First of all, a disclosure: I am not a marriage counsellor. I have no experience in relationships other than my own, but as part of my work and from my own life experiences I have noticed that this isn’t an uncommon theme to happen when a new baby joins the party. This blog is about my experiences and includes some tips that I have found can help.
So, you have your beautiful bundle that you were desperate to have, and you now have your perfect little family, so why aren’t things smooth sailing? Has resentment to your partner snuck in from somewhere?
Sometimes when we have a baby after the initial amazingness things start to go a bit stale. Both parents are tired from the many awakenings during the night, the endless amount of laundry and tidying, plus any other job/work you may have to do. It may feel like you don’t get a second to yourself let alone for your partner!
So why do relationships become a bit more challenging once you’ve had a baby. You were/are in love that’s why you had a baby and you were ready for the next step (or not) but it’s happened, and you were excited and loving the journey. Having a baby puts huge stresses on any relationship.
With a new baby comes a lot of expense. There are the initial costs of a place for baby to sleep, a pushchair, car seat, clothes…. the list goes on. Yes, you can get savvy and not buy everything that looks cool on the shelf, but there are some essentials that you just have to buy.
There is also the strain of going down to one salary. This can be a real challenge. When you are used to socialising, going out for coffees and being out of the house, to suddenly go to one salary can have a huge impact. Money always is a huge pressure on couples. We all spend money differently and have different values on what is important. When you have a baby you want to do the best for them and so often you want to go and try out different classes, plus you want to make the most of your maternity leave (either partner who is on leave) and not feel pressured by financial restraints.
What can you do? - Set up a budget and try to stick to it. Include coffees out and going to a couple of groups, but once you have made soma friends with babies of a similar age why don’t you rotate going to each other’s house and providing morning tea. It’s cheaper than meeting out for a coffee all the time. Plus, why not meet to go on a buggy walk and get the benefits of fresh air and exercise too!
Lack of time is a huge problem; it may feel like it’s a struggle just to have a shower and brush your hair (disclaimer I gave up brushing my hair every day when I had my babies).
Make time for each other. I know this can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but it’s so important. You both need each other to support one another through this challenging period.
What can you do? - My partner and I didn’t have a lot of local support and the cost of hiring a babysitter was at times out of our reach. To make a point of spending time together and not just sitting on the sofa watching rubbish and ignoring each other, we used to do themed date nights at home. We would do it fortnightly and take it in turns to plan the evening. We did a Mexican night with nachos and then we played cards, a Thai night with a takeaway, movie night with hotdogs and popcorn.
Space and Understanding.
This is challenging for both of you. You are both facing new expectations and responsibilities that you haven’t encountered before and need each other’s understanding.
What to do? - Sometimes that may be acknowledging your partners needs and encouraging them to go and let their hair down with their friends for a night. It may also just be listening to them, rather than jumping in and trying to fight your corner. Patience is hard when you are tired, but if you can be calm and understanding you will find your partner will return the favour and life will become less of a battle ground or there will certainly be less resentment.
Get your Sleep
It can take a long time to get a baby sleeping all night without any wake ups. This is due to their development mainly and feeding requirements. When we are tired though our fuses and patience are far shorter. We try to stay calm all day with our little ones, so we tend to take out our frustrations on our partners! If they too are tired this can make a fatal combination!
What to do? - Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you need to stay up late. It took me and my husband many years and four children to realise this! We wouldn’t go to bed before 10pm because we thought that, that was the grown-up thing to do. Of course, babies don’t care whether you’re a grown up or not, they are going to wake up when they need a feed! This then rolls into toddlers - when the sun rises, toddlers rise! Children don’t care if you’ve stayed up late or had a few drinks the night before.
Sometimes you’ll find that you talk less to each other as you are either busy or tired, sometimes we shut down or switch off, purely because we don’t have the energy to talk.
Talking is the key, however. Let each other know how you are feeling. Listen to their point without interjecting because their point is valid. It is how they feel, and you need to listen to this, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s just or fair. Listen and then explain your feelings.
What can help - Socialise.
Spending time together doesn’t always just to be the two of you alone. Getting out with friends or inviting friends around for dinner who are either in a similar space to you or not is a great way to put the fun back into a relationship. We often had people around for dinner, they’d bring their baby and put them to sleep in the spare room and bring dessert, while we’d supply the main. We also used to have a young family come to our house every Saturday night to watch a series on the telly. We’d watch it together and chat about it and just be able to enjoy something together. It gave us something to look forward to and yes it may sound a bit geeky, but it helped us get through those early days when life can be hard. We would be in our pj’s or sloppy clothes and no one cared.
I hope some of the tips above will help you. I don't want this blog to seem like doom and gloom and not all couples will go through tricky patches, this is merely here to help if you find that things aren't quite the same and that you are not alone. Having a baby can be a struggle enough, don't let your relationship become one too. At the end of the day what I’m trying to say is protect your relationship. It’s important! It takes time and work and you can’t just expect it to be okay when you are going through a period of change. Like everything in life, if it’s worth doing, do it properly. All the best things in life deserve time and effort put into them to let them flourish, just like your baby. Things will get easier and your baby is going to bring you closer if you allow that to happen. Remember a well functioning couple is going to provide baby with a happy loving environment.