Babies create seismic changes in your life. Sleep deprivation in the first few months can turn you and your spouse or partner into irritable zombies—a stark contrast to the smiling, stylish young couple with lots of time for weekend outings that you were in the not-so-distant past. There’s more housework than ever, and you have a lot less energy to tackle it. You might be worried about money if one of you stays home with the baby. Suddenly you’re living on one salary instead of two, or if both return to work, there are childcare expenses to factor in.
And intimacy? Well, that seems to be out the window—even when the baby is blissfully sleeping, it’s easier said than done just to forget all the stress and fatigue, flip a switch and swing into action.
Okay, now for the good news: raising a baby can also bring you closer than ever before if you approach it as a team. Here are a few of the secrets you need to know:
- If you talk to your partner about the stress you’re feeling—while taking care to reassure her that you love the baby more than you ever imagined possible—you might be relieved to learn that you’re both experiencing a lot of the same things. When the baby screams inconsolably for an hour, when it seems you’re changing soiled crib sheets for the third time today, when you can’t remember the last time you sat down to watch a half-hour sitcom, much less a movie…yes, your partner feels all that too. Don’t assume women, for instance, have magic maternal instincts that make it easier for her. If anything, the only difference is that she might feel guiltier about having those feelings, so voicing them yourself and reminding her that it’s normal might help her feel better while reinforcing the sense that you’re in this together.
- If you find yourselves fighting over the growing list of chores, stop. Make lists of what needs to be done every day, decide what’s reasonable for each person to do every day, and stick to it. The key word is “reasonable.” If you need to lower the bar a bit on what passes for household organization during the early years, remember that (1) only a crazy person would expect new parents to have a spotless home and (2) complaining to your wife that you can’t find a matching pair of socks in your drawer…when she’s exhausted and hasn’t found time to take a shower in three days…is not constructive.
- Go on dates. No doubt you’ve heard this one before, but it is so important. It’s not easy at first; it helps a lot if you have parents in town to pitch in, but if not, ask around for a reliable sitter and make plans to go out for a few hours of alone time. While we’re at it, here’s another tip: discuss any baby-related topics you’d like to get out of the way before you leave—even the fun ones, like showing her the newest baby pictures on your iPhone. Then you can commit to spending this time together not as parents but husband and wife.
It’s easy to forget how important it is to nurture your relationship with your partner or spouse when the baby is screaming, covered in strained peas and looks at you like you’re a miserable failure (at least that’s what it sometimes feels like). It takes effort and a commitment to remember to care for yourselves and your relationship, but maintaining a healthy relationship is the most important gift you’ll ever give your child.
A relationship counselor can help you and your partner figure out how to balance it all while keeping your relationship strong – a wise investment in your growing family. If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help you. Call us today at 949-393-8662 or book your appointment via our online calendar.