk about wake-up call!
I had to act. I started getting up an hour before the wife and the baby, and use that time to work out 4-5 times a week.
Working out was so much more fun when I was in (a better) shape.
I can’t say I’m a new person after starting working out. However, building good habits breeds self-confidence.
I’ve also been more involved at home (with chores) and I have more patience. My relationships with other people tend to be better when I’m in good terms with myself.
Wake-up call #2 – I was hurting my loved ones
When our baby was born, it was a big deal for me. I took a month off to stay home with my wife and we all enjoyed that time.
Few months after I had returned to work, I had very demanding period. I was working overseas for five months and was putting in 65-80+ hours a week.
My wife and the baby joined me overseas after one month. It was still challenging – I was stressed out from work and she was exhausted from taking care of the baby (alone) 24/7.
I never forget that one night when returning home after our daughter’s bedtime once again. My wife was about to fall as sleep too. I walked in the bedroom after taking a shower. I turned the lights off, cuddled up beside her and then she dropped the bomb.
“I can’t wait for this period to end, so I can get my husband back,” she said in a calculated and calm way.
That stung! I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Long story short, we had discussed me taking time off before. I managed to tie up all the loose ends at work in couple of months and quit my job. We have enough savings for a year or two and I wanted to be with my family.
Did I become the perfect dad or a husband over night? I did not! I was surprised that not that much changed. I have more time at home but it’s still a grind.
I realized how much work I still have to do. I recognized what’s missing in my life and now I was ready to put in the effort.
It hasn’t been all roses and unicorns after I quit my job. We still battle with these changes above, but lately things have been moving in a better direction for sure.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic pill. This is life and it can get complicated sometimes.
All I know that it takes effort to make your relationships work. For me it started with the man in the mirror. It started with me recognizing the deficiencies in my life.
I’ve never been interested in being a perfect spouse or a dad. If you were to ask my wife, she’ll let you know that I’m far from it.
However, what I do care about is being a better husband today than I was yesterday. And being a better dad to my precious little girl this week than I was last week.
Even when things are tough, everything’s lot more fun and enjoyable when I feel that I’m growing. And believe me, being a dad offers plenty of opportunities to grow.
If you have had days when you think that being a dad has got the best of you, I have a bonus worksheet for you.
Going through the questions (in the worksheet) helps you assess different areas in your life. Self-awareness is a good starting point to self-improvement. Access the worksheet here.
Hope you enjoyed Tanel’s article on “Two Wake Up Calls that Saved My Marriage.” If you enjoyed this article please pass it on to someone who truly care about.
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Check out this free resource on: CONNECTION WITH YOUR KIDS
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