Whether you have one, two, three kids or more, there’s no doubt that welcoming a new baby into the home changes the dynamic of your relationship with your partner. In fact, a new baby changes everything! And these ever-changing roles within a family don’t always come with a clear instruction manual.
In a recent study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers analysed a database of 218 couples over eight years, and concluded that the transition to parenthood has a significant effect on marriage, in terms of how it functions. These ‘effects’ tended to be sudden and persist over time (for at least the first four years after birth). However, couples who had been married longer and who had developed good communication skills tended to experience less dissatisfaction in their relationship after becoming parents.
Communication is key
While parenthood may sound daunting, the truth is, it’s also a joyous time where you get to learn so much about yourself as a mother and a partner. It’s a good idea to accept and embrace this time of change, and work together with your partner to find your new normal.
As you navigate your roles as new parents, the way you communicate with your partner is key, believes leadership and relationship coach, Colleen Leclercq. She says that the number 1 rule is to be kind to yourselves and each other through this time – and talk, talk, talk!
Here are Colleen’s top tips to keep your relationship strong during this time of change:
Be conscious and intentional about your new roles
The more effort you put in to make your new roles as parents work, the better you’ll thrive in the long run. It takes effort and regular communication to be an effective parent and partner.
Make some explicit agreements with each other
By agreeing on certain things upfront, such as who will wash the dishes, bath the baby or cook dinner, or who will get up for the first or last night feed, you’ll both know what’s expected of you, and this should help you manage your days/nights and energy levels better.
Remember the first few months, and even years, as new parents can be exhausting, but if you tag team and allow each other some time to recoup – even if it’s a 20-minute power nap, or chance to have a long, relaxing bath, it’ll help to revive your body and mind.
New agreements could also include:
- Scheduling ‘me time’ at regular intervals that will work for your family. Colleen says, “When I became a new mom, my husband and I agreed that I would book a night or weekend away at a spa to recharge my batteries at least once or twice a year.”
- This ‘me time’ could also include daily moments such as slowing down with a cup of coffee or taking a quick walk around the block while your partner watches the baby. Meditating alone for 10 minutes is also a good idea as it helps you to focus on your breath and centre yourself amidst the busyness of being a parent.
- Scheduling ‘couple time’ and making use of your wider support system like family members, friends or babysitters. This alone time as a couple is so important because it’ll allow you to reconnect with each other and talk about yourselves, your shared dreams and goals – without having to think or talk about sleep schedules or your baby’s milestones (as cute as they are!)
How to resolve conflict
In his book, Parenting with Panache, educator and counsellor, Dereck Jackson says that no matter what the issue is, it’s critical to defuse the situation instead of allowing the conflict to escalate. “Family discussions, with a view to avoiding or solving problems are a good way to tackle conflict,” he adds.
Dereck also highlights how affective the REM model is for dealing with conflict as a couple:
- The R stands for Reflect Feelings
- The E stands for Empathise or sympathise
- The M stands for Make your own feelings known.
Prioritise yourselves and each other
As Dereck says, you’re not superwoman – or superman, so be realistic and upfront about how much you can manage.
He believes you should:
- Plan your day and set short and long-term goals for yourself.
- Look after yourself by taking regular exercise and following a sensible, balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation.
- Make time for yourself to relax each day – as Colleen highlighted above, too. (This point can’t be overemphasised.)
Lastly, when it comes to parenting, it’s important not to sweat the small stuff, put things into perspective and prioritise your relationship. “Remember one day the children will leave home and you and your partner will be alone again – hopefully together and happy!”
More about the expert:
Colleen works with groups, teams and individuals, globally, online. She has been a virtual worker for over 15 years and is passionate about helping people and organisations work well together, especially in a digital, ever changing, increasingly complex world. Her main area of focus is on enabling healthy relationships with self, others and work, with a purpose to help people alleviate stressors, strains and stress associated with change and work/life integration. Read more about Colleen here.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .