How will adding a child to your family change your relationship with your partner? The arrival of a child is so full of many emotions: love, excitement, fear, anxiety and self-doubt. Your relationship with your partner may be the last thing on your mind, but it shouldn’t be! No matter how long you and your partner have been together, adding a baby to the mix will have the potential to change your relationship. Making the effort to work on the new relationship will allow you both to create an even stronger family bond. We’ve got some tips on adjusting from being a couple to being parents to help you maintain a healthy and lasting relationship with your significant other.
The transition to becoming a family for some couples can seem unspoiled, while for others adding a child can create some powerful feelings never encountered in your relationship. You may each see a side of each other you have never seen before- often moments at your absolute worst! This new territory arises from the exhaustion and responsibility that comes with being a new parent. You may be at your most sleep deprived, short fused and overwhelmed… all while feeling the most in love you’ve ever felt for your new family! The adjustment can be trying on a relationship, but not unmanageable.
First Step: Both Parents Must Actively Participate
- Parenting has to be a team effort in order to create a great parenting partnership. That can only happen when both parents are involved. Here are some tips to get a couple working as a team
- Right from the start, have your partner share in the duties of changing diapers, supporting while nursing or preparing bottles. This can be especially helpful in the hospital while you are still recovering.
- Skin to skin is a great way to bond for both parents. Encourage your partner to give it a try!
- Ask for help! If you partner seems reluctant to jump in and take over, ask for help! As a new parent, your partner may be unsure of what to do and when. This can be especially tough when breastfeeding as your partner may feel left out and helpless at feeding times, so be specific about how he can get involved.
- Allow your partner the opportunity to learn and build their confidence as a new parent. The more chances they have to do something, the more comfortable they will become doing it!
- Allow them to do it their way. It’s okay if they don’t do it the same way as you. Babies and children can easily adapt to other ways of having things done. Don’t step in and takeover. Criticizing your partner will only push them away, causing them to be reluctant to help the next time. Even if they have put a diaper on backwards, let them realize their own mistake or learn from it! Hey, once they get peed or pooed on once or twice they will figure out a better way! 😉
Step Two: Responsibility is Shared
There are so many responsibilities that come with parenting: keeping your child fed, safe and loved of course, but then there’s the nitty gritty of being able to provide those basic needs: Doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, running errands, going to appointments and the list goes on and on.
Falling into roles as new parents may come naturally, as both parents take on the family responsibilities. For some couples, sharing the responsibilities ‘evenly’ may not come so naturally. It is easy to fall into our traditional roles and feel overwhelmed with all the duties that come with those roles. As moms especially, we want to be the one who can soothe our baby when they are crying, or we may feel like we must do everything because we just know how to do it all. Often we are home alone the majority of the time and we figure out how to do everything by ourselves because we have to.
Sharing responsibilities with your partner when they are home to help will not only allow the opportunity for your child and partner to bond, but will also help your relationship as a couple. When one partner feels like they are doing ‘everything’, resentment and anger can set in.
- Talk to your partner. If you don’t feel like your partner is doing their share, talk to them about what you feel they can be doing to help.
- Ask for help.
- Set realistic expectations. Are you home all day while your partner goes to work? Is your partner too exhausted at the end of their work day? Do they have a mindset that you are home all day you have time to do ‘everything’ yourself? Are you going back to work soon? Discuss expectations on both sides. Often our ‘at work’ partners don’t realize how overwhelming and unproductive being home with baby all day can be. Allowing your partner the opportunity to take over while they are home may help them realize what it’s really like, or it may even help you realize you don’t HAVE to do everything all at once, or having a pristine home is not needed. Sometimes lowering our own expectations of what we can accomplish in a day while taking care of an infant will help ease the burden.
Step 3: Facilitate Bonding
It can be disheartening for your partner if your child struggles or is unhappy when you are not with them. Share those bonding times when the other parent is home. It is beneficial for both parent and child to allow time for the other parent to try their hand at comforting baby so your child learns to be soothed by both parents. To help build your child’s confidence and trust that the other parent can also be a source of comfort start by:
- Not stepping in to ‘rescue’ baby.
- Give your partner a chance to be a great parent! At first, they may not calm down as quickly as they would with you but letting the other parent figure out what works for them will not only give you a much needed break, but allow that parent to create their own special bond.
- Walk away. Take a few minutes to go to the bathroom, take a shower, go for a walk. You may need to step away so that the baby can’t see, hear or smell you while the other parent is attempting to bond/soothe your little one. This will allow them the opportunity to play, hang out, snuggle without the pressure of hours and hours alone. The first few times you attempt this, it may not go very well and that’s okay. Stick with it, it will get better!
- The more often you allow the opportunity for your partner and child to be together, the more at ease both will become, which in turn will help you get the breaks you absolutely need.
- Once you return to baby, don’t run to them with a ‘rescuing mentality’. This will only reinforce to your child that they are not ‘safe’ with the other parent, which is the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish!
Step 4: Make the Effort to Maintain Your Relationship
It is too easy to be so busy being parents that you forget to be a couple! Yes, your relationship has changed forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your own bond as a couple. Being a parent means that your relationship as a couple will require more effort.
It is important to take the time to make this effort. Our children are our lives, but they will grow up and make their own lives and we want our partners to still be with us to grow old with. That is why you chose to be with them in the first place, isn’t it?
- Squeeze out time together. This can be taking advantage of grandparents’ offer to babysit and getting out of the house-whether it’s a night out or just a hour to workout, or even just planning an evening together at home when baby goes to sleep.
- Keep lines of communication open. It can be easy to let this one go. You’re tired, you may be overwhelmed or maybe even angry at your partner, but talking about things is important to keep your relationship healthy.
- A hug can go a long way in helping you reconnect with each other.
- Keep a journal or scrapbook (it doesn’t have to be complicated!). Maybe it’s a gratitude journal or a bullet journal. Keeping some notes about the great things that happened in your day, or things your partner did can really go a long way in reminding yourself about the great people in your life when you are feeling in a slump.
Step 5: There Are No Rules!
There really are no rules when it comes to parenting your child while maintaining a healthy relationship. Both partners must want to make the relationship work and both have to make an effort. Sometimes, taking care of ourselves first is the best place to start since parenting often takes us away from self care. But that is a whole other discussion!
As Holistic Infant and Child Sleep Consultants we work with families teaching them how to help their children get the sleep they need. We can help you and your family get some much needed rest. Sleep deprivation can change anyone for the worse, so getting back to good sleep patterns can be a huge help in maintaining a healthy relationship. Check our our services page for info and contact us for a consultation. If you are looking for some extra support from other parents, join our Facebook group here.
We hope these tips will help you in adjusting from being a couple to being parents. Take it one day at a time and just remind yourself of why you fell in love with your partner in the first place!