Once you have children, the way that you define yourself changes. While you likely have several characteristics that you could use to describe yourself, the one that you most likely name first or feel is the most defining is, parent. If you first and foremost describe yourself as a parent, you are probably a very loving, selfless, and dedicated mother or father.
Something to be aware of though, is that you might forget who you as a couple. A very common situation is that you as a wife or a husband turn into solely a mother or father, and with all that life throws at you, you accidentally abandon the Mr. & Mrs. part - still two very important titles. Keeping your "coupledom" alive is extremely difficult, but it does not have to disappear or take away from your success as a parent.
Your role as a mom or dad is not the same as your role as a wife or husband. The definition of husband and wife is not "the father and mother" of your kids." Although watching each other act as a wonderful parent is an incredible turn on and a fantastic quality to embrace, it is not only each other's talent, personality trait, desire, and so on. There is much more to who you both are, and being there for the other parts of each other is also essential.
You fell in love with each other and wanted to create a family for a likely long list of reasons. You are a couple, not just two people coexisting in a home and taking care of the same children. Couples date. Couples talk about their feelings, their fears, their hopes, and dreams. Couples have fun. Couples go through hard times. Couples do things that make their partners happy and themselves as a unit happy.
As a couple, you are the foundation of the house that you built. Your kids will eventually grow up and leave the nest. Very often when the nest is empty couples don't even know each other anymore. Their identity as parents has diminished and they realize they lost their identity as a couple. A couple needs to keep the foundation strong while the kids are still young in order for the house to remain home. How do you do this?
Act as if you were still dating. You didn't take each other for granted. You dressed to impressed. You put your best selves out there and brought out the best in each other. You focused on each other's strengths, not weaknesses. You said and did things to make each other feel special. You spent quality time together. He brought you flowers. You cooked his favorite meal and had dinner by candlelight. You appreciated each other. You were passionate and wanted to jump each other's bones!
Of course, all of the aforementioned is so much easier when you don't have kids and are not overwhelmed with work and parental responsibilities. But it essential that you bring the "sexy" back into your marriage. Make your marriage a priority and put each other on your "to do" list. You may even take that literally...if you know what I mean!!
It is important to be understanding of your partner's roles...all of them. Different roles require different wants and needs, and you both have every right to satisfy these even if they are not centered around your children.
This does not mean that you should neglect your children in any way, it just means that you are more than just a parent and you are allowed to be cared for - you as a man or woman, you as a husband or a wife, you as half of a couple. It is likely that the happier you are in all of these roles, the happier you will be as a parent, and the happier your children will be.
If you are having difficulty connecting as a couple we are always here to help.
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW
Modern Family Counseling