No money, no sex, and no time. This isn’t how you pictured parenthood. Here’s how to get your relationship back on track.
Making the leap from coupledom to baby-makes-three is exciting, exhilarating, and wonderful. It’s also exhausting, exasperating, and worrisome—a combination that can be toxic to the romantic relationship that made you parents in the first place.
The bad news first: Maintaining a marriage post-baby takes a lot of time and energy, exactly what you’ve got the least of right now.
Now the encouraging news: Working on your relationship pays off in spades. Without all that energy expended growing resentful of each other, you’ll have more to spend enjoying one another. (Yippee!)
Here’s advice from experts as well as couples in the trenches on why this transition is so hard and what you can do to smooth things out.
Of course, before there was a baby, there was still laundry. And dishes, and other loathsome household tasks. But there were never so many things that had to be done so quickly. You can’t procrastinate about chores once you have an infant. And now you and your spouse both feel like the other’s not pulling his or her share of the mother lode.
Laundry has to be washed, the grass needs mowing, and everything else in everyday life keeps coming at you.
As long as things are getting done, everything is ok, but the constant background buzz of nagging can cause resentment to build up over time. To avoid this nagging or bickering post a list of daily chores on the fridge and switch responsibilities each week. Everyone will know what he or she needs to do. Discussion over. Just remember, when the feelings are mutual the effort is equal.
Nevertheless, if you feel like you are carrying the whole load, ask for what you need instead of storming around folding laundry or complaining. Remember, men often respond better to direct requests.” Communicate!
Also, thank your guy after he’s successfully completed a task. I know it might not seem fair because you may never get thanks, but this will make your husband more receptive to future requests. And niceties breed a less combative atmosphere. Moreover, it might be catching!
It’s nice to think you’d share child-rearing philosophies, but it’s often hard to predict how you’ll feel about sleep, food, and discipline until you’re smack in the middle of your fourth night up with baby. This is not the ideal time to discover that while you favor a sleep-training method that lets your child cry, your spouse really can’t deal with tears for any amount of time.
You may also find that your parenting styles clash as you reach for the pacifier at the first sign of distress (softie) while your partner says no sternly when the baby starts to drum with spoons on the high-chair tray (toughie).
On more serious issues, such as sleeping or feeding, there are ways to compromise, too. For certain things—such as when to start solids—you need to follow set guidelines. Talk to your pediatrician about what’s recommended. For issues such as sleep (i.e., co-sleeping vs. sleep training), look at parenting books and articles together that support the different sides. Then discuss what’s best to do.
Of course you’re in love, you’re just not in the mood for getting naked under the covers. Step one, is to get in the mood. And the best way is to plan time for having sex. Sure, people joke about making dates for sex, but “remember, when you were dating, you did plan when you were going to have sex. You got ready for a night out and thought about it beforehand.”
Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t make a hot date. Get a sitter, shave your legs, and flirt a little.
As for increasing the frequency of sex on nondate nights, experienced parents recommend making sure your bedroom is baby-free at bedtime. “There’s nothing like rolling on top of a toy caterpillar that starts to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ to kill the mood.”
You’re always together, but no longer alone. Whether you’ve been a couple for years or just met and wanted to have a baby quickly, jumping from a twosome to a family is challenging.
There are two parts to the solution here. First, you need to schedule time together. But besides dates, plan brief “meetings,” where you can bring up household and baby-care issues such as an upcoming doctor’s appointment or which stroller to buy.
In this way your dates won’t be overtaken by baby talk and you can share the stuff you used to: idle neighbourhood gossip, who’s likely to win the next election or The Amazing Race, whatever.
The second part of the solution is to allow for solo time for yourselves. “Don’t look at time away from your family as a bad thing.” Look at it as a gift to them because you’re returning refreshed and happy.” This goes both ways: Yes, you should continue your three book clubs if that makes you happy, but then you should also indulge your husband when he wants to train for the marathon.
“It’s easier to ask a favor of a husband if he’s just come back from an hour of running, biking, or doing his thing, than if he’s been going nuts at the playground missing his morning run.”
Caring for an infant is such an all-consuming task that in your “free time,” you’re lucky to make it to the supermarket. Doing something purely for yourself can feel like an outrageous indulgence. But when you deny yourself or your partner R & R, you’re likely to start resenting each other.
So, pick the one activity critical to your sanity or identity and make it happen. Say, ‘This is what I need.’ ” Set the schedule in writing, and make sure it’s equitable so your partner gets the same opportunities.
Lower your expectations. Three-hour bike rides aren’t going to happen. For the first three months, you’re both going to be treading water, not living. “In the middle of month three, you can start reclaiming some of your own life,” Don’t try to relive the past. It’s over. Surrender to the chaos and wonder of parenthood, and embrace it wholeheartedly.
The solution here is boundaries. You have a right to say no, no matter how generous they’ve been with gifts or babysitting time. Be kind, but firm. You are allowed to say no to your parents when your family unit needs time alone.
Tread Carefully here though – you will there support when you start to drown.
No doubt, money is a huge stressor for all new parents, it’s just people avoid talking about it or admitting it.
Everyone becomes overwhelmed by finances. My advice is communicate, set and budget (you can afford) and stick to it. Don’t worry about comparing to others and what they have.
You will eventually get back to dual incomes and it will get easier. For now it’s time to support each other through this tough period. You wouldn’t take it out on your baby, so don’t take it out on your spouse.
We’re not perfect. People become parents when they have children; they don’t become different people. This, of course, is both a point of contention and a source of solace.
All those things you love about each other—and your flaws—are still there, and now there’s a baby, too. That’s called a family.