Being a parent is one of the most joyful and stressful roles we will play in our lifetime. It can be exhausting and often overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like a thankless job. But it is also the purest source of joy, fulfilling, and rewarding in so many other ways. Well, isn’t that the greatest enigma of all time?
Once just two people in a relationship daydreaming of that family unit they want to build, many parents forget that with a family comes change. A lot of change. Although that change is a wonderful, life-altering, beautiful change, it can also be hard on the parents’ relationship. Date nights are not as easy, time is shared, and spontaneousness is nonexistent in our micro-scheduled lives. Finding love in the small moments is so helpful in keeping the spark alive with your partner in parenting.
Celebrating the Little Moments
In a 2015 article, multiple psychology professors discussed the importance of celebrating the little moments with our partners. It can help build that relationship and model healthy relationships in our families. They called it ‘relational saving.’ It’s the idea that saving little interpersonal relationship moments will help positive emotions and memories be established with our partner.
It seems as though, before parenthood, we as couples used to celebrate everyday things and have big moments of joy with each other. The celebrations were daily, whether it was a lunch date, a sweet text message, or a mini weekend getaway. Once becoming parents, those celebrations tend to become more of life milestones and not the daily joys. There is this hyper-focus on birthday parties, holidays, and child milestones. We tend to forget the everyday joys, the daily celebrations, or even how to let the other parent know we love them.
The thought is it is unspoken. Of course, we love them, and they know that. Dr. Daniela Montalto, psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health speaks in New York City, to how small moments of love serve a practical purpose. “They re-energize us throughout the day, if we pause and let them, they help us continue with this mission of raising happy, healthy kids.”
How Can We Find Love in the Little Moments?
So how can we find love in the little moments in parenting? Here are three things to keep in mind and actively try to do daily so that those little love moments do not pass you by!
Notice the Small Moments
It sounds simple to notice that something exists or happened, right? But, in our crazy world of parenting, so much happens that we skip right over it. Take a beat and notice it.
For example, tonight, at dinner in the midst of cooking for the family, there were so many other things going on around me. I was monitoring the baby who was going through the pots and pans, answering the toddler’s 110 questions about what we are having for dinner, setting the table, helping feed the baby, and debriefing my husband on our day. After cleaning spilled milk for the tenth time, we rushed out the door for baseball practice. I was exhausted, ready for bedtime, and felt like I had done it all.
However, if I had taken a beat and just sat in silence, I would have noticed the hug and kiss I got when my husband walked in the door from his long day at work. Or that he filled my cup of water fresh for dinner. And how he encouraged my toddler to eat his broccoli by eating his (even though he dislikes it himself). I would have seen how he listened intently to my day’s debriefing and offered to help with the different tasks.
Sometimes noticing this after the fact will not be valuable in that instance. But it will help you notice the next time and feel the love in that little moment of the dinner rush.
Appreciate the Little Moments Like They are Big Moments
Parenting is a lot different than those non-parenting days in your relationship. Those little moments are the big moments now, so celebrate them and enjoy them. Make a mental note, pause, and let it in. But also do not forget to remark on it.
Saying something out loud to acknowledge that you recognize it to your partner will help build your relationship and bring self-awareness to something they may not even have realized they do. It will also show your children your appreciation and the love you both share for each other.
Capture the Small Moments
We capture and save all the small moments in our lives before parenthood. As parents, we do the same for our children. Let’s try to capture those small love moments with our partner. Saving them and showcasing them will help us remember and feel loved over and over again. Some ways you can do this in everyday moments are:
Keep a Journal
Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal is associated with a more positive outlook, higher levels of happiness, and even better health. Jotting down the happy moments you shared with your partner day-to-day is a version of this—even if it’s just one sentence a day. You can do this individually or as a couple to make you genuinely notice, appreciate, and save the little moments of love.
Write a Note
A classic way of telling someone you love them is by writing a love letter. These days a love text may be all you need. There is just something to be said for not only feeling but reading that love on a page or screen!
Create a Date Night
Sit down and pick up a weekly night that works for both of you and won’t be pushed off in our busy parenting lives. Date nights do not need to be a fancy night out on the town. Maybe it’s just a meal with the two of you, a chill night on the porch, or a movie night! No matter what you do, it can be a night to celebrate you as parents. A night to have many small love moments!
Love is more in the little moments than ever in parenting. It is just taking a minute to find them, take them in, and share them that is hard to come by.
Recently, there has been a self-care initiative for mothers in parenting: the idea that self-care is essential for their mental health and the general well-being of themselves and their families. This initiative is important, and I am so glad the message is being heard.
But, here is something to think about. Self-care is also taking care of our relationships. That bond we share with our partner as a parent is the most critical bond in a family. It is the pillar of all family strength, it is the model for our children, and it is what made us want to start a family and be parents in the first place. So along with self-care, relationship care is equally as important. If we work to find love in the little moments, that love will carry us through this wild journey of parenthood together.