American writer Nora Ephron said that “having a baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage.”
While it is a joyous experience, there’s no doubt that having a child is a huge change that can change a relationship. Pre-baby, you had time to focus on each other and your friends and hobbies. After the baby comes, one partner is recovering, you’re both exhausted and everything revolves around your newborn.
You can start to feel like ‘ships in the night’ as you operate on different timetables. There could also be financial pressures, less sex (or none!) and issues around domestic duties or clashing parenting styles. Some partners may feel neglected while mums may feel ‘lost’ as they navigate their new identify.
That’s a lot to contend with on three hours of broken sleep! What can you do? Here are a few simple ideas.
Make time for each other
Try to make time every day to talk and be with your partner. It’s tempting to rush about cleaning or read your phones. But being with each other, even if it’s just a 5-minute chat about your day or to coo over some baby photos, will help keep you connected.
Share the load and work as a team
Washing, cleaning, changing nappies, settling the baby, household admin… where possible, share tasks. This is an issue that can really divide couples. Come up with a list of chores that you can realistically divide and accept help from family and friends.
As a partner, it’s good to get involved from the beginning. Know how to change, bathe and dress your child. Even if you go to work, learn and keep up-to-date with your baby’s routine so that you can be hands on at all times. As a couple, encourage and praise each other and share your successes.
Be honest about how you’re feeling
If there is an issue, don’t hide it as this will only lead to resentment. Make time to talk when you’re both calm. Listen and try to understand your partner’s perspective and try to be clear and constructive. Instead of saying “I do everything!”, say, ‘I’m exhausted. Can you please cook dinner tonight.”
Despite all the tough hits a relationship can take after having a child, many people feel their bond is ultimately stronger. After all, you’ve created a beautiful little baby together and you’re a family.
Remember that the newborn stage is intense, but it isn’t forever. Several months down the track, you may be able to go out for dinner…even if all you talk about for the whole night is your baby!