Young Parents: Balancing Marriage, Romance And Young Children

By Ashley White
Photography by Jacinda Davis 

Kelley and Nikki, married for 9 years, with two children: Oliver, 2½, and Fiona, 6 months

Kelley and Nikki Erickson might be as “opposite” as couples come: She’s a theater-loving, outgoing free spirit who would hop on a plane to Australia next week if she could. He’s more on the quiet, conservative side and enjoys spending time closer to home.

But despite their strikingly different personalities, there are two things they agree on completely: their love for each other, and their love for their children.

Two and a half years ago, Kelley and Nikki became first-time parents to a son, Oliver — or Ollie, as they call him. Six months ago, the Ericksons expanded their family again with the birth of their daughter, Fiona.

“Becoming parents made us more aware of our world and our environment,” Nikki says. “For me personally, it made me want to be a better person. It made me want to be the best Nikki I could be, so my kids can have a good childhood.”

Inevitably, having children also changed their home life, particularly their definition of free time.

“We have a lot more routine now,” Kelley says. “We can’t just leave and go places whenever we want. All of that has to be planned in advance.”

Even with all of that planning and routine, having two children under the age of 3 means the Erickson household can be hectic at times. Kelley works full-time, while Nikki stays home with the kids during the day and does freelance work in the evenings. Though they see each other regularly during the week, it’s usually while spending time with their children or watching television shows they missed on their DVR. To stay balanced, the couple schedules regular date nights at least every other week, so they can spend time together outside of the house.

“When we go on dates, I make sure I don’t spend more than two minutes talking about the kids,” Nikki says. “We have some really good conversations, because that’s our time to catch up with each other. Even if we can only fit in a 30-minute lunch that week, we try to schedule that time.”

Every year, Kelley and Nikki also try to see a big concert together or make a trip to the Twin Cities, even if it’s only for a weekend. These mini-vacations help them recharge and make them even more appreciative of their children, they say.

It’s also important to Kelley and Nikki that they have lives outside of their relationship and family. Kelley participates in a dart league with friends on Thursday nights, and Nikki makes regular trips up north to see her mom. They’re also flexible with each other: for example, if one of them wants to see a movie, the other will encourage them to go on a weeknight after they’ve put the kids to bed.

“We let each other be their own person,” Kelley says. “You have to be able to compromise and give each other that alone time.”

After nine years as a married couple, Kelley and Nikki know that marriage is work — and even with two young children, they realize the importance of continuing to make each other and their relationship a priority.

“We know that we still have to work on us,” Nikki says. “Eventually, our kids will be gone, but we will always be together. You have to remember who it is you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.”

And for both of them, there’s no one else they’d rather spend forever with.

“It’d be hard to see my life without Nikki,” Kelley says. “She’s my best friend.”

Advice for other couples with young kids
Nikki:
“You have to have a sense of humor about your kids, otherwise you won’t keep your sanity.”
Kelley: “Make sure you find that time for each other. Make sure you find time for yourself, too. If you have activities that you enjoy, keep doing them if you want to.”

What they love most about each other
Kelley
: “I love that she’s helped me to be more confident. She’s always been so caring and quick to go above and beyond to help me with different things.”
Nikki: “I love that Kelley is always wanting to learn and take in whatever he can. I also love that he’s sensitive. He’s an amazing dad.”

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