Maintaining Relationships After Having a Baby
Adding a new family member is a huge adjustment. Having a baby is often described as the best thing that has ever happened and the hardest!
Lots of parents want to know how to maintain relationships through the transition into parenthood. There is the occasional parent who glides right through, maybe their baby sleeps through the night from birth, they have tones of family support or it just isn’t that hard for them. For the rest of us our world is rocked a little, or a lot, and we may find ourselves wondering “why is this so hard?”
We expect adolescence to be hard and leaving home for the first time is expected to be an adjustment too but isn’t having a baby just amazing? Shouldn’t parenting feel completely natural? Yes and no…
We all love our children but most of us are not prepared for how hard it can be. It is normal to have thoughts such as “I’m not good at this” or “I’m not enjoying this like I thought I would.” As we jump head first into parenting we may be experiencing a push and pull relationship with parenthood. We love our little helpless babies. They depend on us for everything and when we hold them close we may think there is nothing else we would rather be doing. However, we were someone before we became a parent. We had full lives, job, relationships, and hobbies. This can create an intense feeling of push and pull. We want to be the best parent we can be, and we likely want to continue our other relationships and feel like we are something more than baby’s Mom or Dad.
So how do we do it? How can we be a great parent and maintain our identity and our relationships?
- It’s a natural progression into parenthood but it takes time, the push and pull needs to be negotiated.
- Remember ambivalence is normal there is not something wrong with you.
- Talk to others, particularly your partner. The more isolated we feel the harder it is going to be.
- What creates closeness is vulnerability. Allow yourself to be honest about your struggles with those close to you, support your partner to be vulnerable too.
- Recognize it is hard for both partners, it may be different for each parent, but both are experiencing a huge and often un-recognized transition.
- Remember relationships go through phases, having a baby is a new phase.
- Research shows that on average, arguments increase by 40% between first time parents likely due to: less time, less sleep, and more pressure.
- Divide labor fairly – the most common complaint in families with new babies is that one is doing more than the other – if not dealt with this can lead to resentment.
- Appreciate each other – parenting is hard work and who else is going to give you a pat on the back if it isn’t your partner. Feeling unappreciated can lead to dissatisfaction in intimate relationships.
- Try to maintain physical contact with your partner. This can be hard when you may feel “touched out” from being with your baby but closeness helps to keep the attachment tight. This closeness does not need to be sex but can be cuddling, holding hands, or massage.
- Don’t forget to invest in your relationships. It just might look very different than before the baby.
- Accept parenting differences and pick your battles, something you will be also doing with your child as they grow.
- Lighten up and laugh when you can!
- Remember that you will not be good to anyone if you don’t meet your basic needs such as sleeping and eating!
Finally… try not to compare yourself to others. We know that the best pics are posted on social media but what really brings us closer to others and allows us to feel understood in being honest about our experience. Surround yourself in others who are willing to be vulnerable about the joys and challenges of being a Mom or Dad.