Bringing home a baby for the first time can certainly be a highlight in your marriage. It’s been a long wait but finally your baby is here. You and your spouse are thrilled with the opportunity to raise a child together and are looking forward to having a lot of fun doing it. And you will!
You’ll smile and laugh, cuddle up to your baby, watch her take her first steps, praise her while toilet training, and soothe her when she falls and hurts herself.
Yes, parenting will be marvelous endeavor.
However, that’s only part of the story. Transitioning from a couple into a couple that has a baby might seem rather easy during those early days when parenting is a novelty, but as time continues, this can be where the real relationship work begins.
For many couples transitioning into life as a parent can bring about increased times of anxiety, stress, and conflict. Why? Because things change a lot after a baby comes, and as much as we expected change, often the reality of this change is not so easy to accept. The human brain loves habit and feels the most comfortable with familiarity. Becoming a parent will take everything you thought you knew and turn it upside down.
For starters, babies tend to consume much of our time. The routine of working and coming home to relax on the couch while watching television becomes a thing of the past. There’s a baby to nurture, play with, feed, make formula for etc. Then there’s a toddler who talks your ear off, wants your attention much of the time, won’t go to sleep and wakes up at 4am. Not to mention the ‘other parent’ who may have been at home with your child all day and begins to see you as the help that walks through the door, rather than an adored love of their life.
Change is inevitable and parenting can take a toll on parents, sometimes leaving them very tired, frustrated, and frazzled. Over time, without work, all of these factors can add up to resentment and conflict, which causes some toxicity in the relationship.
All stress is a conflict between belief and reality. We believe (think) live should be one way, but in reality it is actually another. There are several ways we can be in conflict with reality when it comes to parenthood and how it changes our relationship.
The realty is that parenthood changes almost every aspect of your life. We need to bring our attention back to the present moment of how it is now and deal with that reality as it is.
Here are some ways to prevent your marriage suffering after having a baby by accepting reality.
Let go of old reference points on how life used to be.
Welcoming a baby into your lives is an amazing thing. You want the transition to be lovely and your relationship to continue to blossom. But in order for this to happen, it’s important to be aware of the reality of what life is like as a parent.
You have to get rid of your old reference points and deliberately be mindful of your new reality when it comes to what your relationship will look like as a parent with children. What ‘used to be’ is gone because everything rises and passes away.
The reality of less quality time together
Now that it’s no longer just the two of you, one or both of you may encounter feelings of frustration or resentment because you want time alone with each other. The reality of having children is that alone time decreases considerably and family time becomes the norm. This is not a bad thing. It’s just different. You just have to make a commitment to enjoy some quality alone time every so often in order to keep your relationship flourishing and make it happen whereas before it was a luxury we often took for granted.
You need to make an effort to deliberately schedule date nights and take advantage of the time your baby is sleeping. Let Grandma take the baby sometimes so you can enjoy each other’s company and connect intimately. Too many couples neglect quality time together once the children come and the relationship suffers over time.
If feelings of anger and resentment start popping up around the house, take a moment to gauge how much energy you’ve been putting into your relationship. Do you need some time alone? Has it been forever since you emotionally connected with your spouse? Is one of you feeling totally left out? Whether you have a baby, a five year old, or a 14 year old, quality time as a couple is important and will help your relationship to flourish.
The reality of more on your ‘to do’ list.
When my friends had babies before I did, I remember thinking, “What do they do with their time? The baby only eats and sleeps. Why are they so time poor?” Boy was I naive! Often we thinking that our ‘to do’ list will stay the same as before and when it doesn’t it’s likely that some resentment will occur.
When a child comes along there needs to be a new discussion on the division of labour around the home because it’s not the way it used to be. This is where tip one comes into play because you have to let go of how it used to be. Things are very different now and there are more demands on both mum and dad. There needs to be a deliberate discussion on who does what that aligns with your current reality.
If Mum is left with the brunt of the new chores, like washing bottles, preparing formula, laundry, giving the baby a bath, feeding the baby, and so on, she will begin feel resentment. She will want help from her spouse.
At the same time, Dad might be working more hours to provide for the family on one income and he may be doing it with very little sleep too, as he too hears the baby waking at night.
Both mum and dad may be working and juggling these added demands so it can’t be left up to one partner or the other to see that everything gets done.
The best thing to do is to have an open discussion with each other and delegate chores. Make a list and put it on the fridge if you have to. Be willing to negotiate and work together like you’re actually on the same team- because you are.
The reality of open communication
Now more than ever before you need to be direct about what you want/need and to deliberately air out indifferences before they escalate. You may also need to learn the art of communication too, as being tired may be contributing to your level of tolerance for the other person.
If you need help, specifically state what you need your spouse to do. If you simply say, “I feel overwhelmed and need help around here” it might not resonate as well as “Would you please do the laundry for me this week? I’m feeling so overwhelmed.”
Communication is going to be vital in re-establishing new roles now that you have children.
The reality of your financial situation
After babies arrive, more money goes to expenses, as things like formula, nappies and childcare tally up a good bit of money. Sometimes the issue of whether the mum should work or not work can become an issue for spouses. There are certainly pros and cons to both.
When it comes to money issues after a baby comes along, it is best to sit down and have an honest and open conversation about it. Talk about your desires. What do you want? What would be best for the family? Can sacrifices be made for one parent to stay home with the baby? If not, can both partners accept and be happy with the fact that both of you will have to work? Will one partner have to take on a second job? Are there any resentments going on regarding money?
In an ideal world these discussions would have occurred before you decided to have a child, however life doesn’t always meet our ideals, so if this is an issue now, you need to accept the reality that money is an important topic and create a plan that works for both of you.
The reality that life doesn’t always go to plan and sometimes you’ll get emotional about that
Parenting can be challenging to say the least, but it is also the most rewarding task as well. Once you become parents if you can make deliberate adjustments in your mindset that align with the reality that life has changed and you are on a whole new learning curve, then your emotions will be fairly balanced.
However, if you are in conflict with the reality that live doesn’t always go to plan, you go run into emotional issues such as anger, frustration, guilt, shame, and more.
It’s important to recognise that you will most certainly have your ups and downs and it’s important for you to know that that’s alright. Entering into the world of parenting has a habit of revealing a lot of issues that may have laid dormant in the past. This is a good thing, not a bad thing, because it becomes an opportunity for you to enter into a whole new stage of personal development.
In terms of relationships, it is important that you think about what is going on for you partner and how they are thinking about their life. Any intense emotion or nasty behaviour is a cry for help – an indication that your partner is not accepting the reality of what is happening and may need your help, rather than you adding fuel to the fire.
Being able to recognise what’s going on behind your partner’s emotion, treating them with compassion and encouraging them to talk about the issue will be what they will need.
It’s important from a relationship perspective to keep talking about how you are both feeling about this transition and about the arrangements within the family and to seek help if you are feeling like these moments are starting to consume the better part of your life.
The fundamental rule of getting through parenting without stress is to align with the relaity that you are BOTH constantly learning and growing as a parent each day. If something arises that you weren’t prepared for, get the information you need to take care of it.
Problems are just problems until you find the solution and it’s not as hard to find solutions as you might think. Most of the reason why we struggle with problems is because a) we are in conflict with the reality that we have to deal with that issue and b) our attention is so stuck on how it shouldn’t be happening that way, that we aren’t looking for solutions.
Thankfully that’s what this website is for – to get you out of that mindset and help you start accepting reality and finding solutions
Your relationship doesn’t have to suffer when you enter into the world of parenthood. But you will need to remain aware of any niggles that are starting to lend themselves to resentment and separation, so that you can continue to work on them and iron them out before they cause major rifts.
All that is required is for you to deliberately redefine your relationship from how it used to be, to fit into the reality of new life with a child. Communication, recognizing that you are both learning how to be parents and integrating your experiences together, will be key in surviving parenthood as a couple.