Having a baby is one of life’s greatest moments. In one instant, your life becomes completely transformed—before your life consisted of work, play, and rest—now it is consumed with a new love, a new responsibility, a new meaning. There’s nothing more powerful and nothing more demanding. Most couples are thrilled with the birth of a new child. And, most couples are overwhelmed with how to juggle the demands of a new family member while still maintaining an intimate connection between each other.
Research has shown that couples with children under the age of five experience the highest marital stress. Making the transition from two to three requires a major overhaul in how you manage responsibilities, time, energy, and support within your relationship. Here are five ways to help you move through this momentous transition.
- Make a plan. It is important to discuss how you want to allocate primary responsibilities for the care of your children as well as your household. Who will get up in the middle of the night? Will you be breastfeeding or not? If both parents work, how will you handle daycare? Get practical.
- Get on the same page when it comes to approaches to parenting. It is rare that parents always agree on how to handle parenting. One person may believe in letting the baby cry it out; the other may believe in attending to the baby’s needs at all times. And this is just the beginning. There are a million parenting decisions to be made throughout your child’s lifetime. Learning how to approach differences is so important, both for the sake of your child and your relationship with each other. Learn how to manage differences in a way that empowers everyone and respects differences. Then, at the end of the day, choose an approach that you both support and act on.
- Avoid competing for resources. Having a baby takes quite a toll on women—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Because of biology alone, mothers tend to have more responsibilities and demands during these important early months of parenting. It is important for their spouses and partners to make sure that the women they love get as much rest and sustenance as possible. Having said this, all parents experience depletion of internal resources as everyone must adjust to their new role as parents. There is simply not enough time and energy to meet everyone’s needs. Find ways to bring in outside support to help out. Find ways to acknowledge that resources are limited rather than resent the other for not providing more. In most cases, everyone is doing the best they can. Work towards empathic listening and effective problem solving rather than blaming and competing for who does and needs more.
- Support and nurture each other emotionally. Make sure you focus on what each other does right. Inquire into how you can support and nurture each other. If you or your spouse need more sleep, hugs, appreciation, or intimacy, be generous in giving what you can. If you or your spouse is feeling overwhelmed, overjoyed, scared, depressed, or worried, listen with an open heart. Make sure you validate the feelings rather than judge. Simply being heard, understood, and accepted is what most people need. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Make time for each other—make your relationship the priority at the end of each day. As much as your world now revolves around your children, the best gift you can give them is a strong and intimate relationship between you and your spouse. This requires a commitment of time and attention. Take the time to create more love and intimacy in your relationship. Remember, The Pathway to Love program can help and show you the way.
Congratulations on reaching this remarkable milestone. Whether you are expecting your first or fourth child, or have raised your children already, implementing these steps will help you navigate through any major life transition and milestone. Remember, life is journey. Enjoy the ride—just remember to buckle up and follow the rules of the road!
It is normal for children to affect your relationship. However, there is a way to transform the conflicts that arise from parenting issues into an opportunity for greater understanding, acceptance, and love. If you and a loved one are struggling with how to deal with concerns around parenting issues, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help. I want you to have the best possible outcome when it comes to strengthening your relationships.
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Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com