…And how to overcome this challenging time in your partnership
Having a baby for the first time can be not only stressful physically, emotionally, and mentally—but also create a strain on the relationship between you and your spouse or significant other. Even if you don’t think anything could disrupt the relationship between the two of you, there are bound to be some frayed nerves and disagreements now that you’re also caring for a tiny new human. But, with a few key strategies in place, you can weather this potential storm and emerge stronger than before.
Below we’ll walk through each of these new-parent relationship hurdles and offer tips for overcoming them:
- You’re both constantly tired
- No more “date nights” or even “us time”
- Money is more of a concern than ever
- A never-ending to-do list
- Differing approaches to parenting
Hurdle: You’re both constantly tired
Being constantly tired can lead to bad things, even in the absence of a baby. So the combo is especially potent—and even worse when both parents are operating in a constant state of sleeplessness. Then, add in the anxiousness you may feel about being a parent for the first time, and you might find yourself snapping at your spouse—and vice versa—even if this is not something you usually do.
Tips: Offer, and ask for, grace. You’re both in unfamiliar territory with this whole baby thing, and you need to find new ways to have each other’s back. To help remedy the lack-of-sleep problem, try to work out a schedule that lets one parent sleep while the other takes care of baby. Also: don’t let things escalate. If you’re feeling mad at your spouse, or they seem to be mad at you, talk about it. It might just be the tiredness that’s getting to everyone.
Hurdle: No more “date nights” or even “us time”
During the first few months with baby, you probably won’t be going on a lot of date nights. And you may feel like you hardly have time to have an adult conversation with your spouse. You might even feel like you’re growing apart, since all of your focus is on your little one and not on each other. And suddenly there’s no time, opportunity, or energy for the intimacy you’re used to. Naturally, all of this might bum you out.
Tips: Communicate! And try to make time to feel reconnected, when it’s just the two of you. Make a point of asking your spouse how they’re doing/how they feel—and tell them you’d appreciate the same gesture from them. And if you have a family member nearby who can watch baby for an hour, take the opportunity to get out of the house (maybe even in real clothes!) with your spouse—even if it’s just for a walk or cup of coffee.
Hurdle: Money is more of a concern than ever
Money is always a relationship stressor, but with the addition of baby—and the financial needs that come along with this new phase in your lives—it’s even more of a concern than before. You may feel like your spouse is not being as financially responsible as they should be—or vice versa.
Tips: Don’t let these disagreements fester; get them out in the open, and make a budget that you both can promise to stick to.
Hurdle: A never-ending to-do list
There is just so gosh-darn much to be done with a little one in the house! If the bottles don’t need washing, there’s surely a pile of laundry that needs tending to—or…has anyone been to the grocery store this week? Your to-do list has gone from zero to sixty (or at least that’s what it might feel like) in the blink of an eye. And you may feel like you’re doing wayyyy more baby-related work than your spouse.
Tips: Don’t keep score. It’s hard to restrain yourself sometimes, but don’t do it. If, however, you feel like your spouse truly isn’t pulling their weight in the baby-responsibilities area, ask for specific help they might be able to provide. They may be thinking you are an amazing mom, seem to have this all figured out, and that you don’t need their help with certain tasks. Make a plan to divvy up all of the new work in a way that feels fair to you both.
Hurdle: Differing approaches to parenting
Before baby arrives, you may assume that you and your spouse are on the same page with parenting styles or strategies. But once the little bundle of joy is at home, you may realize that you don’t always see eye to eye.
Tips: Again, communication is key! You both want what’s best for baby, so it’s just a matter of making sure you’re on the same page and same team. If you feel your spouse is being too “lax” or too “strict” with your little one, especially as your child get a bit older, remember that you share a common goal (caring for your offspring in a successful way!). Talk about your preferred parenting approaches, and see if you can’t meet in the middle.
Patience, grace, and communication…if you can cultivate these in spades, you’ll weather the new-parent storm with ease. And, remember: the time flies. Everyone says it, but it’s true. Baby will be a toddler before you even know it, and things will gradually return more to “normal.” Being constantly woken up in the night and having to feed baby at all hours of the day…this too shall pass.
If you want to read more about a related topic:
What to expect after becoming a mother
How to deal with the baby blues