After a baby: relationship realities
You may have heard the phrase “having a baby won’t fix your marriage/relationship” - and quite rightly so. In some cases, bringing new life into the world may make the bond between you and your partner stronger in the long run, but first you have to get through the challenges that come with a new baby! Most new parents will face ‘new baby stress’, but that doesn’t mean your relationship will get worse. When parents manage to get good sleep and spend some qualty time together the relationship can improve.
According to the ‘Seattle relationship research institute’, within 3 years of having a new baby two thirds of couples go through relationship trouble. Whether this is due to the issues and stresses that come from the hard work of raising a child or if it is in fact due to deep relationship troubles is not clear. ‘New baby stress’ tends to get better over time, improving as the anxiety of a new baby eases off. However, if there is more to it than that, it may be worth seeking support. Things to look out for that can tell you there are serious problems in the relationship include spending more time away from home (staying out late and avoiding spending time with your significant other), constant arguing, refusing baby duties and household chores, and substance abuse.
Identifying the problems
Each new family is different, complete with their different problems and issues. Here are some of the most common stressors a new family my face, and the solutions.
Splitting the responsibilities. After the arrival of a new child, it may seem like the list of things to do is never ending. It is unfair for one person to have to do all of the household chores plus carry out most of the parenting tasks. Due to this, the parent who has taken on the larger work load may be asking the other person to do their part around the house and with the child. This can cause bitterness to build up on both sides as one of the parents feels as if they have to do everything alone whereas the other one may feel as if they are being nagged at and/or not doing a good enough job. Some parents may feel as if they can’t ask their partner for help or tell them what needs to be done, as everybody likes to feel as if they have everything under control; this only builds resentment. Thank the other person if they have done something you have asked, this will allow them to become more receptive when something else needs doing in the future. Split the workload fairly and evenly. If one parent has been feeding the child/doing the housework all day, get up and do the night feed and give them extra time in bed. It may be worth making a plan when you are expecting, making notes of how you are going to fairly share the tasks that need to be done throughout the day. Communicate with your partner and tell them directly what you need them to do!
Parenting styles and family interference. The majority of people have different parenting styles. For example, your ideas and techniques may be different about sleeping schedules, feeding times, comfort techniques and disciplining your child. This can get even more complicated when the child’s grandparents/parents in law get involved suggesting that they know best as they’ve ‘done it all before’. It’s important to be open minded with other people’s advice, but you do not have to follow every single piece you receive. It is about what works best for you, your partner and your child. Every child is different so what seemed to have worked for your parents (or you if you have older children) may not necessarily work for this child. One idea which may be beneficial for you and your partner is letting the person who wants you to try something out, deal with the consequences. For example, if one parent is more laid back than the other and lets the baby nap an hour before bedtime, let that person stay up with the baby throughout the night. It is important to remember that no technique or method is perfect, but there are no ‘stupid’ ideas. Every method is worth a try at least once!
Money and work. Money can impact your stress levels, even without worrying about a new child. It is so easy to feel guilty if you can’t give your child the latest toys, designer outfits or the best pram. Babies and young children grow so quickly, it is quite literally pointless to spend £40 on their first pair of shoes, given they will need a new pair within a month. Sit down with your partner and make a budget plan. Chances are, if one of you gets stressed about money, the other one will too. Another reason money problems may cause tension and conflict within in a relationship is due to one person feeling guiltier for not bringing in much money. Unless you can afford full-time child care (not to mention, want to) it is impossible for both parents to return to work full-time. This will create a gap between what you both earn. The person staying home may feel guilty for not going out to earn money while the other may feel guilty for not being home with the child. Be open with your partner about any worries you may have and make a plan. Budget and cut back on the luxuries you could afford when it was just the two of you. Another idea is to stock up whilst you are expecting, bulk buy nappies, wipes etc.
Finding time as a couple, alone. What used to be couple time, is now family time. You are always with one another but you’re no longer alone! Spending time together by yourselves is key in maintaining a healthy relationship and you should not feel guilty about it. Having ‘adult’ conversations without being interrupted by a hungry child is not only good for your relationship but will also help you relax. When you are looking after a child, it is easy to take for granted or ignore your partner. Make sure you get time to spend with your partner, make date night a regular thing and ensure you remind your partner how much you care for them on a daily basis!
Always remember that you are a team and should be supportive of each other's decisions and ideas. When it comes to raising children, as long as your child is happy, there is no right or wrong.