What Being a Team With Your Partner Looks Like After Kids

Holding hands

When my husband and I got married, we thought we were a pretty good team. We had been through a lot already: cancer, moving, unemployment, living together. We trusted each other. We loved each other. We figured we could handle anything.

What we didn’t know was that having kids is like jumping out of an airplane wearing a backpack filled with a DIY hang glider kit. Only the ground never gets any closer. Even if you manage to get the thing together and coast (until it inevitably breaks and you have to pull out duct tape), you’re always mid-air. You’re always falling. You are never in control.

And also, you have kids.

It became clear we were out of our depths when our first pregnancy was confirmed. Twins—we hadn’t planned for that. Soon thereafter I developed a condition that left me unable to walk and put my husband in charge of cooking and cleaning—we didn’t have a contingency for that, either. And then the economy collapsed, and we were both out of work.

Despite constant job hunting, the two of us remained out of work nearly the entire first year of our twins’ life. We lived in shifts, me sleeping at night and him during the day. When the babies started sleeping through the night, we were still partners— him heating bottles while I pumped, me nursing while he changed a diaper, me crying while he told me it was “just a bank commercial.” We were seamless.

Then he got a job, I got my degree, and we had another baby.

The thing is, with two toddlers you never have to deal with the hypothetical scenarios we had imagined as dewy-eyed, childless naifs. We argued on occasion about how we would handle hypothetical scenarios like “Daughter Brings Home First Boyfriend,” and, “Kid Walks In On Us During Kinky Sex.” Instead, we had scenarios like, “While I was cooking dinner, the twins covered their sister in so much nail polish that the air is now a biohazard and I need you to keep them in their beds while I take the baby to the hospital.”

We’ve had scenarios like, “One of our kids is having an asthma attack during Easter services and another is stalking the Easter Bunny and ruining every other family’s pictures so pick one crisis and solve it.” And yes, once in a while something as expected and mundane as, “This kid didn’t turn in a single piece of her homework this trimester and we need to come up with an appropriate response.”

Baby with Easter Bunny

But we stopped having hypothetical talks years ago. We trust each other—both to do what is needed and to ask for help when we can’t. And we know better than to plan for imaginary catastrophes. The trust we share now, over a decade into parenting together, isn’t only based on knowing we’ve got each other’s backs when it comes to the kids. It’s knowing that we’re taking care of each other in spite of them, too. We are teaching our children that a relationship looks like two people who want each other to be happy, not just to survive, that it’s okay to need some help to do either. And THAT is teamwork.

Incidentally, that’s also what I say when they walk in on us having kinky sex. But it’s still true. Parenting is all about sharing control, taking care of each other, and knowing it’s safe to trust.

And when you get it right, you fly.

Written By: Lea Grover