x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

My mantra for parenting: be cool with change

With parenthood comes change, and not even a loving marriage is exempt.

If you're not comfortable with change, then please, please, reconsider becoming a parent. There are quite a few well-deserving words that can be used to describe parenting - everything from "rewarding" and "magical" to "overwhelming" and "roller coaster" are spot on - but if you asked me to choose four words to describe what this parenting journey feels like? "Be cool with change;" everything from your body to your interests to your lifestyle to your friends to your very beliefs will undergo a major overhaul.

One thing that hasn?t escaped all this change? Our marriage. Since we?ve become parents, both Mr T and I agree that our relationship is not what it was; not in a terrible way, nothing is disintegrating and love is not diminishing. But it?s so much more hard work because life has become so much busier and a third person, one who happens to be quite demanding, has entered the equation. When once our marriage used to take care of itself, we now find ourselves pushing our relationship to the wayside because there are so many more pressing issues to deal with: exhaustion; lack of sleep; attempting to cook more and make healthier choices so we're better role models; juggling work with parenting; getting Baby A to eat, sleep, bathe, interact, take a first step, say "moo" when we point at a cow, and so on. And where once we could do something about it whenever we?d feel ourselves drifting apart and in need of some quality time together, now we just say: "One day, when she sleeps, maybe we can stay up and talk about our dreams for our future? It's a date."

And that's the catch - there?s not much time for the daily maintenance required to keep any relationship tended to, well-oiled, healthy and thriving.

The big things may be taken care of - we love each other, we support each other, we are a united front and equally involved in our daughter?s upbringing, we are each other?s best friend and truly believe we can't live without one another - but if there?s anything I?ve learnt in almost four years of marriage, it?s this: the little things count just as much as those big ones - sometimes even more so. Offering a smile when your eyes meet, reaching out for a spontaneous hug for no reason, leaving a considerate "have a great day" note to brighten up a morning that was preceded by a night of pacing with baby, choosing to laugh when baby spits up for the umpteenth time on a newly ironed shirt instead of lashing out and snapping; those are the gestures, seemingly insignificant, that help keep a relationship solid when the daily maintenance is put on hold for a while.

I'm so caught up with Baby A that it's easy to forget to acknowledge Mr T, or give him a fraction of the attention I bestow on Her Dictatorship. Mr T, on the other hand, still finds time to buy me my favourite vanilla yogurt as soon as it runs out and put a glass of water at my bedside table every evening so I have something to drink when I?m parched from nursing in the middle of the night.

He makes me look bad, that guy. But here?s my saving grace: I'm willing to change.hkhalaf@thenational.ae

Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor at The National