Babies can be stressful. They’ll pull at your heartstrings in ways you’ve never felt before and introduce you to a new meaning of life itself. At the same, you could probably use another hour of sleep today. (Or two.)
Suddenly your attention diverts to this tiny, screaming bundle of joy. Sometimes it feels like you only have energy left to scream yourself.
Don’t panic—eventually your baby bird will grow wings of its own and require less constant attention, but until then, it takes hard work and intention from both partners to keep that nest full of love and support.
Let’s talk about how new parents can cope with the stress babies bring to partnerships.
Choosing Each Other
What used to be romantic compliments in passing now sound more like reminders and demands. When 90% of your conversation becomes dominated by transactional statements, you start seeing your partner as a cog in the family machine instead of the person you fell in love with.
Newborns are demanding. Without time and energy on your side, how can you put any work into the relationship?
After the first six weeks with your child, give yourself permission to check in with your partner. Spending time together however you can will go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a fabulous steak dinner; it can be as simple as solving a crossword puzzle together or watching a TV show after the baby is asleep. Eat breakfast or dinner together or share a short walk around the block.
Prioritize each other with intention.
Finding Excitement in the Little Things
It’s totally okay (and almost necessary, even) to mourn the loss of who you were before the baby arrived.
Some couples experience this fear that their relationship isn’t what they thought it was without the adventure and fun of pre-baby life. That’s not true.
You can keep the fun in your relationship by choosing small, manageable tactics. Try new takeout options for dinner or rent a movie from home with fresh microwaved popcorn.
The exciting outings you enjoyed before now require more work and less spontaneity. You need a stroller, extra diapers, bottles, toys to calm your baby—the list goes on. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge the truth: you’re an adult with a long list of responsibilities, and that requires some planning.
You and your partner are two adults who chose each other to make life more beautiful. Continue to choose each other by making space, keeping a strict schedule, and connecting in simple, creative ways.
Change What You Can, Accept What You Can’t
You’re at the very beginning of your parenting journey together, and there’s going to be disagreements along the way. Remember that you’re co-parenting, so let your partner parent.
If your partner enjoys playing with the baby while changing their diaper, let them. Maybe you think it’s a waste of time and it would be more efficient to change it quickly and get on with it, but it’s best not to micromanage when your partner is appropriately carrying their weight.
When things come up that you simply can’t stand, bring it up and compromise. But when you feel the need to course-correct, pause and ask yourself, “How big of a difference would it actually make if I say this right now?” If the difference is small, let it go. If it’s big, discuss with your partner.
Sometimes you’ll agree to disagree, sometimes you’ll find harmonious compromise, and sometimes you’ll pick one person’s idea over the other’s. Be prepared for anything and stay open-minded. Remember, you’re on the same team.
If the light at the end of the newborn baby tunnel seems farther away than you’d like, consider seeking professional help with one of our couples counselors. We can create a game plan that works for your family.