Posts Tagged 'relationships'

Hey, we’re in this together! A reminder for new parents

woman with arms around man

Unaltered image. Ashley Webb, Flickr. CC license.

Your baby is finally here and your dream of being parents finally came true. Sure, this is something the two of you excitedly dreamed and talked about for so long, but now that baby arrived, you may find yourselves feeling unhappy and disillusioned. Maybe you and your partner are feeling distant from each other when you thought a baby would bring you closer. What’s going on?

Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone. Research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, a renowned couple’s therapist and researcher, found that two-thirds of couples report increased conflict and decreased relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first baby. It can be one of the most stressful times for a couple’s relationship.

It’s been said that having a first baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage. Those sweet little babies explode into our hearts and lives; they are the center of our world and the subject of almost all conversations. As a result, becoming new parents is one of the happiest times of our lives, while simultaneously being one of the hardest.

Those first weeks often leave parents feeling scared, clueless and exhausted. Many parents are overwhelmed with the endless work caring for an infant brings. They feel angry and betrayed when their partner doesn’t help out more or seem to care about them or their needs anymore. Parents often take their disappointment and frustration out on each other. Even a strong relationship can be severely strained during this transition time.

So what can couples do to lessen the conflict between them and improve their relationship as they adjust to becoming parents? Here some suggestions to help you keep your relationship positive and strong.

Communication is key

  • Talk to each other. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what changes would help you feel better. Be sure to avoid criticisms and attacking language, such as using “always” and “never,” which only escalate conflicts. For example, stay away from statements like, “You never help out around here,” or “You’re always late coming home.” When partners hear things like this, they only think about defending themselves instead of truly listening to what you’re saying.
  • Listen. Really, truly listen to your partner’s concerns. Try not to become defensive with each other and instead, look at things from a problem-solving perspective.
  • Be understanding. Make the time and effort to find out what’s going on in your partner’s world from his/her perspective. For example, new moms are biologically hardwired to focus on caring for their newborns and don’t stop to think about how that feels to her partner. While moms don’t intent to exclude or ignore, it is often how dads feel. As a consequence, dads can act out their anger and frustration at feeling left out.

Define a new normal for awhile

  • Welcome help and support. It is perfectly appropriate to ask for and accept help from others. Families used to live in the same area generation after generation, and these relatives helped while first-time parents adjusted to their new roles. That’s often not true today. Instead, accept help from friends, family, co-workers, your religious organization, or community programs that offer it. Ask for help if needed. There is no gold star given for doing it alone.
  • Lower your expectations. It’s OK to let household chores slide or not cook homemade meals. As new parents, your focus should be on caring for baby and taking care of yourselves, which includes getting adequate sleep and bonding as a family. Some other things may need to lapse temporarily and that’s fine. As children grow and parents adjust, these things will once again be addressed.

Returning to work

  • Establish a new routine. Once one or both parents return to work, give yourselves time to work out a new routine. Review it every few weeks and adjust it as needed so that it works for both of you. Understand that finding what works for you both make take some trial and error and it will be unique to your situation.
  • Divide and conquer. Work out a division of labor that seems equitable to both of you. Caring for children, especially infants, is very work intensive. Arguments about “who does what” are common causes of relationship problems for new parents. Find solutions that work for you both then follow through on your part of it. Agree to tweak it as you find what works and what doesn’t.

Appreciate each other

  • Check-in daily. Make time to touch base with your partner daily, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Listen to his/her concerns and be supportive, but don’t try to solve the problems. Sometimes we all need to just vent and know that our partner is there for us. The biggest connections between partners can come from the small moments of feeling heard and valued.
  • Small gestures matter. Leave a note or send a text letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Thank them for doing something helpful especially when you didn’t even have to ask. Let them know what a great mom or dad they are already. Even a small thing will show that you still love and appreciate your partner.
  • Make time for yourself. Give each other some “me” time on a regular basis, in a way that feels fair to both of you. We all need some time to ourselves to recharge and to stay connected to the person we were before becoming a parent. Revisit your arrangement and adjust it as needed.
  • Time together is important, too. Schedule some time together on a regular basis to have some fun. Too often couples become consumed by the demands of working and parenthood and they neglect each other. Make having fun together a priority!
  • Schedule time for intimacy. No, it doesn’t sound romantic, but with the busy life of new parents, it’s often schedule time for this or it never happens. It’s important to remember that you are both not just parents; you are the partners who fell in love enough to create a family together. Take the time to continue letting your partner know how special he/she is to you and how much you still value them as a person and as a partner.

And remember: Keep your sense of humor! Sometimes the way we look at things and the attitude we take makes all the difference between a big fight and a good laugh!

– Karen Duffy, LPC, NCC is an IFS coordinator with the Beaumont Parenting Program

Finding my tribe

group of women friends

I couldn’t be as effective at parenting as I am without my mom tribe. In fact, I have a few. Each one serves a different purpose for me. One is a person, I belong to a twins group and an online group. I tried getting into another one, but it just wasn’t for me.

My person has been there, done all of it with three kids. She knows when I need to vent, when to worry with me and when to tell me to get over it. I need that. We all do.

In the earliest days of my motherhood, I made sure to find out if Beaumont’s Parenting Program accepted adoptive families. The director was very understanding and got us into a multiples group in the next cycle. It was wonderful. Now, five years later, we still meet with three of the families regularly. I love them. I loved being in a group of people who had two babies at the same time. We all had dark circles under our eyes. We all went through it together. One day, I hope to be invited to those kids’ graduations and even weddings.

My online tribe is more of a secret, like Fight Club. We just lay it all out there. It’s a safe place to rant, swear, and be disenchanted with children and partners. It’s also a great resource for swapping items, a great knowledge storehouse for childhood illnesses, and it’s way cheaper than therapy. They are my people.

The fourth tribe is an amazing group of women working on their online business. I liked them a lot, but in the end, we weren’t a good fit. And that’s OK. I still admire their product from afar. I found the distance in that relationship that I needed and struck a balance.

We all have our “go to” group or friend to help us get through the craziness of parenting. At least, I hope we do. We all need someone to reaffirm that no, you are not losing your mind. Your child is just nuts right now, but don’t worry. It will pass. It always does.

It really does take a village to raise a child. But, more importantly, I think it takes a large suburb to raise an effective parent.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.


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