Bringing home a newborn is an extraordinary event that is accompanied by tremendous changes to life as you’ve known it. Although books and advice from family and friends may familiarize you with some of the common occurrences of early parenthood, it often isn’t until you’re actually in it, that you begin to fully realize the extent to which your new baby truly impacts your life, as well as your relationship with your significant other.
There are many opportunities for joy and satisfaction while caring for your baby AND there are many contributing factors to a sense of overwhelm and depletion.
The happy times can strengthen the bond between partners, however the challenging situations can create friction. Sleepless nights, doubts about parenting skills and the amount of responsibility involved in caring for a child can produce a ripe arena for frustration, impatience and blame.
Open and respectful communication with each other is vital in terms of maintaining a sense of trust and dependability in your partnership. When working with parents, I encourage them to take the time to step back from the concrete aspects of their disagreements, so that they can make space to focus on their mutual parenting intentions and goals. It is important to remember that as parents, you are on the same team; you are not adversaries. It is within this framework, that differences of opinion can be honored and worked through with less of a risk of damaging or antagonistic dialogue. It is invaluable to determine where you and your partner agree, as it sets a platform of unity on which to more safely discuss concerns and differences of opinion.
Here are a variety of insights and ideas to help you navigate the tension that inevitably arises when you are adjusting to your new roles as parents:
- Bringing home a newborn will create many challenges that are not supposed to be easy. Knowing this can help you to adopt realistic expectations of yourself, your partner and your baby.
- Parenting is a role that develops through “learning on the job”. Accordingly, give yourself and your partner permission to make mistakes. Neither one of you will get it right all the time.
- Realize that your efficient system for division of labor prior to your baby’s arrival will no longer apply. You will be adapting to unfamiliar circumstances that will require flexibility and understanding as you both acclimate to brand new dynamics.
- Expand your support network, because both of you will feel too drained to “be everything” for each other. Connect with other parents, spend time with friends, accept family’s offers of assistance and reach out to professionals (i.e. lactation consultants, sleep specialists, therapists) as needed, to ensure that you are getting the guidance and relief that you need.
- Carve out together time that doesn’t involve actively tending to your baby. This might be a shared meal when the baby is sleeping or an outing when you can secure a babysitter.
- Keep in mind that lack of sleep exaggerates negative emotions, decreases frustration tolerance and makes you more apt to lose your temper. When you are upset, try to take deep breaths before you speak and continue to remind yourselves that BOTH of you want what’s best for your family.