Relationships change as a family grows. This change can be a healthy positive thing but can be scary to navigate as well. Here are some of our tips for how to support each other through the changes.
- Be patient with yourself and your partner. This is a wonderful and very challenging time. There is a lot of stress, a learning curve, lack of sleep, and a baby does need a lot of attention. Add to that the hormonal changes a woman experiences after giving birth! Things will get easier, and children have the potential to make a couple stronger!
- Leave past problems where they belong. Ask for what you need/want.
- New fathers often want space to do things their own way. Different ways of interacting with baby actually helps baby’s brain, and gives you more skills to draw from. Babies unquestionably benefit from having one-on-one time with each parent. Choose what baby chores you are both responsible for, your “domain”- it is best if the other does not oversee, comment or criticize.
- Many new mothers want to feel they are in a partnership; they are in this together. They want partners to help without having to be asked. Mothers also really want someone to listen to them, without trying to fix things.
- Dad may also be really missing sex! He still desires you. For many moms, this is at the bottom of their priority list. It helps to find a happy medium. (If you are not *this* mom, that is fine and normal as well. Make sure your body is ready then enjoy yourself.)
- New moms sometimes need reminding that getting enough rest, taking baby care breaks, and exercise all help her self-confidence and decreases her stress levels. This may allow her to feel like herself again; taking care of herself she really can better take care of others. Dads can help by sharing the parenting responsibilities and perhaps hiring out some of the housework, grocery shop and prepare healthy meals, do little things to show appreciation and love (a love letter/hidden notes, flowers, an unexpected present), and encourage Mom to take care of herself.
- Focus on positives and show appreciation. New moms really need praise and notice. If dad is not home during the day, he may not understand just how time-consuming breastfeeding can be, or that a baby needs attention every 20 seconds! They may think it looks relaxing to sit on the couch all day, without realizing how lonely and intellectually numbing it can be. Partners also need to be noticed and appreciated for going to work; they sometimes feel like they are on the outside.
- Make time for each other- connect on a personal level. Don’t talk just about baby. You are taking care of your baby by taking care of your marriage.
- Develop a support network. This is the time to receive help not give it. Find other new mom friends, there are several options for organized parenting groups and mom/baby classes around town. Reach out to us if you need referrals. Hire a postpartum doula if you need the extra support.
- Ask family for what you need; involve them in ways that support your marriage. Develop healthy boundaries such as:
- your new family comes first, respect your spouse and be careful not criticize (and require the same from your family)
- support each other’s’ parenting choices over keeping peace (unasked for advice/out of date opinions can be dealt with by saying “My doctor says” or “You did what you thought best, I am doing what I think is best” or “This works for us”.)
- If problems arise on your side of the family, you may be the best one to talk to them.
BabyProofing Your Marriage by Cockrell, O’Neill and Julia Stone,
and Baby Makes Three by Gottman