Topic: Strategies for thriving as new parents
my last newsletter, New
baby challenges will GROW your relationship, I discussed 10
challenges facing new parents. Given your responses, it seems that
many of you have friends and family who are welcoming new babies.
Thank-you for forwarding this information on to them.
challenges facing new parents are many! In this issue I offer some
suggestions for coping and (better yet) thriving as a couple, at
this important time.
Last issue some readers failed to receive the entire newsletter.
If that should reoccur, you can find the full article here:
for thriving as new parents
of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a strong, foundational
relationship with our partner. Our children live within the space
of our partnership. When we take good care of our relationship,
we invest in our children in the process.
first year of parenting is the toughest, so be kind to yourselves.
parenting cartoon is by one by Bizarro. It shows a mother and dad
looking wide-eyed at their young baby. The balloon above the baby's
head reads: "Have you been sleeping all night, going out after 7pm,
eating in restaurants? Are you used to clean clothes and furniture
that looks like new? I'm here to change all that."
-- a new baby will change your life as a couple like nothing else!
And although these changes are common and natural, they may come as
a surprise. Even the strongest and most stable of relationships can
be tested by the birth of a baby.
changes may look different for the new Mom and Dad, as each adjusts
to their new role within the relationship.
Dad may feel supplanted by their baby in his wife’s affections.
Even the most mature man may grieve the loss of the couple’s
pre-baby romantic relationship. His sexual desires may be unchanged,
while his wife’s responses may have changed dramatically.
Dad may also feel inept and awkward in his new role of caring for
an infant. (In fact, recent research shows that a husband's involvement
with his children will decline in relation to the amount of criticism
he receives from his partner regarding his parenting.) He may feel
like there isn't enough of him to go around, as he feels the pressure
to continue to produce at work, while assuming added responsibilities
Mom is experiencing a major physical and emotional transition. Although
no longer pregnant, as long as she breastfeeds, her body still doesn't
belong solely to her. Exhaustion and mood swings can result in some
very ambivalent feelings about the "joys of motherhood". Being at
home, rather than working, may result in feelings of lowered self
worth, particularly for women whose identity is strongly work-related.
a pay cheque or workplace recognition, the new Mom must learn to generate
her feelings of validation from within. She may experience little
recognition for the myriad of repetitious tasks she does each day.
Her fears and anxieties about being a good mother, as she is learning-on-the-fly,
may make her sensitive to criticism and unsolicited advice. At times,
her spouse (despite his best intentions) may show up as just one more
demand on her dwindling energy.
these pressures, new parents can benefit from strategies designed
to support and nurture their relationship. So here are some suggestions:
Reach out for and accept help.
a new parent is demanding, so take advantage of all possible perks!
When friends or family ask what they can do to help - TELL THEM. Let
them know what you need. Meals for your freezer? Errands run? Babysitting?
A night out? Some company?
is not a time for false pride and impression management. Let your
loved ones express their caring by taking on some of the tasks that
could free you up to nap or have some quality relationship time.
Make time for the relationship.
out on a date REGULARLY. (Some parents make a weekly commitment.
Monthly is a minimum.) Do something fun and relaxing that both of
you would enjoy. There are many low-cost dates, so don't use money
as an excuse not to go. The point is simply to do something enjoyable
NOT to talk about the baby. Let this be a time to focus on the two
of you - and other interests you share. This is a time to remember
what it's like to be a couple again. You'll be amazed at how quickly
romance and fun return when you make space and time for it.
Hire temporary help if you need it.
is a great time to invest in some household support, until you both
feel you're on top of your new responsibilities. This could include
such things as: babysitting, housecleaning, laundry, meal preparations,
grocery delivery, etc.
for creative ways to get breaks and to reorganize household responsibilities.
You won't need it forever, however if things become stressful, a
little paid support might make the difference between surviving
and thriving. If there is no budget for extra help, let your friends
and family know these are ways they can help.
Reach outside the relationship for emotional support.
of you will feel stretched, so don't expect to get all your needs
met by each other. New mothers need to be with other mothers, who
are also interested in the minutiae of baby care and development.
If you don't have friends with young children, seek out parent and
baby drop-ins, fitness classes and educational talks. These parents
share your concerns and challenges and you can be an invaluable
source of support to each other, both emotionally and practically.
Many new parents form baby-sitting co-ops, to give each other breaks
the at-home parent is a Dad, he will also benefit from these kinds
of activities and social contact. The new Dad also needs hang-out
time with other men with whom he can "de-pressurize" and blow off
some frustrations. Other Dads have been there and know what it's
like and can normalize (probably through humour!) what you're experiencing.
Your family and friends can provide that additional energy, understanding
and perspective that each of you may need.
Educate yourselves regarding the changes affecting your sex
and childbirth will disrupt and affect your sex life. It's not personal!
Understanding these changes will help reassure you both that these
changes are temporary. For example:
Women typically experience diminished arousal in the 4 to 8 weeks
nursing mothers don't experience a return to pre-pregnancy hormone
levels until after their baby is weaned.
of episiotomies and caesarean incisions take time.
dryness is common for most new mothers because estrogen levels are
Couples will need to adjust and find creative ways of dealing with these physical changes, as well as the fatigue factor affecting their love life. Educating yourself regarding what to expect will help couples normalize and be able to talk about these sensitive issues. Enjoy finding those creative solutions!
Respect your partner’s parenting differences.
You and your partner may come to parenting with different models, standards and experiences. Talk about them! Seek to understand how things were done in each of your respective families, so you can take the best from both. Taking a parenting course or sharing a good child development book can give you a common frame of reference, teach you some valuable skills and provide a forum for discussing what is important to both of you.
Take time out to communicate feelings when tensions arise.
that when you are stressed, there is a tendency to turn your partner
into the enemy and blame him/her for not doing more. Let your partner
know what you're feeling and needing BEFORE you're ready to bite
off his or her head. Try to listen non-judgementally to each other,
by simply mirroring back the frustrations your partner is expressing.
You may want to consider having a weekly meeting, to check-in and
plan. See Take
time to align with your partner.
Get help if you’re struggling to resolve conflicts.
According to research, married couples wait an average of 7 years from the onset of a problem before seeking marital help. How unfortunate! By this time, many problems have crystallized into major resentments.
The pressures and fatigue related to a new baby increases the likelihood of frayed tempers. So be proactive in getting help if you're unable to wade through conflict on your own. Many of us weren't taught good conflict resolution skills - so there is no shame in seeking help. In fact, it's a sign of wisdom. Books, courses and good professionals abound.
The birth of your new baby heralds an unparalleled chapter of personal growth for you and your partner. So give yourselves the best possible chance of turning baby challenges into growth opportunities. Commit to strategies designed to nurture and grow your relationship. The payoff will be huge for you AND your baby. And your relationship will benefit long after your baby has grown up and left the two of you on your own again.
For new parents: Plan a date with your partner for the coming week. Even if it's only for an hour, do something together (that you'd both enjoy) and focus on being with each other - no talking about the baby! Make a joint commitment to having regular ongoing dates and discuss how you'll support each other in making that happen.
For friends and family of new parents: Trustworthy and mature babysitters are critical for new parents, especially when their baby is very young. Offer if you can. Keep asking how you can help and what supports their changing needs. Let them know what a great job they're doing!
Vollett BSW PCC is a Life and Relationship Coach, with over 20 years
of combined experience in counselling and coaching. She delights in
helping pro-active individuals make positive changes in their lives,
their work/business and their relationships. Her clients appreciate
her ability to listen deeply, her compassionate wisdom and her support
in staying focused. Contact Shirley for a complimentary intro phone
session. If you are experiencing a challenge or are eager to make
some changes, explore how coaching works and how she can help. Click
on a link below or visit her website at http://shirley.vollett.com
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