Raise your hand…

Raise your hand if you had two parents in the home.  Keep your hand up if the parents you saw were happy, affectionate, and their relationship was one you’d want to model.  We’re not together right now, dear reader, but I can guess that not many people have their hand up.

The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Your Kids in a Two-Parent Home

Not many of us have ever seen a happy two-parent home modeled for us.  Like, ever.  And there’s a very good chance that this is the number one reason, the deep down core reason, why your marriage is struggling right now.  It’s simply because you don’t know how to “do” marriage.

Someone taught you to ride a bike.  Someone taught you how to make scrambled eggs.  Someone taught you to do most of the things you do successfully.  Or you learned yourself.  So, if no one ever taught you how to do marriage and/or raise your kids with two parents in the home, then this blog post will provide you with the beginner’s guide to creating a happy two-parent home using expert tips and techniques so that you and your children live in an environment that is safe and emotionally fulfilling.  

We all want what is best for our children.  We just don’t always know how to give them the best.  If you’re like me and my husband, you never even saw it.

I had never seen positive resolution, or parental intimacy, or mutual respect.  Those are in the 30 minute sitcoms I used to watch on Friday nights.

So how can I replicate something that has only existed for me in fiction?

It takes hard work.  A lot of stinking work.

An Actual Conversation With My Husband While Shopping

This was the first time I realized how screwed up my blueprint was.  My husband and I had gone shopping while I was pregnant trying to pick out THE PERFECT stuffed animal for her first toy.  We stood in the aisle at Buy Buy Baby for about an hour, picking up each stuffed animal together.

“How about this giraffe?”

“What?  No!  That giraffe will give her nightmares.  Look at those evil eyes!”

“What about this little lamb, it looks sweet.”

“Sweet?  Sweet enough to eat and now look at those beady plastic eyes!  She could pick them off and put it in her mouth and choke on it!”

It went on and on like this until we finally found the perfect teddy bear.

The Blueprint Was All Screwed Up

A couple months later, our daughter is finally born and I present the stuffed animal.  “Look!” I say, “This is a gift from Mommy!”  As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized how wrong that was.  It’s not just “from Mommy”; it’s from Mommy and Daddy.

In all my 36 years, I never heard that.  Things were always just “from Mommy”.

With every gift I presented to my daughter in the months that followed, I would always default to “from Mommy.”  Which wasn’t fair to my husband.  We were both contributing- intellectually and financially- to these gifts.

That’s when it became clear for me: I needed to change the way I spoke to my daughter about her life, her home, and her father- and to do that- I had to change the way I thought about my life, my home, and my partner.  My blueprint was all screwed up.

When I started talking to my village of other moms, I saw how many of them were struggling with their marriage and creating and keeping the happy two-parent home that they imagined they would give their children.  This information needed to be shared.  I saw my marriage improving and wanted to share it with others.

What is a Happy Two-Parent Home?

Whether it’s Mommy and Mommy, Daddy and Daddy, or Mommy and Daddy- a happy two-parent home can exist.  Even if you never saw it- you can create it.

A happy two-parent home doesn’t mean that you’re married or that you’re hetero-normative.  What it means is, there are two parents both committed to making this whole domesticity thing work.  Not just “for the kids”, but for yourselves.

Because two heads, and two hearts, are better than one.  Please note: this does not mean that your life is perfect and it does not mean that you don’t fight.

Happiness is pretty vague and it looks different for different families.  Children complicate that even more.  But research tells us this: across community types in the United States, at least two-thirds of children live with married parents.  That’s not even the numbers of children living with two unmarried parents.  Statistics are telling us that people are making a commitment to staying together.  It’s just that so many of us don’t know how.

How To Get Started Creating a Happy Two-Parent Home

1. Announce your commitment to making things work and making things better.

2. Both of you.  Out loud is best.

3. Commit yourselves to changing your blueprints- how you speak, how you argue, how you love.

Tips for Success in Creating a Happy Two-Parent Home

The road ahead is rocky.  Here’s what you can do to ensure you successfully work towards that happy two-parent home, especially during the toughest, most trying moments:

  • Love each other really hard
  • As my therapist tells us, “You can’t both lose your shit at the same time.”  Only one person can go bat-shit crazy or have an extreme meltdown at a time.  Take turns.
  • Give everything you can.  And when you think you can’t give anymore- give some more.

Common Questions About Happy Marriages and happy two-parent homes

  • Question 1: If it’s true love, you shouldn’t have to work so hard for it, right?

    • I heard this when I was younger, probably in a movie or something, and it made sense to me.  If it’s meant to be, or if it’s true love, or if we’re soulmates, then it shouldn’t be so hard.  Right?  I completely disagree.
    • In law school, one of my favorite professors reminded all 1L students of this awesome quote from “A League of Their Own”: IT’S THE HARD THAT MAKES IT GREAT!  If it was easy, anyone and everyone would have it, right?  Then why are so many people miserable?  Because it’s hard work.
  • Question 2: Does that mean we shouldn’t fight?

    • That get’s a big “nope” as well.  Fighting is inevitable.  Conflict is inevitable.  It’s how you approach, work through, and resolve conflict that matters.
    • Conflict resolution is what separates the good marriages from the failed marriages.
  • Question 3: If we’re raising our kids “together” does that mean I shouldn’t have one-on-one time with my child(ren)?

    • This is another big “nope”.  Two-parent households still find a way for each parent to have their own special connection with their kids.
    • In our house, my husband combines his love of football with the fact that we have a very physical, active toddler.  They play “tackle” every night before bed.  This isn’t something I would normally do, and I tried to stop it at first, but this is THEIR thing.
  • Question 4: What about the sex?

    • “What about the sex?!?!!” I answer defensively.
    • Oh, that it’s hard to stay connected, attracted, alert, attentive, energetic, etc.
    • Figure out what turns you on.  Do you know?  Find out.
    • Then make sure your partner does that.  A lot.
    • Make sex part of your communication language and style.
    • Are you 0% flirty and 60% sarcastic and 40% frustrated?  Change that.
  • Question 5: How do you make time to work on your marriage?

    • Dishes aren’t sexy, chores aren’t sexy.  Planning sex and intimacy isn’t sexy.  But if you can make time to play that game on your phone, or scroll through Instagram, you can find time to connect with your partner.
    • Remember those articles about 5 years ago about giving up your $5 Starbucks latte each day and how by the end of the year, you’d save thousands of dollars?  This is like that.
    • Except, instead of giving up a latte, you’re giving in to time.  Send a flirty text.  Make plans for lunch.  Have a conversation at night instead of staring at the TV together.  And snuggle in bed.
  • Question 6: If  we can’t ever get in sync, how do we both stay committed to this?

    • This is the hardest part.  You have to both be willing to give whatever you have to have a happy two-parent home.
    • I am reminded here of the 80/20 rule.  My sister, a love expert in her own right, taught me about this rule right before I got married.  The idea is that each partner is always giving as much as they can.  In reality, there will be times when one partner is giving 80 and the other can only give 20.  If you’re always trying to give 100%, then it works out.  You compensate for one another.  If you’re both only giving 20%, then that is not the recipe for a happy two-parent home.
    • You give as much as you can give and then when you think you can’t give anymore, give some more.  It’s like when you’re on the treadmill and you tell yourself you’re only going to do one mile.  And then you hit the one mile mark and you push yourself to keep going just a little bit further.
    • Some call this growing together instead of growing apart.  Staying on the same page.  Remember what brought you to the marriage.  Nicholas Cage movie quotes and Taco Tuesdays?  Okay.  Then find time to watch “Face-Off” and make some margs at home.
    • Stay committed to saying “I do” every day and starting each day with commitment and love.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about a Happy Two-Parent Home

  • If your marriage is unhappy because of verbal, physical, mental, sexual abuse- forget the above advice.  This information is for repairing and healing marriages that have lost their spark, but do not cause harm.
  • The hard is what makes it great.
  • You can create what you’ve only seen in fiction- and it can become your reality.