Spoiler alert: Kids change everything about marriage, especially the way couples communicate about everything from date nights to sex. Mark and Katyna Knapton know this. The couple has three kids ages six, five, and two and when they first became parents, it took them awhile to adapt to the new way of life. But Mark and Kayla (he works for substations and nuclear power plants; she home schools the kids and runs an online business) worked through it with day dates, constant text communication, and, well, locking the bedroom door. Here, they talk about the challenges of pregnancy, how they unwind, and what keeps their relationship alive as parents.
Katyna: The physical challenges of pregnancy definitely changed from our first pregnancy to the last one. With our first pregnancy, the morning sickness was a lot. It happened quite often, and I had to go on bedrest for a bit right before our daughter was born. Our second kid was a little bit easier. We didn’t have any major difficulties at all. But my pregnancy with our last was a lot more challenging than my first daughter. The morning sickness lasted a lot longer than it did with my daughter. I don’t know if it was because of the hormones, since he’s a boy and not a girl. I was always tired. I didn’t want to do a whole lot. I was eating constantly, but not feeling full. I’d be like, okay, I’m full, but my mind was still telling me I wanted food but I couldn’t eat anymore.
Katyna: All of our kids are pretty easy. They’re — what’s the word? They’re okay to —
Mark: They’re easily manageable.
K: They’re fine to do things on their own. They don’t constantly need us.
K: With our first daughter, those first few months were really tough. We didn’t really know what to expect. We didn’t think that we weren’t going to sleep well and wake up so often. My daughter had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. What helped us is that my mom, for each pregnancy, would come and stay with us for a couple of months until we got the hang of it. By the third one, we were fine. We were still losing sleep, but we knew it was coming. It was more manageable.
M: I think we’re pretty open with what we need from each other. We communicate pretty well.
K: Yeah, he texts me frequently throughout the day.
M: We text. We’ll talk. We make sure that the kids have a bedtime. They get to bed on time so that we can have the time to sit, and watch a movie. or talk about whatever it is that needs to be talked about.
K: Communication was rough in the beginning with our first daughter. Mark didn’t really get paternity leave — it was just like the one day off and that was it. So I stayed home alone and didn’t know what to do and I’d text him. He was working, and his job at the time involved a lot of driving. He didn’t really respond quickly enough. But as the year went by, he switched careers where he could text or leave work if he needed to help me. That was really helpful.
M: I think we just came to a point with our communication skills where we were like, ‘Look. we don’t have time together, ever, for just the two of us.’ So we started forcing it. We’re doing what we call day-dates. So, at the end of the day, we have 10-15 minutes where we talk about managing the house, or whatever logistics we really need to talk about. We do it as a ‘day date.’ That way, when we have our actual date night, we’re not talking about the bills and school and what we need to take care of. Our date nights are actually a date night – not, “Let’s hurry up and vomit all this chaos out so we can take care of it because this is all the time we have.”
K: Yeah. That makes it so we have more time to focus on us, and we try to do a lot of things together, without the kids and with the kids. We do go on dates where we still have the kids with us, but we focus more on ourselves. For example, we’ll go on a hike. The kids are entertained with the hike and Mark and I have grown up discussions.
K: We go out on our own to connect emotionally and romantically. The nice thing is that my mom now lives with us. So we have a free babysitter. Mark’s company provides baseball tickets, so we go to baseball games and take advantage of that and we invite friends to go with us, because he’d get extra tickets. So we have that time to stay up later than usual, and we don’t have to worry about a babysitter and paying for them and all that stuff. It gives us peace of mind, too, because it’s family and not a babysitter. In general, we go on dinner dates. Mark doesn’t really like to dance all that much.
M: I’ve got two left feet. I’m not much of a dancer.
M: We try to go on a date at least every other week. We just try to do something.
K: If we’re going to do something really fancy, we do that once every two months or so. If we have the extra income.
M: The dates help me recharge. I go to work and sit at my desk all day, I’m talking to guys, trying to get everything situated for whatever it is I’m working on. She’s at home all day managing the business, the kids, and homeschooling. We both get drained and we don’t get to have quality time throughout the day. So when we get to go out and be by ourselves, it’s so rejuvenating to see Katyna smile and see her happy. It’s very uplifting.
M: [Laughs] In terms of physical intimacy, there’s a lock on the door.
K: We did the love languages thing. For Mark, physical touch was his top love language, while for me, it was at the bottom. So we try to compromise. With the kids, we can be quiet, it’s possible, but at the end of the day — especially when the kids were babies — I’d have to hold this baby for pretty much the whole day. So, towards the end of the day, I’d be like, I do not want to be touched. I just want to relax. But we just try to compromise. I think after our first kid, Mark understood like, there are ‘baby months’ and those are tough. But it gets easier as the kids get older.
M: The ‘baby months’ are the time to back off.
K: But yeah, with the kids, sometimes we say: “Okay, mommy and daddy are going to take a nap in the bedroom. Don’t come into the room unless it’s an emergency.” [Laughs]